We all remember the iconic Princess Diaries transformation when Mia finds out that she is a princess. By the unforgettable hairdresser, her unruly mane of curls is straightened, which is deemed much more fitting for royalty. This phenomenon exists throughout various movies, where the fun-loving, crazy, unpredictable character. In movies where the woman is finally “set-free” or she “lets go,” suddenly her pin-straight hair or tight bun becomes a full head of curls. This narrative of curls gives girls and young women a complicated relationship with their natural hair. We start by brushing out our curls when we are little, straightening our hair for prom, and getting treatments when we want to look professional. The curls may be fun, but can they run a company? The media tells us no.
I was lucky enough to grow up with a mom with beautiful, strong curls, who never straightened them. I grew up getting mixed signals and even now change my mind. Some days I use my hair product and try to get my curls as defined as possible. Other days, I straighten my hair so that I might look “fancier” or more “ready for the day.” The movies I watched always showed the woman with straight hair getting the job, getting the guy, or making her way through a new city. This changed how I looked at my own hair and made me forget how lucky I was to have beautiful curls.
There is another added layer for women of color whose natural hair is curly and does not fit the white-woman-straight-hair ideal. Curly hair can be a large part of black women’s identity and this narrative plays into the western beauty standard that can be extremely damaging, especially to young girls. While the representation of natural hair has grown, there is still an expectation for hair to be neat and controlled, reflecting the personality women are expected to have in professional or proper settings.
Another issue that arises is that girls aren’t taught how to care for their curls, adding to the feelings of resentment or annoyance for their natural hair. Without proper care, it only makes it frizzier and harder to manage. Learning tricks like using a comb instead of a brush, not using a shower towel to dry your hair, or what products work best with your hair can completely change the look of your hair. This can also make a big difference in girls’ confidence in their hair. It also needs to be normalized that curly hair can be frizzy and big! That’s beautiful too!
We have seen more body positivity on social media, promoting different body types and the realities of daily life. Let's also promote and celebrate real hair! Curly hair isn’t just for having fun. Curly hair can be a CEO, curly hair can be fancy, curly hair can do anything.