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Can you talk yourself into loving your hair?

Fixing a complicated relationship with your crown


It was a rough start...

Some think it was love at first sight. Others imagine that I've had a life long romance with my locks. Alas, it was never that easy. There wasn’t one time in my young life that I wasn’t battling my hair. Between the detangling, styling, pulling, brushing, combing, product mix (oh so many products), disappointment and then trying and trying again my hair was a full time endeavor.

In my mind, my hair was never behaving the way I wanted or thought it "should". I looked around and saw all of this gorgeous straight hair that looked effortless, shiny, smooth and shaking all over the place with ease.


I wanted THAT hair, but mine simply wouldn’t comply. I talked my mother into creating styles, trying products and doing relaxer treatments that turned my curly hair into a look that can best be described as the “crimpy Barbie at the beach” look. Then I sat for endless hours at the salon, putting chemicals or hot iron and blowers to straighten (burn it) for big events, only to be so disappointed when less than 24 hours later the curls came crawling back like a landlord looking for their rent.

No matter how hard I tried to get what I saw as the ideal look, my hair was not backing down. It was in it to win it. It was fierce and it knew it would conquer any of my feeble attempts to change it. And I am so thankful today that it won the battle.

Please know that my mother would always tell me that I was beautiful just the way I was but when I looked at her, I would see all of the underpinnings that went into “getting ready”. She would always have her hair blown out and straightened (how very Caribbean of her), always put her “face on” and look so put together when she went out. Mind you she is gorgeous and still has the skin of someone 20 years younger, so she didn’t need that much to go from looking great to gorgeous.

Yet in my young mind, it was magic and all I wanted was to have some of that fairy dust fall on my head too.


What I didn’t see was the natural beauty that was already in the mirror. I was too affected with all of the social conditioning that has us all running around trying to “fix” what is actually naturally beautiful.


Family history didn't help things

My grandmother actually used to tell my mother that “beauty is pain”. So if you wanted that hair, face, body, etc. you had to pay the price.


Although I accepted this for a very long time as the truth, I didn’t want that to be what I passed down to my children. As this implies that we aren’t beautiful unless we mold our unrefined looks and inflicted pain to get to something acceptable. That means we weren’t the ideal to start with. And there was nothing about that sentiment that I wanted to pass down.

What did my hair say about me?

Hair is so fascinating. It can be a telling sign of where you are from, but can also instantly tell people who we are not. You can see who put in a lot of effort to have a certain “lewk”, who simply doesn’t care and who cares to the point of obession (guilty)


“It’s just hair” - Said no female ever...like ever!

For me it’s something that I decided to embrace only after I lost the war of trying to make it look like the long flowy hair of Brooke Shields. (I really wanted hair that reached my ankles!!) But Brooke Shields I was not. And that was the start of me embracing who I was.


I really hate that I didn’t accept myself first and only saw the flaws and flyaways instead of the insanely gorgeous curls and volume that some people would kill for.

Hair can be the window to the soul. When you start to work with and not against it, this starts a really important process of acceptance, appreciation and self-love. One which can be learned or relearned.

Still not seen as “the norm”

Yet, when I looked around as an adult my hair acceptance still wasn’t seen as the norm. So many black women in the corporate world would straighten, pull back, braid up or change their hair in a myriad of ways. And if elaborate styling is how a woman preferred to wear it, fantastic. I loved seeing and creating new styles myself, But when the messaging was that I should change my hair to showcase "polish" or “executive presence”. That's where I push back. I love creative looks and styles. But it's not the style, but the expectation that I had to change the very essence and genetic makeup of how my hair grew out of my head to be acceptable.

That last part always felt so inauthentic to me, as it goes beyond looking good and roams right into changing yourself to fit an acceptable mold.



Finding my curly glam squad

Now after many decades trying to take care of my hair, finding the right products that provided just enough shine, control, bounce and didn’t completely bankrupt me, I finally felt happy with my abilities to wear my curly hair proudly, even in unrelenting humidity (no small feat!)

