“Crazy”, “messy”, “frizzy”, “untamed”, “too big”, “difficult”, “bushy”: these were the words used to describe my most distinctive physical feature – the hair growing from my head.
As an olive-skinned, ethnic-appearing, curly-haired child, I was accustomed to hearing a plethora of negatively connoted and toned phrases when people would stumble across me.
In a part of Sydney predominantly populated by Caucasians, I stuck out like a sore thumb. I was the only child whose parents were from an Arab, African, Middle-Eastern country; the only child in my school who had immigrant parents, ethnic features and had a different language spoken to me at home. I grew up with other children asking if my parents went to school in the desert and rode a camel to get there – the same way Aussies get asked about Kangaroos as a form of transport. I grew up being asked if my parents even went to school. And I grew up, and still am identified, as “the one with the hair”.
The crown that I rejected and hated and fought for 20 years. The crown whose value I did not understand. The crown that I was conditioned to feel unkempt, unprofessional and ugly under. The literal roots that showed my beautiful North-African heritage which I flattened and burned with a straightener on any occasion that I wanted to feel confident.
Conditioning. It is simultaneously more powerful and subtle than I had ever realised. It took several life changing events to crush my feeling of identity, self-worth and hope before I would one day stumble unintentionally across 1 short YouTube video. A YouTube video that led to other YouTube videos (as they do) that led to me realise that I wasn’t alone. That my loneliness was an illusion created by the people who surrounded me. By those who treated me as foreign, other North Africans who treated me as unkempt and lacking awareness of beauty standards, who also refused to embrace their natural roots.
The second I started to embrace my natural hair and feel comfortable with it was honestly the exact moment that I started to accept myself for the very first time in my life. Since understanding my natural texture I have tried to encourage other friends and family from the same background to embrace their curls. It’s worked… only a few times, but the expression on their faces – what can only be described as freedom and comfort – is always obvious. There is also a huge sense of relief when they realise that their perception of themselves is not determined by others but by accepting their natural state.
When people ask me where I’m from I know they aren’t simply referring to my olive skin or seemingly Mediterranean features. There is always that quick glance upwards: to my Egyptian crown. And I am so happy that I was blessed with these “medusa” curls (yes – I get that as often as I get asked if someone can touch my hair).
by M ♥
This post was kindly contributed by a #curldisciple. If you would like to share your own stories, knowledge, tutorials, or photos, please email saint curl at firstname.lastname@example.org