Beauty, Beauty + Vogue

My relationship with my curly hair is complicated

There was no distinct moment in my life where I woke up and thought, "I love my hair today."

As a three-year-old, you can tell from that smile that I don’t really know the battle up ahead with my hair was going to be a long one. I had a fro of tightly coiled dark curls that would later torment me for the majority of my life.

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For as long as I can remember, I thought my curly hair was God’s curse on my life. My curly hair was frizzy, big, and something that had to be dealt with ASAP. But because my parents loved my hair, I was absolutely denied any opportunity to straighten it growing up, which just added to my torment. I’m the only one in my family with this kind of curly hair, so my mother didn’t really know what to do with it growing up, which resulted in many days of extremely tight braids with a frizzy halo. On top of that, I had these bushy ass eyebrows that I remember one kid in elementary school called “caterpillars.” My curly hair knew no boundaries, I felt, and it affected every aspect of my beauty regimen.

My curly hair knew no boundaries, I felt, and it affected every aspect of my beauty regimen. Click To Tweet

As a kid, I wasn’t gonna let what I thought was the enemy — my curly hair — win without a fight. When I was 6, I chopped off half my hair in a Barbie beach bucket and hoped no one would noticed (they did). When I was 10, I used my mom’s shaver to shave off my eyebrows, resulting in half of it missing for a good half of fourth grade. Every time I formed a new attack, my curly hair fought back.

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Above, my hatred for my curly hair is encapsulated perfectly with that frown and me holding a doll that had hair very different from my own.

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All I wanted was to look like the girls on those Limited Too (#throwback) advertisements or my Barbie and Bratz dolls. They all had really pretty hair that was either straight or perfectly wavy — never big and curly like mine. I distinctly remember being affected by Mia’s transformation in The Princess Diaries movie. I was watching someone who had the same bushy eyebrows and bushy hair be told she wasn’t pretty enough — only to find out she was pretty under all that hair.

All I wanted was to look like the girls on those Limited Too (#throwback) advertisements. Click To Tweet

In 10th grade, my school teacher asked me to straighten my hair for a student appreciation ceremony because it “looked cleaner.” I was one of the students who was getting accredited with the award, but it was my hair that mattered. I think a younger version of myself would have jumped on this opportunity to straighten my hair, but by the time I grew out of middle school, I was on the road to loving my hair. Instead, I rebelled against her command and came to the ceremony with my hair gloriously big and curly.

While I hated that my parents never let me straighten my hair growing up, I now thank them as the reason I do love my hair as much as I do today. There was no distinct moment in my life where I woke up and thought, “I love my hair today.” It was more of a gradual acceptance that turned into a genuine love and passion for my hair. I began investigating different hair tutorials and tips and looking at sites that did celebrate woman with hair like mine, and it continuously inspired me to love my curls.

There was no distinct moment in my life where I woke up and thought, 'I love my hair today.' Click To Tweet

Today I realize my curly hair makes me, and I wish I had a less nauseatingly cheesy way to say this, uniquely me. Even when I do straighten my hair, which I have done plenty of times since my acceptance of my curly hair for the sake of variety and because my parents no longer control my hair choices (#adulting), those around me note the difference. Yeah, there are those who low-key rudely tell me they like me better with straight here, but those who know and love me well always say that while the straight hair is nice enough, the curly hair is what makes up my personality.

Every time I formed a new attack, my curly hair fought back. Click To Tweet

And I agree. My curls gave me my thick eyebrows, which are all the rage now (looking at you elementary school bully). My curls gave me my curly eyelashes. My curls gave me a quality that made me stand apart from everyone else. I love my curly hair, and I love taking care of it, growing with it, celebrating it. No matter the amount of times a hair salon will ask me to consider doing an Amazon keratin treatment or the number of times someone comments on how much prettier I’d look if I straightened my hair, I will keep celebrating my curls. At the end of the day, I wouldn’t know who I would be without them.

Sara Al-Salem

Sara Al-Salem

Sara is the Mixologist for The Tempest. She is also a professional cat whisperer and a senior at Brown University. When she is not showing strangers photos of her cat, she enjoys making playlists on Spotify and eating rice.

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