History Historical Badasses

Madam C.J. Walker was the first Black female millionaire

Earlier this year, a mini-series on Netflix was released called Self MadeThe mini-series is inspired by the life of the first self-made Black female millionaire Madam C.J. Walker. The life and work of Madam C.J. Walker is an important story to tell because it celebrates the success of a Black woman and the beauty of Black hair.   

A few months ago, Kat Graham from The Vampire Diaries did a morning routine video on Vogue’s YouTube channel called “Kat Graham’s Natural Hair Beauty Routine.” During the video, she explained to her viewers that this is the first time that she has been completely without additional assistance when taking care of her hair. While Graham was talking about a hair care product that she was introduced to that really helped her hair throughout quarantine, she started crying and getting emotional.

Watching the video made me reflect on my own experiences with my hair as a Black woman. It also made me reflect on how having Black hair is an emotional, personal, and empowering journey. Madam C.J. Walker is a woman who truly understood the emotional and empowering experience of having black hair. And ultimately, she was able to use her experience to become a successful entrepreneur and help other Black women. 

Before she was known as Madam C.J. Walker she was born as Sarah Breedlove on December 23, 1867, on a Louisiana plantation. Her parents were both enslaved before the Civil War ended and later became sharecroppers. At the age of seven, her parents passed away.

After their deaths, she moved to Vicksburg, Mississippi with her sister and worked picking cotton. At the age of 14, she got married to escape her abusive brother-in-law and had her daughter A’Lelia Walker at 18 years of age. Two years after giving birth to her daughter, Walker’s first husband died. After his death, she and her daughter moved to St. Louis, to work for $1.50 a day at a barbershop owned by her four brothers. In St. Louis, she joined the St. Paul A.M.E. Church and the National Association of Colored Women. She also got married to her second husband, but the couple eventually divorced.

A newspaper Ad for Madam CJ Walker's for Wonderful Hair Grower product that is titled "Is Your Hair Short?" On right is a picture of her and on the left there is an article promoting the product.
[Image Description: A newspaper Ad for Madam CJ Walker’s for Wonderful Hair Grower product that is titled “Is Your Hair Short?” On right is a picture of her and on the left there is an article promoting the product.]  Image Source
Walker’s hair care journey began in the 1890s and early 1900s. She was struggling financially and developed a scalp disorder that caused her to lose her hair. In order to work on growing her hair back, she sought advice from her brothers and experimented with home remedies. She also tried hair products by Annie Malone, another prosperous Black hair-care entrepreneur. After using Annie Malone products, she became a commission agent and moved to Denver in 1905.

In Denver, she met her third husband, Charles J. Walker. Soon after meeting her husband, she began her brand. Her husband encouraged her to use the name “Madam C.J. Walker” so that her brand name would be more recognizable. She began traveling throughout the South and Southeast for almost two years selling and promoting her “Madam Walker’s Wonderful Hair Grower, which was a scalp conditioning and healing ointment.

By 1910, she was able to settle down in Indianapolis where she built a factory, a hair salon, a nail salon, and a hair care training school. Throughout her life, she used her own personal experience of losing and regrowing her hair to build a prosperous Black business.  Today, she is known not only as the first Black self-made female millionaire, but also as a Black woman who supported her community as a pioneer of hair care for Black women.

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Race Inequality

My natural hair is political

My big, curly, natural hair has become a defining quality of mine. It’s the first thing people notice when they meet me, the first compliment I receive, and the feature my friends would use to describe me. My hair has become part of my identity. It is synonymous with my name. It is important to note, however, that the journey to getting to a place in which I felt comfortable – let alone confident- to wear my natural curly hair with pride was a tiresome one. 

My hair has become part of my identity.

I spent much my childhood like most people in my community – being told that my natural hair was too coarse, bushy, and big to be accepted. Due to the troubling and racialized past of South Africa during Apartheid, being accepted and successful in my society as a non-white person was strictly dependent on appearance. Or, how well you passed as white.

I began straightening my hair when I was very young, and even relaxing it on occasion. I did this until my hair became fine, bone-straight, and ‘good,’ which is the ideal in my community. In fact, it is not uncommon to hear in communities like mine that those born with naturally straight hair are somewhat superior – or at least they believe they are. This is mostly due to internalized notions that beauty and superiority are in close proximity to whiteness.

Eventually, I couldn’t take the pulling and stretching of my hair any longer. By age 16, I rebelled against the norm. I watched a bunch of videos on YouTube and read articles online centered on how to take care of my curly hair until I felt sure enough. Although at that point my hair was already damaged and dry, I was proud that I had taken this step to embrace all of me.

