I looked like a Pomeranian. Though the shape of my hair resembled the golden halos in Byzantine art, it felt like a curse.
Lauren Hattendorf is a marketing and operations professional who loves helping skincare brands succeed. Offline, she can be found spilling flour on the floor while baking and planning trips to destinations across the world.
I was born and raised in the shadow of Los Angeles. I choose to still live here. Beauty ideals are considered standards here, and they are high. As I write this, awards season is winding down and the international fashion weeks are in full swing. Look at the red carpets. Glamour abounds. It’s gorgeous, it’s fun, it’s art. It’s the epitome of what Western society calls beautiful. But look closer. Curly hair is in hiding. In a world where more than half of the population has naturally curly or wavy hair, it’s not getting much screen time. But screen time directs beauty ideals, and these ideals impact our lives whether or not we want them to, and whether or not we realize it.
When I was little, I called long, straight hair like Pocahontas’s “princess hair.” It’s not what I had, but it’s what I wanted. I was thrilled when The Princess Diaries was released. I had Princess Mia’s curly hair. For the first time in my life, there was someone on screen with hair like mine and I didn’t feel like the odd one out. Representation was a new feeling, and even though her hair was straightened into the actual princess hair I’d always wanted, I was still excited.
My hair has always been a pain point—a huge one, and a literal one. Growing up, I begged for a Brazilian blowout—anything to give relief to my curly battle. I was dissuaded when I was told my hair would grow back curly and wouldn’t give me permanent princess hair. Regardless, my parents tried their best. They brushed through my rats’ nests of knots, bought me a clunky straightener from Walmart that barely worked, and blow dried my hair the only way many people with straight hair in the 90s knew how: high heat and high speed settings, no diffuser. I looked like a Pomeranian. Though the shape of my hair resembled the golden halos in Byzantine art, it felt like a curse.
To add to the frustration, the brands and products that are beginning to line beauty store shelves now, didn’t exist when I was younger. Curly hair was in hiding. I didn’t find any products that worked until I was in junior high. Curly mousse and anti-frizz serums were game changers for me. Poofy ponytails; knotted “some hair up, some hair down”, and bushy, brushed hair meagerly concealed under headache-inducing headbands, wrinkly bandanas, and butterfly clips not made for thick hair became a thing of the past. I slowly began to wear my hair down and to view it in a positive light.
Now, I love my hair most days. I try to convince myself that because it only takes two minutes to style my hair, it shouldn’t hold such importance in my life, but it does. If it’s not a good hair day, it’s not a good day. I use the AQUIS Rapid Dry Lisse Hair Turban every day—it eliminates frizz and cuts my air drying time from six hours to three. It helps me love my hair, which are words I never thought I would say.
Even though there are still extremely high and unreasonable beauty ideals, straight hair isn’t the only beauty ideal now. Brands are developing products for all textures and styles of hair in all price points, and social media is giving it the screen time and recognition that’s making it easier and more comfortable to have curly hair.
I’m on a mission to not straighten my hair this year. I may not make it 100%, but I’m going to try. There’s a silent solidarity when you see someone who looks like you in a world where you’re hardly shown people who look like you. For me, it gives me confidence. As much as I want to get a beautiful blowout for my friend’s upcoming wedding, I want to show that curly hair is beautiful too—even for special occasions. I didn’t have a model of that growing up, but maybe I can be that person for others. On top of being who you physically are, your hair tells a story. It’s time to share it.