Beauty standards in the US are by and large Eurocentric. Magazine covers are full of white women or lighter-skinned women of color. The photos are so touched up as to make the women seem whiter with lighter complexions and straighter hair. Growing up, I was constantly told by the people who surrounded me that my hair was beautiful, but I never believed it because those messages were never confirmed by society.
I remember watching TV shows with girls my age with long, wavy hair. I would try to imitate those hairstyles by using a flatiron everyday to straighten out my curls. I straightened my hair every single day, and the curls eventually start to break off. When I was younger, people would call me a poodle because of my curly and gravity-defying hair. Who wants to be compared to damn dog?! So, I would put handfuls of gel into my hair to flatten my curls. I would search for different ways to tame my hair, but a part of me wanted to keep my natural curls.
Entering into a predominantly white institution, my desire to fit in only increased. I would bleach my hair, straighten it, and curl it so it looked like those girls I saw on TV and the white girls at Whitworth.
This year, I decided that my natural hair was the most beautiful version of me. I finally cut it short, which I had been reluctant about for quite some time because the shorter my hair is, the curlier it is. Now, I have no real desire to straighten or flatten my hair because I have no real desire to blend into a crowd that does not look or reflect me.
I started to make new friends who have helped me in my self-reflections about my identity and appearance. I realize that I can be mixed race and embrace both sides of my culture; I do not have to pick a side. It doesn’t matter to me if my curls are in the perfect place anymore. I have started to really own who I am and do the things I want to do for me. I feel better about my appearance and hair because I feel more confident about who I am. I realize that I am not my hair.