The reactions from my community were not so sure.

Although at that point my hair was already damaged and dry, I was proud that I had taken this step to embrace all of me.

On one side, I was praised and complimented. On the other, I was accosted about my decision and instead told  “your straight hair was so pretty.” This made me wonder, what is the real issue with having curly and kinky hair?

Hair and politics have always been intertwined. White slaveowners referred to enslaved people’s hair as wool, thereby associating them to animals, and shaved their heads to suppress their cultural identity. The tignon law of 1786 forced women of color in the state of Louisiana to hide their hair under headdresses because they drew the attention and attraction of white men. It was basically a law to protect the fragile white women’s social status and to return women of color to a subordinate status. However, women of color triumphantly turned the tignon into a fashion statement. 

People of color who wear their natural hair, locs, or braided hairstyles are often discriminated against in the workplace. Even schools today still have dress codes which regulate natural hair, hairstyles, and textures because they are seen as ‘untidy’ and ‘unprofessional’. In some ways, the U.S. is taking strides to ban hair discrimination, but it is not nearly enough. In 2019, California signed the CROWN (Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair) Act into law, which protects people from discrimination against hair both in the workplace and public schools. New York City has also banned hair discrimination in public schools by amending the Human Rights Law and Dignity for All Students Act to include that racism includes discrimination against hair, hairstyles, and texture. However, many other states in the U.S. are yet to take a stand against hair discrimination. 

However, many other states in the U.S. are yet to take a stand against hair discrimination. 

In South Africa, during Apartheid, the infamous pencil test was used to determine a person’s race. If your hair was able to hold a pencil in it while you shook your head, you could not be classified as white. This tore families apart since different family members could have differently textured hair. The pencil test is a troubling example of the politics of hair. Not only did it weaponize hair textures as a tool of segregation, but it also created an environment in which people of color were ashamed of the texture of their hair. Those with coarser and kinkier hair types were deemed inferior to those with straight and fine hair. Therefore, the model for acceptance and freedom in society was to be more white in every aspect, including hair texture. 

For me, this brought on the realization that my community was simply indoctrinated to believe that the kinks and curls in mine and others hair made us inferior. Hair was and still is racialized. It exists in racist ideologies that determine the value of a person from their appearance.

In embracing my natural hair, I decided upon an active rejection of a culture that has been infused with white-dominance. 

Hair was and still is racialized.

That said, embracing natural hair is more than just simply wearing your hair un-straightened. It is about the unlearning of generational notions which dictate the violent ideology that white features and values are somehow superior. It is about resisting the rejection and discrimination you will probably face by a Eurocentric world. It is racial. It is gendered. It is a real lived experience. And it is political. 

Most importantly, how you wear your hair should be a personal decision. Whether it is straightened, in a wig or weave, or worn naturally. The freedom to choose and not be influenced by society’s standards of beauty or acceptance is radical. 


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Culture Life

Why I am constantly drawn to lavender

I find that my most blissful moments remind me of the strong, calming scent of lavender. For one reason or another, I relate it to a lot of the more meaningful aspects of my life. To me, lavender is like a feeling; like the wind brushing up against your skin.

While I think that lavender is largely optimistic, I also find a certain sorrow that is comfortable, even humble, in its presence. I’ve come to appreciate it in every shape and form – the color, the flower, the scent. Its hard to place; not sweet or bitter, but rather musty. 

Lavender manages to incorporate itself into my life seemingly on a whim and in the most fleeting of moments. We have a peculiar relationship. I am stomach-knottingly anxious in the presence of many, especially when I first meet them. But, with some, I sense lavender, and I know that something great is about to happen. It is more of a feeling than anything else. Just talking to some people can be rejuvenating, and perhaps it is because our meeting reminds me of that warm, soft smell of a mid-spring day when the sun is bright and pure, and the entire day lies ahead.

Nowadays, when I am feeling an emotion that is simply beyond words, I say that I am overflowing with lavender. 

According to etymology, the English word “lavender” is derived from the Latin “lavare,” which translates to “to wash.” It is a necessary refinement – a cleanse. I am purified with every utterance of the word. 

Perhaps it’s not just me. In literature, lavender has been used significantly as a token of love. To me, it’s more like a notion of love at first sight. Shakespeare offers a bouquet of “hot lavender” in The Winter’s Tale. Cleopatra also roots lavender with love, as she is said to have used its sultry perfume to seduce both Julius Caesar and Mark Antony. Christians are also known to have used it as a repellent of evil. The plant is said to have been taken from the Garden of Eden and is sometimes found hanging in a cross shape above the doors of some Christian households as a means of protection. There are so many songs with the title lavender, my favorite being by The Beach Boys, and there have also been many poems written about it, too. Take, for example, this quote by an anonymous writer, “as rosemary is to the spirit, lavender is to the soul.” 

