By Cassie Gibbons

In the summer of 2010, I look at myself in the mirror and I sobbed. How could I let my peers tell me about how I should look? How could I allow something as simplistic as hair determine my beauty? I had spent countless years begging my mother to straighten my hair. I wanted to look like all of my friends and I wanted [to feel] uniformity. My hair became brittle, thin, and slowly fell out.

I remember sitting on the ground with my back turned toward my sister as she began to tug and pull at my hair in ways that I’ve never felt before. I was apprehensive and had heard numerous rumors about having locs. “It is hard to maintain.” “It is irreversible.” “It will offend people.” I wasn’t too sure if I was ready for all of that and I had already been teased on a daily basis for having “Black” hair. Whether it was braided, in an afro or twisted, it was clear that Black hair was wack hair.

In our world, hair has become a determinant of beauty, wealth and power. Western cultures continue to have a preference for straight hair that “blows in the wind”. But where does that leave our men and women that have curly, kinky or locked hair? I remember being one of two people that had locs in high school with a student body of 4,000 individuals. I was frequently advised to wear wigs, install a weave and “take my dreads out” because it would make me “look so much better.” These subtle remarks that people like me have to endure on a daily basis can undeniable make a person feel like everything but beautiful. Hair Hegemony gives those that have been targeted a voice to explain their experiences of being an outlier.

Picture of aaron, 22

Aaron, 22

“I knew that living in Long Island would be a challenge for people to understand. Locking my hair definitely came with a lot of explaining to White folk. I wore my hair up one time and I had an incident where someone said ‘that’s a fun hairstyle’  and Ii said ‘I have my hair up just like your hair is up, it’s just a different texture. So really, what is so fun about it?’ Y’all ain’t ever see a Black man with locs before?”

Angeles, 21

“I grew up fantasizing about the idea of having “perfect” hair, it being straight, long and silky. After so many years, I became more conscious of how Black/African hair types were perceived in the media and I decided to change people’s negative views. We should love and accept our hair, which ever way we decide to wear it: straight, silky, coarse, or curly.”

Jennifer, 29

“I feel more confident than others because I’m natural. I feel stronger and more attractive! I have been looked at as strong and intimidating but that’s good because I’m a G! Okkkuuuuurrrrrt.”

Nayab, 27

“White people look at me differently; it makes me feel like they are intimidated by me. Sometimes they think my hair is fake. Honestly, it makes me feel powerful because this is who I am and I am comfortable with my hair. At the same time, it’s sad because people often associate different hairstyles with different lifestyles.”

Sheree, 35

Sheree, 35

“Three years ago I walk into the salon and they said they couldn’t and didn’t want to blow my hair out. I just walked out. I love it because It’s versatile, edgy and fun. I can wear it many different styles. I didn’t feel bad when they said this, I just said to myself ‘they’re stupid’ and I left.”

Zyare, 21

“After having my hair relaxed for years from the age 10-19, it just kept on falling out. And so, I made the decision to cut off all my hair… and it felt amazing! My hair defies gravity and it makes me stand out and get noticed. One thing I dislike is people feeling the need to touch it. You can look, but please don’t touch my hurrr.”