written by Xiao Mei // captured by Wyze
Being an exotic, biracial woman I never realized how much treasure I had to offer this world. They either accept me or they don’t, but my treasure still remains.
This past weekend I received a special invitation to discuss my two cents growing up as a young woman wearing my hair in its authentic form. It was an eye opener being surrounded by dynamic women discussing our struggles, our childhood reflections along with the cultural competencies we faced, and our own accomplishments going natural. After our discussion, I became more knowledgeable than ever on what products to invest in, the tips and tricks to control frizz and the pathways we can initiate to educate the next generation wearing their curls with confidence.
The event was curated by 2 Curlie Souls (founded by two cousins; Salome Beyene and Mannen Asefa) 2 Curlie Souls is a public hub and safe place for the underrepresented Curly and Natural Hair communities. These women advocate on behalf of all natural hair journeys by empowering, inspiring, and motivating young women to be their unapologetic self. Which is why I couldn’t resist RSVP’ing immediately. Their mission is similar to The N.U.D.E blog - to provide a safe house for the many women. 2 Curlie Souls also prides itself in its commitment to liberate all women by embracing that fact that curls do not define us, but we define our curls.
CULTURAL SUPPORT IS RARE.
Has your momma ever recommended you brush your hair after you spent hour(s) in the bathroom getting ready? But because you love her so much you took the comb anyways? Sigh* If not your mom, has your co-worker ever looked at you puzzled, suddenly reaching their hand towards your face and running their fingers through your curls as if they never seen what black magic looked like? Sigh*
I’ve too been there girl. However, I received a nice amount of appraisal from my parents, especially my father. When wearing my hair natural he’d always compliment my curls saying, “I really like when you wear your hair natural. It’s nice you can switch it up like that.” It made me feel bubbly knowing a man appreciates my curls. On the flip side, my mother (Mama Mei) occasionally suggested I need more product to maintain some moisture. Apparently Mama Mei likes it juicy, but I don’t blame her :)
However, to the women who faced hatred from outsiders including family members… I am truly sorry. Sorry to those who never educated themselves of the beauty and culture of how impactful your natural hair is to our communities. For far too long minorities, including myself, have adjusted our exotic features to fit within society by catering our looks according to people who are considered superior.
Personally, my education was brought up in a predominantly White school so I stood out amongst others. Down the corridors comes me, a light-skinned girl with a small head, but hair full of voluminous curls. As a biracial female I came to the conclusion I have the ability to spice life up a bit. I bring flavor to this world and diversity with my fashion sense and authentic hairstyles. Now mind you, THIS TOOK TIME. Wearing confidence in general took time.
WHAT DOES GOING NATURAL MEAN?
Some people are uneducated when trying to comprehend what going natural is about. So for those who know let’s keep an open mind while being patient helping educate those who want to learn.
Going natural simply means – a person who removes themselves from any extensions, wigs or straightening chemicals. Why is this an important movement? Natural hair is seen as political and often shamed or frowned upon. Because of its negative perception it has made women feel unworthy of embracing their roots.
But that ends today.
MY ROOTS DO NOT DEFINE MY PROFESSIONALISM.
My ability to design is not defined by the way I dress.
My creative skills are not defined by the way I style my hair.
My intellect is not defined by my gender.
Last Saturday, I asked the women, “Do you believe the way we change our hairstyles for a job interview is similar to how to we change our voices when conversing with those we work with?” Many agreed yes, however some answered they are comfortable being their unapologetic self, no change is necessary. As for me, that’s problematic. I have a professional tone of voice and a ratchet voice. I enjoy turning up, but I believe when pursuing a career my ratchet voice shouldn't be voiced during that time. It does not change who I am - I just simply understand my audience will not be capable of responding appropriately.
since I asked the question, I figured I answered myself too:
Xiao: “Every interview, I never wore my hair down if it’s NATURAL. I’ll always pull it back in a bun.”
Ladies: “Why?” or “Yeah, me too.”
Xiao: “I want the job. Once I get it, then I’ll let my curls down.”
Sad to say, but society has created its own game of what beautiful should look like and what is politically appropriate in business. Moreover than ever before, in this millennial age I am beyond grateful for small businesses and female entrepreneurs bringing greater demand for respect within the work force, especially corporate America. It has opened the gateway and allowed us to set our rules and be comfortable embracing our real identity.
EDUCATING OUTSIDERS OF OUR CULTURE.
Living in a dual world has its pros and cons; for me being mixed was challenging enough. Most Asian women were slow in acceptance of me if I wore my hair natural. While most Black women unfortunately envied my looks because they viewed me privileged for never wearing weave, sow-ins, perms, etc. I couldn’t win with either race of mine, which led me to hangout primarily with Hispanics. With Hispanics I never felt misunderstood.
I admit it can be difficult educating people about my hair texture because little do they know they’re offending me with their choice of words. One upsetting experience is when a woman told me my hair looked all over the place, aka “nappy” as if I woke straight out of bed. I believed I looked fine as wine and unbothered, however words can still hurt and I was quite offended.
The challenges receiving others approval actually helped me gain confidence despite the struggles I faced. I appreciate the thick skin I developed because overtime I became comfortable with me. This was also the best technique I sought in order to educate outsiders. I needed to be my authentic self and love me in order to reciprocate the same energy.
DATING MEN/WOMEN: WHICH HAIRSTYLE DO THEY PREFER.
First off, if a man can’t accept your looks then he is NOT for you! Notice I didn’t say prefer, I said accept.
When a man finds it difficult to embrace and support the woman you are and all the naturalistic beauty that comes along with you - you should probably run.
Now ladies, it doesn’t neglect the fact a man has his preference. His preference does not become absent, just like yours. Women too have our preferences. Some of us like it big, some like it small, some like it wide and others like it tall. By the way I’m referring to a man’s hair…
Dating for me has been a breeze whether I wore my hair natural or flat ironed. Most men prefer my hair in its natural form. They view it as exotic, different and intriguing. #NOTBASIC! This concept is similar to how I view men with accents or with a taller height. It’s simply humans with preferences.
The only outraging instance I can remember with a man I dated is when he told me my curls looked wild and crazy. I knew what he meant and didn’t take offense to it. I appreciated him for telling me and reapplied some more water.
Despite all the commotion...If you let someone else define who you are as a woman, the moment you speak you will never be heard. And the moment you demand respect you will never see it. BUT, if you choose you (natural hair or not), others have no choice but to let you speak. However, it’s truly up to them to listen. Continue to choose YOU Queen.
[Take a sec to watch this powerful documentary below. Share this post with friends and surrounding peers. Let's continue to educate people why we love our roots]
N.U.D.E. // Naked Uncut Daily Empowerment. // “To provide a safe house for the many women.” #Nudist // Unclothe your mind reading naked thoughts