Loving my natural hair when it had no representation in media

me smiling with my natural hair.

In 2014 after I finished primary school, I did my first big chop after having relaxed (chemically straightened) hair for my entire life. In 2016, I cut it again because I was using products that weren’t made for my hair. I’ve been natural since then.

Almost 4 years natural and I’ve never looked back. I know I’m not the only one that has gone through this. I know so many girls and women with curly or coily hair who have gone through the same thing. This is how I fell in love with my hair even in a world that doesn’t support it. 

It sounds weird. Not liking your hair, but for me, it's been such a huge part of my identity for the past 4 years. I cut my hair because it was horribly damaged. It was thin and falling out because of all the chemicals that I put in it to straighten it. It wasn’t something bizarre to do. In fact, I’m sure all black girls can relate to sitting in a salon chair to relax their hair. I’m sure so many people can relate to straightening their curly hair.

After cutting my hair, I didn’t know how to care for it because I’ve never had natural hair before. My hair became dry and started falling out again because the products I was using weren’t meant for my hair type and hair texture. In October 2016, I cut my hair for the last time and it's here where I did my research on what my hair texture needed to be long and healthy. From doing this for almost 5 years in total, I grew an appreciation for it. It’s not easy to take care of it, but every moment and every wash day is worth it because everyday I wear a crown. 

It all stems from a lack of representation in media and acting. I didn’t see women with hair like mine. Straight long hair was praised and was the only type of hair that I saw growing up. Even the black women that I saw in the media had straight hair. This resulted in me wanting my hair to look like that.

This is why representation is so important. I want people like me who didn't like their hair, to see natural hair on models, actors and actresses and musicians. Check out Ajah’s blog about representation in acting. It’s something that we don’t realize affects us as much as it does. From race, to culture, hair and even body shapes. These are all things that we need to see a variety of and they are things that are a part of our journeys in accepting ourselves.

It's so important to see people who look like you. The media has the ability to control the way we see ourselves. They need to shift this power to do good. Young girls and boys need to see men and women who look like them. They also need heroes who look like them. They also need people who make them feel included and like they deserve to be beautiful too. They need dark skinned representation. LGBTQ+ representation. Gender representation. Representation of disabilities. The media needs to stop this culture of homogeneous people. We don't all look the same. We don't all identify the same. Everybody deserves to see people who look and identify like them.

Today, I’ve learnt to love and embrace my hair. It’s such a huge part of my identity. Every strand, every coil shows me how powerful I am. I feel fierce. I feel unstoppable. My natural hair has gone from something that I hated, to something that I can’t imagine my life without it. 

South Africa