Embracing My Curls
Curly hair has always seemed to be something that must be "managed." From schools telling black or African girls that their natural hair needed to be "fixed" or a lack of representation in hair diversity, I was ingrained with the idea that naturally curly hair was a nuisance. It probably didn't help that my mom would call me a bruha (Tagalog for witch) every time my hair frizzed (which was everyday because I didn't know about hair products at five years old)! I hated my hair! Everyone around me had straight hair including the model on that Herbal Essences commercials telling me that straight hair was sexy (and even orgasmic--who okayed those commercials?). The first time I straightened my hair was when I was fourteen. It was the 2000s and girls were laying their heads on ironing boards and trusting each other to put an iron to their hair. It was the first time I thought I was beautiful.
When I was fifteen, my cousin visited the Philippines and came back having done a hair straightening treatment. Her hair looked so shiny, black and straight as a pin (hair goals)! So when I went to the Philippines, getting that treatment was the first thing on my agenda! Good-bye ironing board! When I arrived at the salon, the stylist looked at my hair. I'm pretty sure she asked my mom, "What am I supposed to do with this?!" Long story short, I didn't get the treatment done. My younger sisters, with their naturally straight hair, did! Essentially, all the women who went to get this treatment done were straight-haired women getting their hair even straighter! I sat in that salon, the only one not getting my hair done, with my straight-haired dreams shattered.
When I was at university, I met a Filipina who told me I look Filipina, except for my hair. So, now, in addition to not thinking curly hair was pretty, I learned that I must be the only Filipina in this world with curly hair (I still feel like I am. . .my curly-haired Filipinas where you at?!?!). All my curly hair woes remind me of the pious Mr. Brocklehurst from Jane Eyre, who says the girls must "not conform to nature" if their hair is "naturally" curly.
In Darling's Imagination issue, hairstylist Vernon François says, in the article, "Just As I Am," that "all hair is beautiful and natural texture should be embraced not suppressed." How very true and such a refreshing perspective! So, as a fashion artist and a WOC with curly hair, I've decided to make some changes. My portfolio, sadly, represents so few curly-haired women. Sure, it's easier to paint straight or wavy hair, but as a woman of color to whom representation means everything, I'm quite disappointed in myself! So I'm learning to illustrate a variety of hair textures as well as finally embracing my own hair texture.
I started with a new haircut! I have always gotten my hair cut for straight hair styles. In the rare times I wear my hair curly, it looks awful 'cause I have the wrong cut. Then I always blame the problem on my natural curly hair! So, then I try more straight hairstyles that don't look right...A terrible vicious cycle! But I'm breaking that cycle and I finally got my curly hair cut with curly bangs (yeah I was one of those who wore my hair curly, but straightened my bangs. . .I'm also putting an end to that nonsense). It's going to be an adjustment working with my natural texture since it's the first time in 28 years that learning how to work with my hair instead of against it. I hope it doesn't take you that long and if you are still fighting to your hair, I hope you come to embrace your natural self and know that you (and your hair) are good enough!