Lavender is swift, like a movement, carrying me in and out of perfectly imperfect moments. The vision of it is rather uplifting as well. It stands delicately tall among the rest, but it is not intimidating either. I adore its confrontation. In fact, I look forward to it. 

Beauty Lookbook

How stress causes acne, and how to make it stop

The instant I get even a tiny bit stressed out, a pimple pops up on my cheek, my forehead, my nose, or somewhere else on my face. And no matter how much I do to get rid of them, the moment I start getting anxious, they always seem to come right back. As a student, stress is a huge part of my life. Having to deal with homework, tests, work, and writing on a daily basis, sometimes my workload is just too much. On top of that, skincare is typically the last thing on my mind. Sure, I do wash my face consistently and moisturize and do the whole bit to keep it clean, but I sometimes wonder whether it’s worth going the extra mile with skincare if stress is just going to ruin my skin anyway.

However, I’ve always wondered if stress was the actual reason behind my extra pimple or two every week. Everyone has always affirmed this fact and never told me anything different, but how much does science back it up?

How correlated is stress with skin problems?

To understand this, we must first look into what happens to our body when we get stressed out. When we are stressed, a hormone called cortisol is released into our bloodstream. This hormone is the key to finding out how our body changes when we are under pressure. For example, cortisol can make it harder for your skin to repair itself, thus leading to dull and dry skin. Wrinkles were also found to be a side-effect of stress.

Furthermore, stress can increase inflammation, causing more acne. Cortisol can also cause acne because it tells the glands in our bodies to produce more oil, which leads to more acne. In a 2003 Stanford study, it was found that when testing, (a.k.a. while under increased stress), college students had significantly more acne flare-ups. From this, scientists deduced that stress is highly correlated with acne. 

But, can stress also cause issues in other areas of your body relating to beauty? The answer is, unfortunately, a resounding yes. Hair loss and puffy, tired eyes can also be caused by stress. Stress can also cause greying and thinning hair, slowing down the process of growth and speeding up the ageing process by producing more melanin. Deep grooves in the nails are also likely to form as a result of stress.

How can we solve the problem?

The number one way we can all get rid of the acne, the wrinkles, the dry and dull skin, the hair loss, and the eye bags is by doing our best to destress. Practicing meditation, yoga, journaling, changing your environment – there are so many different ways to get rid of stress and lessen anxiety. It’s time we all took care of ourselves a little better – not only so that we can look better, but also so we can live healthier, longer, and more stress-free lives.

Nails Hair Fashion Beauty Lookbook

At Brazil’s 2019 Carnaval, sequins and golden showers stole the show

The newly appointed Brazilian president, Jair Bolsonaro, is not a fan of Carnaval. Nevermind that it is the most noteworthy and lucrative celebration in Brazil, Bolsonaro is upset about sexual acts he can’t even name. “What is a golden shower?”, he tweeted after posting a viral video of someone peeing on another person’s head. Brazilians all over the country dressed up in fabulous outfits to give him a visual answer to his question.

These “golden shower” Carnaval costumes are both glorious and poignant, mainly because they draw attention to how seriously out of touch Bolsonaro is. As the leader of a country with the 6th most Twitter accounts and the 3rd most Instagram users, he should know to avoid public humiliation by just asking Google. But I guess that’s what we get with baby boomers on social media. The good news is these partygoers looked fierce in their satirical ensembles. And yes, that’s a literal shower head.

In addition to these more politically inclined outfits, we saw sequins, glitter, and more glitter! We love these over-the-top, shiny looks because they are bold and celebratory. And Carnaval is a time to celebrate. Period. People celebrate sexuality, music, politics, fashion, and so much more. Regardless of orientation, race or creed, the hundred of blocos (block parties or parades) that take place during this holiday are for relaxing, dancing and enjoying the days off.

Celebration can be just as important as other types of activism. When our bodies and rights are constantly under scrutiny, joy can be read as a sign of defiance. Outfits that call attention to a ridiculous president are powerful and important—after all, fashion is political. It’s equally imperative that we claim these joyful moments as completely our own. We need to believe that we deserve to feel joy. We need unapologetic glitter and bodysuits and dancing in the rain just as much as we need protests and hashtags. The magic of Carnaval is that it blurs the lines between fun and politics. 

All that being said, here are our favorite trends from this year’s Carnaval.

Popping rainbow colors


One word: glitter.


