To my kinky -- curly beauties,

To the girls who take the time to patiently diffuse their hair,

To those who choose the comb over the brush,

To the girls whose hair is praised for being “cool” or “ethnic,” instead of for its stunning beauty,

To those who are told their hair is better straightened, that their natural and authentic self is not enough because it does meet the white standards of beauty,

This message goes out to you.

First, let me start off by saying that you, and your natural curls, in whatever form they come, are perfect just the way they are.

You don’t need to grab the flat iron for every special occasion in order to look good. If that’s what you choose to do, that’s fine. It’s always nice to mix things up. But, know that when your hair hits the water and your curls come back, your beauty has not been lost. You slay like no one else.

As someone with curly hair, I’m unable to count the number of times people have come up to me and told me how “different” my hair looks. And then, to make it worse, they ask if they can touch it. Comments like these, while probably meant to be harmless, have made me feel like an outsider like there is something drastically different between me and the white students I got to school with. That because my hair is natural it will always be seen as interesting or different, but never beautiful.

But here’s a little secret; I am different. We are different. And that is something we should embrace. Our hair is a reflection of where we come from; it’s a reflection of who we are.

And that’s something we should be proud of.

Natural hair and beauty have been suppressed for decades upon decades in this country. Afros are synonymous with an unkempt, animalistic nature. European beauty ideals have held the spot at the top, and there’s nothing wrong with assimilating to them if that’s what you choose to do. But there is so much culture behind your natural hair that deserves recognition.

As a biracial woman, my curls symbolize the mix of ethnicities I possess. It’s a statement I make each day that no, my hair doesn’t look like the hair of my white friends, and that’s okay. That should be celebrated. Lifting up your culture does not serve to put another culture down.

So be curly and proud. That, in no way, takes from the beauty of the girl with pin straight hair.

She is beautiful and so are you.

Let your curls be a symbol of who you are, of where you come from, and of the rich cultures that coat each strand.

And the next time someone tells you to grab an iron and tame your mane, flip your curls and walk on by. Your hair is something to embrace.