By Cheyenne Bholla
Featured in our fall 2019 issue
I’ve had a long journey with my hair. When I was younger, I idolized girls in my school who had silky straight or wavy hair. That look was what I aspired to have when I spent time finding straighteners and begging my mom to buy them for me. Instead of trying to figure out how to take care of my own hair and keep it healthy, I attempted to make it something it wasn’t. I would search for “how to get straight hair without damaging your natural hair” on YouTube, do blowouts and use different straightening methods. None of them would fully work and I’d end up with my hair looking like an afro (which is a look!), but that look wasn’t what I accepted as beautiful at the time.
I’ve had a long journey with my hair. Growing up, my Google searches changed from “how to get straight hair” to “hair masks” and finally to “best products for curly hair.” I have such a strong relationship with my hair now and it has become a big part of my expression. I spend hours a week caring for it and I enjoy every second. Ever since the health and growth of my hair has improved, I’ve started to experiment with different colours and styles over the years. Everyone has their own experiences with their hair, and the following sheds light on those experiences as well as the connections they create.
The reason why my hair is important to me is because of the sense of self it gives me. Growing up, my mom always decided which haircut I got and how my hair would be styled. As I grew older, I started growing my hair out longer. My identity and sense of self was forming at the same time that I got control over my hair. My hair helps me feel confident, beautiful and free, and it allows me to express to the world how I would like to be perceived.
I used to have really long hair. I always felt like cutting it would be some sort of drastic change that would permanently alter the way people perceive me, but the nice thing about hair is that it always grows back. Once I cut it, I began experimenting with it more, and with all the different things I tried out, I felt like I was learning more about myself in the process. Once I stopped thinking that it had to look a certain way to be “womanly,” I felt more free to express myself.
I’m really stressed most of the time, whether it’s because of all the work I have or because of everything going on in the world. I like to express myself through my hair by showing that despite everything, I don’t want to take myself too seriously. I really want to just enjoy life and try new things.
I was an anxious 14-year-old. My hair was long and went down to my waist, and it felt like a safety blanket. I would bring it to the sides of my face to hide behind, a place for me to retreat. It’s silly, but I felt compelled to hide from a lot of things and I had a hard time facing people. It was an attempt to control the way I was perceived by others because anxiety made me hyper-fixate on how people viewed me. My long hair felt like a shield from that reality.
After cutting my hair at 16, I felt naked and seen. It was like that feeling when it gets warm enough to not wear a coat anymore, and you no longer have pockets to shove your hands into. I had also never really liked my hair much. I always wished it was straight and smooth instead of thick and full. When I cut it short, I started appreciating it much more. It felt light and I began to love how it looked. Every year since then, I tried to keep cutting it shorter, and the longer I had it short, the more confident I felt. It was unlike the shield I hid under when it was long. I began to find some sort of power in genuinely loving the way my hair and I felt.
One of my favourite feelings is walking down the street with the wind blowing in my hair. It means so much more knowing that it used to scare me before.
Going natural a few years back helped me to identify beauty within myself, the beauty that exists within my Afro-Caribbean roots and the barriers my ancestors went through to give me the freedom to confidently wear my hair in its natural state. To me, my hair signifies connections with other individuals who also see the beauty in embracing their natural hair. The versatility of my hair allows me to express my creativity and is also a visible reflection of my mood.