My earliest hair memories are all negative.
Brushing my curls out in the hopes it would make it straight. Being turned away from multiple hairdressers because they didn’t do “that sort of hair.”
I remember having to mentally prepare myself as I went into a hairdresser; never allowing myself to go in with the expectation that I could simply book an appointment.
Rejection was the only thing I associated with my hair as I grew up.
Being rejected from society because it didn’t conform to social standards. Rejected from hairdressers because, despite my hair being similar to those having their hair done in front of me, it was the colour of my skin that determined whether or not it was the “type of hair” they did. Rejected from buying items in shops because the only products they sold were for white people.
As women, we are often made to feel like the hair on our head should be worn like a crown. It is our defining beauty; supposedly the thing that makes us female. But not everyone has the luxury of having hair, or having hair that they love.
So why do we place such importance on dead cells?
Why do we feel like our identity is made up of our hair alone?
As much as I hate to admit it, I couldn’t help but buy into this belief.
My love of self only started when I began to love my hair.
When I began to walk confidently into hairdressers and book appointments. When I challenged those who said they didn’t do that sort of hair. And when I was able to freely buy products designed specifically for my curls.
I began to let go of social norms with my hair.
I stopped straightening it and slicking it down before interviews. My long-held belief that I would only get a job if I had straight hair was gone, never to return. I no longer cared if the person in front of me found my frizz offensive, or my curls too big. In my eyes, the bigger the better.
Now, I actively seek bigger hair. I want products that will make my curls bigger.
Because after spending so much time hiding them, feeling rejected because of them, I’ve now found my own freedom in them.
This is my message to the world that I am being myself, and I won’t change in order to fit into a world that for so long refused to see me.
Instead, as I shake out my curls, and as I see others embracing their natural hair, I have realised something. I have realised why hair holds so much weight in our lives. It is a political power that we use every day. It has become our voice when we had none.
We use it to start trends, we use it to protest, we use it to show who we are. Our hair is a crown, but not as a symbol of beauty or decoration, instead it is a symbol of authority.
My hair which once stood as a symbol of rejection, battered and abused by my desire to conform; now stands as a symbol of freedom, no longer being made to fit a mould it was never designed for.
Praise for Bloom by Shani Jay
“I read Bloom in one night. I started feeling hopeless and pushed down. Shani picked me up, dusted me off, and guided me to self-love in a few short hours with only print. Truly inspiring” – Rebecca Barnoff