I’m that girl with the purple locs. The girl with the high bun which proudly sits atop her head. The girl with the hair which glistens in the sun offering glimpses of plum and violet. The one whose every other post on Instagram is about her hair. Yeah, that girl. Some people no doubt wonder what the story is with me and my mane. Others will be unsurprised to learn that this story began with hatred of the very head of hair I flaunt so happily today. Like many other Black women and girls, I have a long and complicated history with my hair…
I was one of the many kids who loved Disney princesses. For as long as I can remember, my personal favourite was Ariel for two specific reasons: 1) She was a mermaid – no explanation needed- and 2) Her hair – her long, flowing, bright red hair was all I had ever wanted. As a child, I routinely wrapped my head up in a towel, sheet, or whatever fabric I could get my hands on just to pretend, to imagine for one moment what it must be like to have long silky locks. What it must be like to be beautiful. Already, I knew that my hair, coily and kinky as it was, was not the hair of a princess. It was not the hair of a beautiful girl. I couldn’t WAIT for the day my mom would perm my hair and make it straight – at long last.
That feeling, of not being good enough, the sense that I had to constantly change myself and the way that I looked to fit into a certain standard of beauty stayed with me from the wee early age of 4 or 5 years old all the way into my early 20s. I was constantly battling with my hair struggling to make it look “right”. Struggling to make it look like the other girls’ hair in my classes (you guessed it, I was the one Black girl in class for a long time). If it wasn’t family fussing about me looking “presentable”, it was my classmates teasing me and if not that, then it was TV shows or magazines offering me “10 tips to get sexy beach waves”. Inevitably, every attempt of mine to fit inside these frames failed, sucker-punching my self-esteem in the throat.
What is it about us Black girls and our hair? Well, at the risk of sounding like the typical feminist kill-joy, I blame the patriarchy… and racism. Yes, those two again. The patriarchal models upon which are built our society already do girls across the globe a great disservice but for Black girls, for those of us with curly, kinky, coily hair and melinated skin, the impact is all the more intense. Whiteness historically been positioned as the ideal beauty, therefore the darker your skin and the kinkier your hair the further removed you are from being perceived as beautiful. The few Black girls who are deemed good-looking by mainstream standards are all too often light skinned with looser curl patterns.
It took me a lot of time and patience to get to a place where I was ok with me. A major part of getting there was learning to accept, care for, and eventually love my hair. After countless attempts to braid, perm and straighten my hair I made the impromptu decision to cut it all off. I had zero idea what I was doing and knew nothing about having natural hair. All I knew was that I was done.
I rocked a TWA (Tweeny Weeny Afro) for a couple years and then began twisting my hair and eventually began thinking about locs (because detangling is just NOT a thing for me, let’s be real). I did some research and the more I learned the more I loved the idea and what it symbolized for me. By choosing to loc my hair, I felt like I was embracing my Blackness and defining beauty for myself. I felt like I was freeing myself from years of trying to define myself by somebody else’s standards. Through my locing process, I learned to accept myself by making love to my hair over and over again. Carefully washing, separating and conditioning my +100 locs, I learned each of them by heart. In those moments, I spent time with myself and got to know me in a way that I hadn’t experienced before.
My “hair journey”, if you want to call it that, is the reason why I can say in full confidence that I love myself, wholly and completely. It is also the reason why I post so many hair selfies on my Instagram. I want to remind myself and encourage other women and girls around me to make love to their hair. To take the time to be with themselves and define their own unique beauty. Whether that be a different colour wig every other day, a bomb twist out or waist-long braids, rock it like only you can! I want to help those around me to meet themselves where they are at and to be kind to themselves as they unlearn and relearn many lessons. I believe self-care an important way to make a difference around yourself. Because when you love yourself, maybe you will love those around you better.