Tell me about your hair ...
In honor of International Women’s Day in March this year, through Instagram (!) I met Kayla, who sent me her powerful hair story. I sent her my book. We met on May 24, 2019 in person when she and her aunt (also a photographer that I admire so much) braved the Memorial Day traffic and made it to my closing reception of Hair Stories in Providence, RI. Here is Kayla’s abbreviated hair story and a photo of her aunt Kristen, myself and Kayla.
Tight curls, bounce, brown, and short.
Every since I can remember I would always sit in between my mother's legs late at night to braid my curly brown hair. Using oils, cremes, combs, and brushes. Not letting my hair breathe for a second. I would always dream to leave my hair out and have my curls bounce around my face as I walked. My mom always refused to let my hair free. Something about black women's hair has to be tamed so it can tame its person.
Sitting between my mother’s legs as she pulled my hair back has good memories mixed in with some bad ones. The good memories were the conversations we had while my younger sister ran around, or I would talk about the latest news going on in school. The bad memories were of me crying because combing curly tangled hair hurts! And sometimes the braids didn’t come out how I wanted them to. Often times I wanted my braids to be braided like the white girls in my class, fish tail, french braid, crown, etc...My mom would say your hair is not made for that kind of style.
I started straightening my hair in 5th grade before going into middle school. All the kids who weren’t black always seemed amazed that my hair went from curly to straight in a matter of a day. They would ask to touch it and try to style it. It felt good that people were positively curious about my hair. The Black kids understood but . .Often times my curly hair caused negative questions/comments, ‘why does your hair shrink?,” “I bet its sticky,” or “I bet it's full of lice.” Straightening my hair made me feel like I was the same as everyone else in my school.. At that age feeling different is the end of the world, but as I got older I realized there is no point in hiding who I am and want to be.