I spent 18 years of my life coveting a hair texture that was not mine.
Growing up, I was inundated with fashion and beauty magazines that constantly promoted silky, flowing straight hair as the look du jour. Everywhere I looked, I saw women who looked like me and women who didn't being praised and prized for their pin-straight locks.
Needless to say, I gradually began to loathe my own hair — a kinky, coily crown that was so unlike the beauty icons I looked up to.
I often struggled with my hair in high school, chasing after a look that was physically impossible to achieve with my hair texture. I had bad relaxer after bad relaxer, terrible weave after terrible weave, trying to conform to Eurocentric beauty standards that were being unconsciously forced upon me.
It took me a long time to start loving my hair as it grew out of my head, and a large part of this change took place in college. At Howard University, a historically Black university, I am surrounded by some of the most beautiful, intelligent, kinky-haired women in the country. Every day I have the privilege of seeing fearless women rebuke conventional beauty standards and they have inspired me to embrace my natural texture.
Having the opportunity to freely study my culture also contributed to my desire to go natural. For many minorities, university is really the first time they've been able to study the history of their people and familiar cultural concepts in an academic setting with respected scholars.
For me, learning about the effects of the African Diaspora on African American culture greatly influenced my desire to get closer to my roots. As I learned to love my curls, I was also learning about the struggles of my ancestors to preserve their culture. I felt as if wearing my hair in a TWA (teeny weeny Afro) was the least I could do to honor them.
Of course, the accepting atmosphere of a college setting makes the experimental aspect of going natural all the easier. If it wasn't for the open minded nature of my peers and my professors, I would have never made it through my natural hair missteps (hello bald, blonde head of winter 2014 and shoddy lace front wigs of spring 2015).
All in all, going natural is a phenomenally rewarding experience and going natural in college makes it even more worthwhile. It's allowed me to embrace who I am and learn more about my own history.
What are some of your experiences embracing your culture at college? Do you have natural hair? What made you decide to go natural? Let us know in the comments!