Growing up, I had an unrealistic and unhealthy relationship with my hair. I described any version of my hair that wasn’t straight as “rough,” “unkempt” and “not good enough.” Saturday mornings, after I would take out my braids, were marked by the strong smell of relaxers and the burning sensation on my scalp. Me and relaxers, yeah, we were best friends. But we can’t forget the straighteners that worked overtime between relaxer treatments because God forbid I step out of my house with hair that wasn’t bone straight.
I spent 13 years convinced that my natural hair was not good enough for them and therefore wasn’t good enough for me. It took me years to unravel that my negative relationship with my natural hair was deeply rooted in a lack of positive representation of Black hair in the media. Afros never used to grace the covers of Vogue magazines, box braids weren’t pictured at red carpets and dread locs were not professional enough for TV.
It’s a mindset that I am still struggling to unlearn. I still catch myself feeling the need to tuck my curls behind braids to look more ‘acceptable.’ Sometimes I still find myself wishing I had hair that was more ‘manageable’ than my 4c kinks. I still find myself questioning whether having my natural hair out will negatively affect me in a job interview. It’s sad, I know. But it’s the residual effects of growing up with no representation in a world of beauty that is undoubtedly racist.
As I got older, I realized that Black hair is just one example out of many in which the Black community is underrepresented. Not only is our hair underrepresented, but we as a community, our talents and our innovation are also underrepresented. Black bodies are underrepresented in the media. Black athletes are underrepresented at the competitive level. Black lawyers, Black doctors, Black teachers... the list goes on.
It brings me joy to see our community push for social justice and equality, to see us push for better representation in every space. TV screens and magazine pages are now graced with strong, beautiful Black women like Viola Davis and Lupita Nyong’o who fearlessly and unapologetically wear their natural hair. Our kinky hair, thick lips and wide noses are better represented in the media today than ever before. It’s slow, but it’s a change that is welcome. We, as a Black community, need this. Our children need this.
Black girls deserve to celebrate what society has hidden and told them they should be ashamed of. So, to the next young Black girl who finds herself where I was not too long ago, know that you are more than enough. Know that there’s no need to run from who you are. Know that you are not alone through every moment of doubt and fear. You’ll lose sight of these things sometimes, and that’s okay. We’re not perfect, and it’ll never stop being a battle. But please, never stop fighting to see you and all your Black beauty positively represented in every space.