Flower power

Curve-hugging bodysuits

Facial beads (and glitter)–BRgCtX/


These lunar-inspired looks

And, of course, the golden shower

Editor's Picks Hair Gift Guides Beauty Lookbook

5 amazing products for curly hair that completely changed my hair routine

As a curly girl, I tend to stick to know what I know is good. A lot of my staple hair products have been products that my fellow curly girls have recommended. I have recently tried some new products and methods that have completely changed my hair routine. These products have become my holy grails.

1. Aussie 3 Minute Miracle Moist Conditioner  

[Image description: Aussie's 3 Minute Miracle Conditioner in a small purple bottle.]
[Image description: Aussie’s 3 Minute Miracle Conditioner in a small purple bottle.]
Now when I say this conditioner COMPLETELY changed my hair routine, I mean it. This conditioner has become my go-to hair conditioner and has been amazing for detangling. At just $2.97, this conditioner has cut my wash day in half.

Get it from Amazon for $11.89.

2. Garnier Fructis Smoothing Treat

[Image description: Garnier Fructis Smoothing Treat in a green jar container.]
[Image description: Garnier Fructis Smoothing Treat in a green jar container.]
This is another conditioner that my hair has been loving. The formula for this conditioner is a little more watery and lightweight. The 1-minute conditioner line has multiple treatments. They have the avocado mask for smoothing, the coconut mask for nourishing, and the papaya mask for repairing damaged hair. My favorite is the avocado mask. At $4.09, it can be used as a mask, deep conditioner, or a leave in. Personally, I think this product works great as a leave in.

Get it from Amazon for $11.89.

3. Mizani Twist and Coil Jelly

[Image description: Mizani Twist and Coil jelly in a jar container.]
[Image description: Mizani Twist and Coil jelly in a jar container.]
If you’re looking to switch your gel, this jelly by Mizani is a great option. A gel can be a hard product to find for your hair routine. I’ve definitely gone through several trial periods for gels. However, this gel worked wonders for me. At about $9, this product is one of the more expensive products but is really worth it. The jelly actually allowed me to push back wash day.

Get it from Amazon for $11.89.

4. Shea Moisture Curl Enhancing Smoothie

[Image description: Shea Moisture Curl Enhancing Smoothie in a jar container.]
[Image description: Shea Moisture Curl Enhancing Smoothie in a jar container.]
This curl smoothie from Shea Moisture is another more expensive product but is really worth it. At $13, this smoothie works as a great product to maintain your style throughout the week. It is a heavier product, so I don’t like to use too much of it (I try to avoid product build up where I can). It smells amazing and is great for adding hydration.

Get it from Amazon for $11.89.

5. DevaCurl No-Poo Original Conditioning Cleanser

[Image description: DevaCurl No-Poo Cleansing Conditioner with a green background.]
[Image description: DevaCurl No-Poo Cleansing Conditioner with a green background.]
This “shampoo” is a great option. The cleanser is sulfate, paraben, and silicone free and has the consistency of conditioner. This formula has changed my routine as it doesn’t strip away your natural oils (which leaves your curly hair drier). It is also another product that helps to detangle since it is essentially putting conditioner in your hair. During my hair routine, I use this No-Poo cleanser every other week and Shea Moisture’s Black Castor shampoo for the weeks in between.

Get it from Amazon for $11.89.

Hopefully, these products are great additions to your hair routine. It can be difficult finding curly hair products that really work. So good luck on your wash day! 

[Gif via Giphy description: a black woman touching her curls saying "Okay now I think I'm ready to go out."]
[Gif via Giphy description: a black woman touching her curls saying “Okay now I think I’m ready to go out.”]
Gender & Identity Life

I can’t seem to stop changing my hair and I don’t know why

When I was fourteen I dyed my hair for the first time in my friend’s bathroom with a manic panic dye. We tried to ombre the blue on the bottom of my hair and somehow managed to not get dye everywhere. I felt cool and edgy. When we washed it out and it dried I couldn’t stop twirling the unnaturally colored hair around my finger. I threw all my hair into a bun and put on hat, prepared to shock my mom when I got home.

Dramatically, I entered the den she and my brother were watching a movie in and whipped off the hat in a big reveal. My mom raised her eyebrows slightly and my brother yelled in shock. Which was not the reaction I expected. All she said was “is it permanent?”

It wasn’t, and a week later it was completely gone from my hair and my flirtation with the edgy side was over for at least a year before I tried again.

Since then I have had a lot of different hair colors. I’ve pretty much covered the rainbow in pastel colors, gone completely white, and then completely red. Each time its a rash decision, with a dash of boredom and too much free time. And I have tried to stop. I really have. After three years of constant bleaching and coloring I was genuinely curious what my natural hair color even was. So I stopped bleaching and let it grow. For two years I managed to keep my natural roots growing, only adding different pastels to the already bleached hair at the bottom.

