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Embracing my Natural Hair – The Journey

In my baby pictures, I had curly, wavy ringlets of hair, always in disarray after I was done playing for the day. It never bothered me until I was consciously aware that what seemed like was okay to me, was dirty, and unkempt to others. It always felt like every time I tried to embrace my differences, someone or something would stop me from coming back to my roots.  I come from a very ethnically diverse family, from my great-grandparents being Indian and Mayan to my own parents being Ecuadorian and Belizean/Mexican. The idea that my hair wasn’t going to be like other girls in the predominantly white neighborhood that I live in was obvious to everyone in my family, but me. Even in my own family, both my siblings that live with me are white-passing and have very slightly wavy hair. So most days, I could never feel like I would fit in. 

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When I first cut my hair, I realized when my hair was short, it became straighter. So I would grow out my hair to my waist, cut it and donate it, keeping up the cycle, slowly letting my curls go. My short hair was a sanctuary to me and having it shorter meant fitting into the norm that I saw around me. The idea solidified when I went to high school and learned about the uses of a straight iron for cheer competitions. It was a dream, a way to keep my hair long and straight. Consequently, everyone else around me thought it was more presentable too. 

[bf_image id="7c633sfwrmq2vxpprkw4bfg"]  It wasn’t until my junior year when a freshman that I  taught came up to me on a day I let my curls go and told me he thought I was born with straight hair because he had never seen my hair curly. He told me it looked great after and left. I will never forget that moment because I realized I had lost the only tie I knew to my family’s culture for other people’s beliefs. My hair represented to me the people in my family that I never had the chance to know, their lives and their history, and I had let that go because of the generalized idea that curly hair was not beautiful, a concept that had been instilled in me for so long.  [bf_image id="w33g47qs39k7vhjtrwbp77g"] Nowadays, I’m learning how to nurture my hair back to how it used to be and embrace the beauty that it still has, no matter how much heat damage I see. I will never know what it feels like to have pin-straight hair or 3c-4c curly type hair. I know my hair is the in-between, a mix of both sides of the spectrum, just like me, and I can accept that now and cherish that representation. I’ve realized my hair is an extension of who I am, and I have so many different options I can explore with it to finally express myself and my culture. 

Olivia Garcia

UC Riverside '24

creative writing major - lover of books, Netflix, and being your truest self
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