“Wearing my hair natural is making me more self-confident in my identity and firm in my belief that we can be great in our natural state. I identify as a black woman, especially attending a predominately white institution (PWI) like American University. It makes me more strong in my identity because my hair shows that I’m proud of my heritage and that I’m not necessarily trying to assimilate even though I go to a school where white culture is dominant. I know that I don’t necessarily have to fit the western standard of beauty or change the way that I look in order to succeed in life. There’s no tie between what people have to offer the world and the way that their hair looks. There’s this misconception that having straight hair makes you more employable, but I feel that having straight hair makes people more comfortable. I’m really out here trying to make people uncomfortable by showing that I don’t need to alter who I am to be beneficial.
Wearing curly hair is not common in my family because typically in order for your hair to be considered ‘done’ it should be straight. Although my grandma and great grandpa identify as black, they are white passing black. My mom is Puerto Rican and black with wavy-ish hair that’s not as curly and voluminous as mine, so my family was surprised when I started wearing my hair curly. As a child, my mom always put my hair in plaits because it was easier so I never wore my hair curly. One time my mom went to California and took the straightener with her and I literally cried because I was scared to go to school with my hair curly. When I first started wearing my hair curly, my great grandpa saw me and thought that I was going through a phase. Before my first day of college, he was like ‘You’re not going to get your hair done for school?’ because it’s expected that you look your best on the first day. I was like ‘No, this is my hair.’ This idea is so common that, at times even my mom struggles with wearing her hair natural because she’s comfortable with straight hair.
I’m excited that I’m living during a time when there are so many people who are natural because this moment represents a societal transition.”