But I got bored.

A lot.

I would eye the dye section in Shoppers and wonder if I should snag a box on rainy afternoons constantly. Something in me just can’t seem to stop wanting to fuck up my hair and I cannot figure it out.

Maybe it’s the fact I like to look different. I don’t want to blend in like a robot. I like weird patterns and wearing old jeans that are way too big for me. Growing up in Vancouver it was all about finding the new thing before anyone else. The new craze, style, or music. It was better if people didn’t know where you bought something or how you found that artist. Maybe the fact I have to reinvent my hair every six months is just my constant need to be new and different than I was before.

When I dyed my hair blue for the second time it was when I had blonde hair (bleached from my natural brunette). I liked it but soon after everyone was turning blonde. The weather was warming up and suddenly it seemed like every day there was a new blonde in one of my classes. So one day I drove to Sally’s, stared at the boxes of Ion Semi-Permanent dyes until I found one called Shark Blue. It was a grey toned pastel blue and it looked like nothing I had seen before. So I bought three and by that evening I had blue-grey hair.

Or maybe it’s because I’m not actually original. Maybe I don’t have any new ideas and I’m not really different. The only reason I even get ideas is because I see something somewhere else. I was blonde maybe a bit ahead of the season that everyone seems to turn blonde but it was still the blonde turning season. Maybe everything I see and want just gets filed away in my brain for later. After all, there are no new ideas under the sun. When I dyed my hair red I had been watching this Youtuber with beautiful, long red hair, that was always styled perfectly. Sure, maybe I had the idea myself. Or maybe I just wanted to look like her.

Maybe it’s neither of those. Maybe dying and changing my hair has just been my way of lashing out. As a kid I was always told to look presentable, never put my elbows on the table, the usual stuff. But as I got older I got angrier and more self-conscious. My mom trying to “fix” my hair seemed to me her insulting the way I did my hair. Her comments on my outfits were just her concerns that I would go out not looking good but they were clothes I liked and I was comfortable in, so to my ears she was just calling me ugly. Rather than conform and have her fix my hair or change my shirt, I would bleach the life out of it and go to thrift stores just to find an extra large shirt. If she didn’t like blue hair then I would dye my hair blue three more times. If dressing and looking how I wanted was ugly then I was going to be the ugliest motherfucker in the room.

But maybe, just maybe, it’s none of these. Maybe I dye my hair because I want to and it’s as simple as that. There is no answer to why because I don’t know why I want to do it so badly. What I do know is that with every cut and every color I have never once regretted the outcome.

Gender & Identity Beauty Lookbook Life

I stopped shaving more than a year ago – here’s why I’ll never go back

During Mardi Gras, conventional rules of behavior are thrown out the parade float.

In the early carnival season, known in most parts of the country as “winter,” my shaving habit had faltered. As stubble turned to scruff, I decided to take the advice gleaned from the first hour and a half of the audiobook version of Sheryl Strandberg’s famous work and lean in: I grew out my armpit hair.

In early middle school, when the peach fuzz under my arm first turned to kiwi fluff, I gleefully, and sometimes painfully, removed it, feeling one step closer to initiation into the woman club.

A year ago, as I let my hair grow fully for the first time ever, I was fascinated. I feel many things about my body, but not often wonder. I don’t usually find armpits particularly poetic, but finally allowing a function that had been denied for the past decade was in some ways awesome.

That Mardi Gras, my last as a college student, I flaunted my new underarm garden. I highly recommend glittering one’s pits while waiting in line at a Rally’s or another fast food establishment. I wore my pits hairy and glittered for every parade I attended, and a fair share of my poses in pictures from that year are pit first, an under-utilized pose in my opinion.

Animated GIF
[image description: illustrated gif of purple haired naked woman leaning to one side with one arm raised displaying her armpit hair which is growing into flowers]
While some seasons have ambiguous ends, with Christmas trees staying up notoriously past Christmas, Mardi Gras’s is distinct. To mark it I decided it was time to prune my beautiful petunias.

I regretted it immediately.

Shaving was remarkably uncomfortable, like stroking sandpaper or, say, dragging a blade against the grain of your hair in an area of your body not used to many touches.

As it grew back, the discomfort continued. I was angry at razor companies for convincing me that parts of my body were wrong, a scheme I had been aware of but had not fully internalized until stabbed by my own vengeful follicles in the first days of Lent. I decided not to shave my precious pits for the foreseeable future and lumped my legs in for good measure.

