When I would go to events such as prom, homecoming, parties or really any special occasion, I began to notice a strange pattern. All the girls with curly or wavy hair would straighten their hair, and all the girls with straight hair would curl their hair. I was one of the girls who straightened her hair.
I hadn’t thought much of this paradox until I really asked myself why I kept straightening my hair. I didn’t really like the way it looked, and I also didn’t really do a good job. But like many others, I wanted what I couldn’t have. I thought straight hair was beautiful and silky, unlike my loud and frizzy wavy hair. I would tell my white friends, most of whom had straight hair, how lucky they were, how nice it must be to wake up and only have to brush their hair. They would respond by telling me how much they wish they had my hair because they thought their hair was so boring. Neither of us convinced the other of each other’s beauty, and the conversation moved on.
It took me a while to realize that the reason I kept straightening my hair came from a deeply rooted internalized racism. I was taught that only blonde, straight hair was beautiful and that my frizzy waves had to be “tamed” or “fixed” in order to be beautiful. Growing up, I didn’t see women of color with wildly curly hair as the “ideal” image of beauty because they simply weren’t in the eyes of the beauty industry. So I, like many other people of color, would straighten my hair in the hopes of resembling an image that was impossible to become. It broke my heart. It wasn’t until I saw my own mother embrace her much wilder, much curlier and much more luscious hair that I began to love my own. She taught me how to take care of it, how to love it and how to embrace it with confidence. Forget those Instagram models: My mom’s beauty was what I began to admire.
During this self-reflection, I realized a larger issue that many women and gender-nonconforming people struggle with. The beauty industry pushes us to believe that what we have isn’t enough, but if we buy a certain product or use a particular treatment, we will become beautiful. This not only perpetuates consumerism but also damages our self-image. We look to Instagram, Pinterest, TikTok, Youtube and other social media platforms to idealize the ways in which we see ourselves lacking. But this just ends up hurting us more than inspiring us. We should look at each other not with envy, but admiration and appreciation. As my dad tells me, “Treat yourself like someone you love.”
So if you struggle with believing in your own beauty, remember two things. First, the beauty industry is corrupt and profits off of our insecurities and self-consciousness; so if you’re having a hard time with your self image, know that it’s not your fault. It’s just consumerism, so go off. Second, if it’s too hard for you to outright appreciate your beauty right now, look at yourself like someone you love, and admire yourself as such. Then, slowly, I encourage you to begin to transition thoughts of, “you’re the hottest person in the world” to “I’m the hottest person in the world.”
We will definitely fail, and we will definitely have days when we just want that long silky hair in the morning instead of the frizzy tangled hair scattered across our face. However, what you have is beautiful, and it’s what you’ve got, so own it. Don’t waste your time investing yourself into other people’s beauty, and start investing it in yourself. You’re the hottest person in the world, so start acting like it.
Contact Paloma Torres at [email protected].