The final chapter – A first-hand story, written by Brittany Hammond, about what it is like to grow up under the social stigmas of beauty and her path to learning to embrace natural hair texture.
After over two decades of fighting my hair – read more about The Early Years and The Transitional Years here – I gave in to my natural curls in all their glory. Of all the hair decisions I have made, it’s been the best one and probably one of the best decisions I’ve made in general. I know that sounds dramatic, but learning to love my curls allowed me to start learning to love myself as well. I had no idea how much of my identity was tied up in my hair, no pun intended. It’s very hard to see the beauty in something that isn’t well represented. Curly hair still isn’t the preferred style in the beauty or entertainment industry, though it is getting better. Ads seem to be leaning towards showing women with natural curls, and not the “straightened hair with curls” look, which gives me hope. Though in movies and television, there is still a lot of room for growth.
A few days ago I was looking at my TimeHop app, (an app that shows you all of the embarrassing things you’ve ever said or done in your past), and found these Facebook status updates from ten years ago.
“Those of you who know me will be shocked to hear me say this, but right now, I really prefer my curly hair…”
“It’s a shame that society has convinced people that in order for a black woman to be beautiful, her hair needs to be straight. It creates insecurity, and I fed into it for a long time. We should stop perpetuating this belief. Realize that even curly our black is BEAUTIFUL! Maybe even more so! :)”.
These posts show me a few things; 1. I have struggled with my opinion of my hair for a long time, 2. I equated beauty with straight hair, and 3. Even though I made this big statement, I continued to straighten my hair almost daily for another 6 years. That’s how deeply ingrained the beauty standard of straight hair is! I stood on my soapbox and probably jumped right back off days later.
The key to embracing my hair came from finding the right cut and product. Before I got the right cut, I experimented with products. I knew from the past L.A. Looks was not a good option for me, so I skipped that one, but I then tried every other curl product known to man. This also seems to be the story of every other curly girl I know. I have had so many products passed down to me, and have passed down much of my own. The fun (rolls eyes) thing about curl products is that something that works great for a friend with a similar curl pattern as yours, will have a completely different result from you. A curl pattern, for those who don’t know, refers to the shape that your hair grows out of your scalp, and it can be very complicated. It is a numbered and lettered system for hair, which would take some time to break down because most people are a mixture of curl patterns. Just know that learning your curl pattern can be helpful for choosing the right product.
Image: via Pinterest
The other missing piece to my hair puzzle was a good haircut. As you learned in parts one and two, I’ve had a few bad haircuts. When I wore my hair straight, I always got my hair done right after I straightened it. I did not care what it would look like curly, so I figured this was the best way to go about it. Anyone who knows curly hair knows that as it dries, it shrinks, so if you are going to wear your hair curly, you’ll also want to have it cut curly so that you know exactly how it’s going to lay when you wear it.
This wasn’t anything I ever thought about. Additionally, I also never had a stylist that knew how to work with my curly hair. An important lesson I have learned is to always ask if a stylist has experience with your type of hair prior to your first visit, and BE SPECIFIC. I cannot stress how important it is to get your hair cut by someone that specializes in curly hair. I am not going to lie to you, I was terrified when I first went. I was getting my hair cut by a white woman, and I feared she would not know how to handle my textured hair, going off of my past experiences. I am happy to say that I was wrong… and also judgmental. But after what I’d been through, can you really blame me? It wasn’t until I was 33 that I found someone that was able to give me the perfect cut for my curls. From 30, until this point I was wearing it curly, but the shape and style wasn’t anything spectacular, it just kind of was. I liked my hair, but when I got my first real curly cut, I actually LOVED my hair.
I’m now in a place where my curls are queen. I straighten maybe my hair once a year, and only because I want to switch it up, but I’ll be the first to admit that it completely changes my look. I’ve gone into work with my hair straightened, and people say they don’t recognize me, which I think is a little dramatic, but maybe it’s true. I would say that I do look more youthful with my natural hair, which I would say is a plus as I age. The one thing that frustrates me is that people, well-meaning I’m sure, tell me that I should straighten my hair more often, or that they like my hair better straight. When it’s straight, they ooh and aah over my hair, which takes me right back to the belief that straight hair is superior, or more beautiful. Don’t get me wrong, I also get complimented on my curls all the time, but the extra admiration with straight hair is a bit of a trigger for me.
To sum it all up, my advice to other curly girls consists of two things; first, to find a great cut and product. Second, and most important, rock the heck out of your hair and wear your curls proud. In my opinion, the bigger the better. The grass will always be greener on the other side. You might be longing for straight hair, but trust me, someone somewhere is wishing they had your beautiful, bouncing curls. So accept them, love them, and hold your head high.