">As I sat in the revolving leather chair, with the magical white potion slowly mutilating my natural follicle, the burning sensation occupied my senses, while the raw skin of my scalp signaled the unlocking of my beauty. As the magical white potion seeps into my scalp, I feel my skin brightening as the light shined on me and my new beauty. But it was on the most unsuspecting day, in the infinitesimal time between my natural hair growing in and my bi-monthly sprint to the nearest perm box is when I had the pleasure of stumbling across the idea of whom I am wanted to be. Early on in life I was exposed to the detrimental mental and physical effects of using semi-permanent straitening hair creams. Throughout the duration of six long years, I became conscious of the manipulation I subjected myself to in order to fit into society’s rigid mold of beautiful. After this revelation, I trekked the first steps on my way to Spelman as I tumbled through the path of wearing my hair natural.
">I realized I reached my breaking point when the magical potion named perm was removed and I still felt the burn. The burn left my scalp and seeped into my soul. The burn made me trivialize my beauty into how smoothly my hair flowed through a small tooth comb. The burn was in my reflection when I saw straight hair, rejection and ugliness. In “How It Feels to be Colored Me” author Zora Neale Hurston figured out she was black when she was next to her white colleague. Similarly, I discovered I was black when I compared myself to my white classmates with their beautiful hair that flowed to their waist and I was ugly, bald and black.
It was once I realized the majority of my healthy hair had fallen out after daily doses of styling my hair using 400-degree hot plates, that I determined my outward appearance did not reflect who I was. From there I made the decision to face my fears, insecurities, and society on my road to finding the me I was destined to be. In my vision of myself, I was me in the truest form. I was smart, ambitious, and bold which was not farfetched but doing it all with a 1950’s afro seemed odd and outdated. How could I run the world with kinky hair? As I made this transition during the same time of college applications, I had to find a place where I could not only feel comfortable being me but where I would thrive. Being an unapologetic black female in 2016 is no easy feat and yet I was determined to find a school that was made for me.
Throughout my journey to wearing my hair natural, I thought about the social exclusion I could face if my hair was closer to 2B Kanekalon than it was to Malaysian Body Wave. Like Hurston, I felt as if I was the only one whose “…grandfather on the mother’s side was not an Indian Chief”.[i] Just as I wanted to avoid the box of socially accepted ‘good’ hair I wanted to avoid being placed in a box at my future college. I was never good at fitting into molds. It always seemed as if my shoulder were too broad to fit in the box, thus when looking for colleges I wanted to find a school where I could thrive instead of one where I simply “fit in”. As I toured around schools on the East Coast I never escaped the “You’ll love it here once you find your group!” While that sounded slightly comforting, I did not want to feel as if I have to go throughout my college career in search of people who understood me I was in search of a school that wanted me in every circle not just to thrive in my box.
"Once I visited Spelman, I truly understood the saying “The world is your oyster”. After spending two days on Spelman’s campus I truly felt as the world was at my disposal. I did not have search far and long for people who were like me but instead, social structures were not apparent and circles lacked membranes. I figured out that at Spelman I would have the opportunity to be a part of an institution whose sole focus is to educate and empower Black Women. I saw that for the first time in my life that there is no mold for beauty or success of a Black Girl.
I was just a $40 perm box in a yearly 774 million-dollar Black Hair industry. Just a Black Girl in a world meant for the White Man. A trivial bolt in the machine. For six years I was too scared to have my natural hair, too afraid of being ugly. Once I faced myself in the mirror with straight hair I figured out the only standing between me and the person I wanted to be were the molds of society. My dream was not deferred, but yet it was brought into fruition. I wore my natural hair for the first time, and officially chose to go to Spelman in April of 2016. How well do you fit into society? It took me six years to realize I was born to stand out.
[i] Hurston, Zora Neale. "How It Feels to Be Colored Me." The World Tomorrow (1928): n. pag. Print.
[ii] Nemiroff, Robert, and Lorraine Hansberry. To Be Young, Gifted, and Black: Lorraine Hansberry in Her Own Words. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1969. Print.