Last Friday, I went downtown for my annual hair cut at a well-known salon that caters to curls. If you haven’t noticed from my pictures yet, my coils and kinks tend to always be the main attraction. I am constantly asked about what products I use and how exactly do I get such perfect curls. Those who are atrevidos bypass the first curly girl commandment; thou shall not touch curly hair without asking. I’m used to it by now, but if you had told me that this pajón (Dominican slang for big fro) would lead me to discovering my inner beauty I would have never believed it.
You see, in our culture, hair texture that is not straight is automatically considered “pelo malo”. As Latinas, we are raised to always look our best and quite frankly curly hair does not fit into that beauty standard. If you hair was curly you “tamed” it with a relaxer or you went to the salon every week to achieve the ideal look. I am one of six children, which meant going to the salon was reserved for special occasions only.
As I grew older, I learned to deal with my unruly hair. Most of the time I wore my hair down and my friends at school would praise my perfect curls. I did not see anything perfect about them and yearned to be able to afford the salon every week. Having my curls straightened always made me feel beautiful.
When I moved to Miami for college, I noticed everyone liked my hair straight, so I bought a flat iron and spent hours straightening it every week. Eventually, I had so much heat damage that my curls were nonexistent after a while. When I did try to wear my hair curly it looked horrible. The texture was curly at the root, wavy in the middle and straight at the tips, a tragic site. I didn’t know what to do, so I hopelessly kept using the iron.
The summer I moved back to New York, my coworker Lisa convinced me to give the salon and flat iron a break. She had beautiful curls and encouraged me to embrace and nourish my natural hair. For the next two years I embarked on a natural hair journey. The first couple of months were extremely difficult; I was really self-conscious.
This transition was definitely not an easy one but I was determined to get my curls back, and quickly learned how to make the best out of my bad hair days.
After a lot of patience and hair products, I finally got my curls back! As I sat in the salon waiting to get my haircut, I couldn’t help but to think back on my natural hair journey and how much I grew because of it. The period of transition made me question why I cared about others opinions of my hair to begin with. It also made me ask myself why I was so self-conscious, who really cares what others think anyway? The more power you give others over your life, the less time you actually spend living. Is this how I really wanted to live my life?
Thanks to my natural hair journey I learned that true beauty cannot be seen, it is felt. True beauty comes from confidence, self-fulfillment, passion and accepting yourself, flaws and all. The best thing about true beauty is that it drives your self-esteem and allows you to shine like the gem that you are from the inside out. That light and energy attracts people like a magnet; it is contagious.
Occasionally, when I go to the Dominican hair salon in my neighborhood my hair stylist never fails to mention how bad it is to have my hair wet all the time. Before, I would explain to her that I don’t wet my hair every day in order to achieve the curly look, and that I only use natural products to nourish my hair. Eventually I picked up on the fact that she just wants to me straighten it every week like I used to before because it means more business for her. To that I say “No te preocupes de mi pelo malo, yo amo mi pajón”.