During Mardi Gras, the decision not to shave had felt silly and on-theme, but post it felt rebellious, empowering, and at times, vulnerable. Walking to class, I’d feel delighted by the breeze through my leg hair, like fairies dancing across my shins, and then self-conscious upon arrival that my classmates might stare. Getting dressed to go out, I’d put on a feminine tank top, and then while examining my look in the mirror, I’d flash a pit much to my own amusement.

I prepared to have men reject me, feeling preemptively both hurt by these imaginary critics and spiteful towards them. “My body, my choice!” I’d misuse in my mental retort. However, when it came to actual romantic interests, none of them were swayed by my hairiness.

As it turns out, my attractiveness and general appeal have very little to do with my body hair.

Animated GIF
[Image description: illustrated gif of a purple haired naked woman with both arms raised waving her hands and dancing]
In my current life, my legs remain generally shaved, though with far less fear of stubble than in my teen years. However, my armpit hair flows, a small act of rebellion under my conservative work attire. Though my opinion of my body changes hourly, the patch of hair under my arms reminds me that it is mine alone to live in and enjoy and adorn as I please.

Love + Sex Love Life Stories

I am sick of being a manic pixie dream girl

I remember reading The Fault in Our Stars the summer the movie came out. There was a lot of hype around John Green books at that time, and I fell into it. I read a couple of his other books but to be completely honest, I didn’t really see the pull. They were interesting books for sure, but just not really my cup of tea. And call me cold and detached but I didn’t cry reading The Fault in Our Stars (or during the movie).

Yet, these books played an indirect role in my life for the next couple of years. I moved away from home, became the “new girl”, dyed my hair, wore thrift store clothes and basically didn’t care about anything.

If you’ve read a John Green book you know he likes to write about a certain stereotype of girl that was dubbed the manic pixie dream girl. This girl was outgoing but a loner, “crazy” but just the right amount, deep, and introspective (with what you might call a romanticized version of depression). She brings the main character out of his slump and changes his life with her wild, non-conforming personality.

Basically she’s perfect… but in a quirky, hipster way.

As a new girl at a new school with my teenage anger and ripped jeans, on the outside, I fit this box. I didn’t care about taking care of myself, so I would engage in reckless behavior. I didn’t really fit into any of the groups and didn’t make an effort to, so I become somewhat of a loner.

Now, as a teenage girl who just moved thousands of miles away from everyone she’s ever known and loved, I was dealing with a lot. All these manic-pixie-dream-girl boxes I checked were at their basic form destructive behavior. Yet I was told I was just “acting like a teenager” or even that I was trying to fit the manic pixie dream girl stereotype. I was brushed of as a teenager girl fangirling over something so hard I was trying to become it.

Guys would become interested in me like I was a science project. What was I going to do next? Would I fix them?

As I grew older, graduated and went to university I thought I could leave the annoying stereotype behind. But date after date I got told “you’re crazy, huh?” with a gleam in their eye like it was a compliment. Because apparently the fact I liked to change my hair color also meant I was going to want to go on a midnight road trip with them and solve all their mommy issues.

It took me a while to realize that the manic pixie dream girl stereotype was just another version of the “crazy girl” stereotype. She’s the girl who will go partying on a Tuesday night and then wake up on Wednesday with perfect makeup and no hangover as she makes you breakfast. She’s the girl who says unexpected shit that is just barely crossing some moral line but she’s so hot you don’t care. This girl is wild but not so wild you can’t bring her home to meet the parents.

Spoiler alert! This girl doesn’t exist!

Dudes would become surprised when my “dark past” wasn’t just something that made me deep and introspective but also something that gave me real problems. They would realize that crazy on a Friday was fun but crazy on Sunday morning was too much. And so I would become too much while simultaneously not enough as they compared me to this unachievable stereotype just because on the outside I looked like I would fit.

It’s stereotypes like these that directly shape how we feel about ourselves. To a certain extent we like labels, they tell us who we are, but only if we are the ones putting the label on. I never wanted to be the “manic pixie dream girl” and so it became a box I was constantly trying to break out of. But every move I made seemed to only confirm the stereotype.

So I gave up. I stopped dwelling on it. If I wanted a tattoo, I got it, if I wanted to wear jean on jeans, I did. I worked on myself and my education. I’m still somewhat of a loner, I still like bleaching my hair, but the difference is now I care about myself, and I care enough to not let some dude who wants to get me drunk and crazy look at me twice.

People can label me all they want, and they do. I still get told “you’re crazy” on dates but instead of laughing uncomfortably now I respond with “define crazy.”

