How I Learned to Embrace Free-Form Hair -- and My True Self 

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The author, far right, and her mother today. - ANDY PAULISSEN
  • The author, far right, and her mother today.

But we are also just now moving into an era where our natural hair feels good to us. The huge response to the Nappily Ever After movie out now on Netflix, which portrayed a black woman going through her hair journey, shows the hunger for that.

What saddened me the most about my brother's response was the fact that, in response to what the black men around them found beautiful, black women with coarse hair sought long straight hair instead. They weren't part of a society that embraced their natural hair, and they couldn't even look to those within their own circles to encourage them to be natural.

As he described how hair was viewed when he was younger, I felt myself relating to what those women were going through. How do you feel beautiful in your own skin when everything around you is saying the opposite?

All these things influenced the path of my hair journey. Choosing to free-form my hair was my answer to noise I heard around me. Society's standards, familial history and perception, corporate America, they all faded to the background like the slow winding of the storm sirens on the first Monday of the month.

At one time in my life, I let everything around me essentially influence the love I had for myself. I chased off my thick coils with heat, I hid them behind sew-ins, I dreaded the way my hair would revert to its natural state at the smallest presence of moisture. But I knew I was more than that.

My ancestors forged a path that brought me here. I know that I am the descendant of those strong enough to withstand a long voyage across the sea after being ripped from their homeland, being forced to watch their loved ones brutalized, and humiliated as an example to the others. A life so far from the harmony, love and spiritual morals of the homeland.

I know my history. I know that it is a struggle to reconnect with who we are as black people; our very stories are marked out of history books, often written over or falsified. Our ancestors endured so much, and that is why I choose to live in my truth. I am natural, and I won't apologize for that — not even to those who find my hair outside of the standard of beauty.

My mother has learned to love my hair and what it stands for to me. I understand that traditions are hard to get past, but when one generation takes a step in a new direction, it beckons the older to see its possibilities. Ultimately, my mother wants me to be happy, to love myself as a black woman and to understand who I am. What's important to me is to continue to show other black women and girls that it is OK to love your hair as it grows from your head, no matter the texture. No one yields the beauty that you do, and you must believe that.

I don't care if it makes someone uncomfortable, if it prevents me from obtaining work, if I am any less beautiful to others. I owe it to myself and those before me to reconnect, to set my spirit free. To look a little less neat.

Stephanie Daniels is a freelance writer. She can be reached on Instagram @Mahoganyx_ or via her blog,

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