My London friends had no idea that my natural hair is curly and unruly.
My natural hair is curly, undisciplined and frizzy. I have straightened it since I was very young. I liked it more: it was silky, sophisticated and, somehow, people reacted differently to it. I was definitely a fan of my straighteners.
My mum was a straight hair advocate, and I followed her steps. We used to spend hours and lots of money at the hairdresser’s. I never questioned our moth-daughter tradition of despising all hairstyles that were not straight and silky. When I came to London I realised that African hair, braids and corns where considered ‘unprofessional’.
Last week ‘unprofessional hair’ made the headlines again, when a Canadian mixed-race woman accused her managers of discriminating against her natural hair.
I wasn’t conscious that all my hatred of curly, frizzy ‘unprofessional’ hair was underlined by a dominant beauty narrative. I felt stupid and manipulated, by the Barbie dolls I had when as a child and the Western beauty standards in Colombia. No wonder I came so close to having a nose job while still a teenager (my mum, to her credit, totally opposed this). The crazy need to fit into these almost exclusively white beauty patterns – still alive and well across all societies – is a sign of the long way to go before we accept diversity as the greatest form of beauty.
I have always considered myself a strong, analytical woman, but while growing up most of us are shaping our identities and simply long to belong. We are all – family, education, media and society – responsible for building and support a radical message about an inclusive, non-discriminatory society. Physical appearance is certainly part of this discussion.
To ask a Latin, a black woman or anyone to straighten their hair in order to look professionally acceptable is like asking us to bleach our skin or have a nose job in order to fit in. And we aren’t taking it anymore.
After almost 10 years of straightening my hair, I’ve decided to let it grow natural and wild.
Luisa Fernanda is LYRA’s online editor.
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