I found a salon in NYC that strictly cut curly hair. I wasn't an oddity but the exact client their business focused on. And my stylist knew exactly how I liked my locks cut and products that didn't just "deal" with my hair but celebrated and nourished my hair.


My hair had never been met with more appreciation and care. I went from a mindset of punishment and forcing it to be something its not to encouraging it to be natural, free, big & curly. In fact, my stylist was encouraging me to style my hair even bigger, letting the curls down more, coaxing even more "umph" out of them. And when I stopped fighting my hair, I started to simply fall in love with it.

This may not seem like a big hurdle, but after years of stylists refusing to cut “my kind of hair” or people trying to increase the price when they touched my head because it would be more difficult to style “that hair” its easy to grow weary.


Keeping my insecurities away from my children

When you think about what it took for you to get through your own insecurities, you might think that a lot of the hard stuff was in your youth and it very well might be (congratualations to you lucky winners!)


Nothing brings insecurities back to the top as fast as when you are seeing your kids making their way through their own rites of passage. You instantaneously flashback to being that same age. You remember exactly what it was like to struggle with those same questions and a lot of your solutions that may have taken you years or decades to get to, are not as helpful as you hoped they would be.


Hoping to avoid the pitfalls of the past

So many answers lie within the self. There aren’t easy short cuts to self-acceptance or becoming the person you want to be. A lot of that just requires challenges, falling down, understanding how to get back up again and learn not to make the same mistake in the same way.


You want your kids to benefit from the lessons you’ve already learned. You wish you can provide them with a softer landing.

Maybe that’s not the job description.


Maybe we just need to be the ear that listens, the one who arrives with the first aid kit to patch them back up so they can go out and make some more mistakes. The cheering section on the side, who will get carded if we start to “coach” too much from the sidelines.


Lifting them up to have hair love

I’ve tried so many different ways to show my kids how special they are and especially the lesson of self-acceptance. The biggest way I know is not through media or other people but by showing them how I myself practice self-love.


That I not only accept the way I look but proudly wear my hair naturally for all the world to appreciate.


That hair love has to come from within and know that their hair isn’t a problem to be tamed or an issue that we need to solve for, but simply gorgeous curly hair.


Letting our hair down

One of those ways to make sure that I pampered my daughter's hair was to have a set wash day. My daughter now knows that Sundays she gets to take an earlier bath filled with all of the delicious smelling products at our disposal and we take care of her hair like it’s royalty, because it is. It takes a bit of time, patience and can be hell on my back at times, but she knows this is our special time.

She now sees this as a time when we prepare her hair so she can wear it down and show off her gorgeous locks. But it’s also this bonding moment, where I can show her some tricks to do her hair herself one day and we can talk about all sorts of things that we either don’t have time for or slips our minds.


Something about this very concentrated time washing hair gives us this unique moment when attention isn’t split by other people or devices. It’s just us and I look forward to the questions she’ll ask, things she’ll tell me and just hearing her thoughts.


Hair is the purpose of these wash days, but the outcome is always so much bigger than even the largest knot. For those precious moments in our week, she literally and figureatively lets down her hair and allows me to take care of her in a way that’s quickly slipping away, even at age 8.


Overcoming the hurdles of being the "only"...

So now that we are living in a part of the world that is not known for having a large presence of Black people, we are met with a new challenge. We have become known as “The Americans” but also seen as exotic. As adults, we take this in stride, but for the kids who are in a time of just wanting to “fit in”, this has become a hurdle.

I literally had to remind the school teachers and students this week that it’s not ok to go around touching our kids hair (!!)

This is one of those experiences that many of us can relate to regardless of where you are from, but I had hoped in the diverse international community we live in this wouldn’t have to be said.A teachable moment that I know may need to be taught over and over again in the future.


I’m hoping that our children will have the tools to not only admire their hair for the beautiful crowns that they are, but in turn learn to love their hair, their look, their personalities and all of themselves without question.





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