Gender & Identity Life

An open letter to my natural hair

While growing up, I was appalled by your nature. At the sight of you, I’d quickly plug in my straightener to iron out whichever kinks dared to show their face. Every month and a half I’d sit under my aunties fingers as she’d apply a relaxer or the “creamy crack” to my scalp. Even when it began to burn I’d push myself to sit and take it just a little longer because I knew it would be worth it. Afterward, I’d run my hands through my silky straight strands and bask in its glory. My hands would skip over the scabs and burns on my scalp and my eyes would block out my straggly, dead, split ends because my hair was shiny and straight and that’s all that mattered.

When I moved away from home to go to college and I no longer had my aunt to relax my hair I thought, “What will I do now?” I didn’t trust anyone with my “precious” locks and despite my skill in braids, twists, and ponytails, there was no way I was trusting myself with powerful chemicals. I’d seen the process done and experienced it for years of my life, but it just wasn’t something I could do. As the months went by and I viciously straightened my roots in hope for a miracle, the natural movement began to rise around me.  YouTube gurus emerged with tales of coconut oil, and my friend with the most gorgeous hair I’d ever seen kept encouraging me to go natural.

You, my beautiful hair, had been a major part of my self-confidence for as long as I can remember. I may not have been the skinniest, or the prettiest girl growing up, but I always had great hair. There was no way in hell I was just going to cut off my hair and be…bald. I’d rather be dead.

A year went by of desperate blow drying and straightening when I realized that I was transitioning. I’d wash my hair and get a glimpse of my curl pattern and you were kind of cute. I began to binge watch natural hair gurus like crazy, naptural85, journeytowaistlength, jewejewebee, naturalneiicey, and jaemajette to name a few. I’d look at their routines and copy their techniques and each month I’d chop a little more of the straight ends off. My best friend was my cheerleader. She would send me so much information and then one day she also decided to big chop, and then I had a friend to go through this journey with. My hair definitely looked crazy during this journey, but it wasn’t so bad because I lived in a white town, they barely could tell the difference.

Two years had now passed, and I began to experience another hurdle. With each new growth, I began to love you less. I noticed that your pattern was kinkier than the girls on YouTube and Instagram. You were short and hard to manage. My wash and goes didn’t go as easy as there’s seemed to and braid outs and twists out barely lasted a day before the humidity got to them. And you were costing my college pockets a fortune. But we were too far into this now, so I kept going. All the girls said patience was the key, so I decided to be patient with you and I’m so glad I did.

This has been an almost five-year journey and one of the greatest experiences of my young adult life. My beautiful natural hair, I love you more than words can describe. I no longer groan at the process of taking care of you because it is the most relaxing part of my week. You are my therapy and self-care. Each time another black girl compliments you or asks me my routine I’m filled with glee because one day she will get to feel what I do now.  You are big, defiant, and unruly, a true reflection of me. I’ve never been comfortable with the idea of being a queen, but with you, as my crown, I can think no less of myself.

Gender & Identity Life

My pixie haircut is a “fuck you” to society and it’s the best thing I’ve done

“So does that mean you’re not getting married anytime soon?” a friend jokingly asked me. Her comment was in response to my pixie cut, the shortest my hair has ever been in a more than a decade. For anyone else, this comment would be irrelevant. But for a South Asian Muslim woman of “marriageable age,” cutting your hair short literally translates to sabotaging any prospects of getting married (although this was not my intention).

I’ve had medium length hair since I was eight. Growing up in the Middle East, I bore through the hot summers with my thick hair mopping down the back of my neck. I resisted my mother’s attempts to get my hair cut short, or as it was then popularly known, a “boy cut.” I just couldn’t get my hair cut short. Because girls must have long hair and only boys have short hair. It was an unwritten rule that was ingrained in my mind at a very young age.

As I grew up, I understood the silliness in the idea that short hair was only meant for boys. But even then, I couldn’t go through with the idea of getting my hair cut short enough to reveal my neck. Maybe I still hadn’t completely let go of the gender rules I was taught, maybe it was just the fear of possibly looking like an egg, but, I could never bring myself to go for the big chop.

But something changed in 2017. The monotony of millennial adult life had gotten to me. I needed a change. Something to make life interesting again for a short while. So, of course, I decided to get my hair cut short. It was a classic “get a makeover and conquer the world” kind of moment. But unknown to me at the time, my decision was more than just a momentary “pick me up.”

Everyone from my hairdresser to my closest friends praised me for my bold decision like it was some sort of accomplishment. I couldn’t help but wonder why. But, deep down I, too, felt like I had achieved something. My short hair made me feel powerful and in control.

This is my hair, my body, and my choice. So fuck you, society, for telling me that I must look a certain way.

You do not get to tell me how to look, how to dress or how to wear my hair. You do not get to tell me that only women with long hair look feminine. I am fabulous any way I choose to be.

I am more than my physical appearance. Fuck you for making me think otherwise.

If you can’t look past physical appearances, maybe you should grow a personality instead of asking me to grow (or cut) my hair.

Your opinion means nothing if it exists solely to belittle me.

Stop trying to sell me BS in the name of “constructive criticism.” I don’t care if you think my short hair makes me look “bitchy.” Stop telling me that I must do things a certain way. Stop making up rules about what the “right way” is. Respect and be supportive of my valid personal choices.

Now I know it sounds like a lot of emotion to go through from a new look that I decided to go for out of sheer boredom. But, the reality is that this change made me subconsciously understand the joy and satisfaction of breaking free from societal rules and expectations.

So wear that crop top, color your hair electric blue, get that tattoo you’ve always wanted. You are fabulous any way you choose to be.

Beauty Lookbook

Natural Hair 101: 5 tips for protecting & nourishing your natural hair

Natural hair has always had a negative stigma in the African American community. If your natural curls are not loose, then it receives a negative reputation as dry, unmanageable and attractive.

[bctt tweet=”Natural hair isn’t as unmanageable as you think. ” username=”wearethetempest”]

When I first became natural three years ago, I was afraid of the supposed time and effort it would take to care for my hair properly. Since then, I’ve learned a lot of different tips and tricks for maintaining natural hair that have worked for me.

1. Always moisturize.

Image description: a woman following the LOC method for her hair. Via Giphy

Deep condition your hair! I used to think deep conditioning was tedious and not worth my time, but it has helped immensely with keeping it moisturized and growing healthily. When deep conditioning, I find it helps to use heat (steamer, heated cap, dryer, etc) for the best results.

[bctt tweet=”Less is more when it comes to natural hair.” username=”wearethetempest”]

After deep conditioning, you can choose to use either the LCO (liquid, cream & oil) method or the LOC (liquid, oil, cream) method, depending on what works on your hair.

2. Don’t go overboard with products.

Image description: A group of men throwing bills into the air. Via Giphy

When I first became natural I went broke buying hundreds of different products that essentially did nothing for my hair. Don’t be like me. I’ve discovered that less is more when it comes to my hair. Save your money and read the ingredients before you commit to anything.

[bctt tweet=”Take care of your body and mind.” username=”wearethetempest”]

Also, if you buy products from Sally’s Beauty Supply store you can return the products after 30 days even after you used them. So you can try items and bring them back if they don’t work.

3. Learn about your hair.

Image Description: A woman fixing her Afro in the mirror. Via Giphy

Curl pattern does not matter as much as you think. Two people could have the same curl pattern but different reactions to certain products. If you want to know more about your curl pattern, you can check out Naturally Curly and figure it out.

The most important thing is porosity because it affects how your hair absorbs and retains moisture. There is low, medium/normal and high porosity.

[bctt tweet=”Curl pattern doesn’t matter. Two people could have the same curl pattern but different reactions to certain products.” username=”wearethetempest”]

With low porosity hair, compact hair molecules make it difficult to impart moisture into the hair. But it does retain moisture after it absorbs the moisture. Normal porosity easily lets ’s moisture in. High porosity hair needs help retaining moisture as much as possible. Depending on your porosity certain products will or will not work for your hair. You can find more about your porosity here.

4. Hydrate your body and mind.

Image Description: Singers Choe X Halle offering someone a glass of water. Via Giphy

Your hair literally grows out of your body. If you’re not taking care of your body, you aren’t taking care of your hair.

Eat your fruits and vegetables and hydrate with water. Even exercise can help with hair health. Your body and hair will thank you.

5. Experiment with your hair.

Image description: A woman rotating in a chair showing different natural hair styles. Via Giphy

If this is your first time with natural hair, this is the perfect time to experiment with different styles.

In the 2 years of being natural, I have grown out my hair, had a silk press, big chopped and even dyed my hair. Just recently I cut my hair. While I did it mostly because of damage, it was something new and my hair is still growing. Don’t be afraid to go short, do protective styles or change your hair color. It’s just hair and it will grow back. Just remember to do your research before attempting anything out of your hair’s comfort zone.

[bctt tweet=”Don’t be afraid to try something different.” username=”wearethetempest”]

Natural hair doesn’t have to be difficult. I remember spending my days watching hundreds of YouTube videos and being upset because certain things didn’t work for my hair. But the beauty of natural hair is that not everyone’s hair is the same. We all react to certain things in different ways, but that doesn’t mean you should give up.