Black Hair Magic
Photos + Interviews by Amani Williams
The versatility of black hair is unlike any other. From natural to relaxed, and weaves to box braids, the options are seemingly endless. Besides being a form of expression, many different styles also serve a functional purpose, which have deep cultural roots. For years, European standards of beauty have dominated the Western world making those who didn’t fit those standards feel like they have to alter the way they look in order to be accepted. Despite years of ridicule that continue to this day, African-Americans like myself have learned to love their hair no matter how they decide to wear it. It serves as a way to stand proudly in our blackness and let the world know we will not be forced to fit in. Although hairstyles change, it still means something different to everyone.
“I’m proud of my hair because growing up with it was kind of a struggle. With being mixed on my Filipino side of the family, a lot my family was like, ‘Oh you should have straight hair because you’re Asian and Asians have straight hair.’ But then on my black side of the family it was different. I got teased for my hair too, because it wasn’t kinky. I guess I’m proud of my hair because it shows both sides of my heritage. I love both sides of my heritage equally. Also growing up, I went to private schools that were PWIs and a lot of the white kids who I grew up with always had straight hair. They always made fun of me for my hair because it was curly and I always wanted to have straight hair like on the Asian side of my family. I always wished I was fully Asian so I could have straight hair, but I grew to love my hair so now I really like it. I love kiny hair; I love curly hair. I never straighten my hair anymore. I didn’t straighten my hair that much when I was younger because my dad wouldn’t let me, but now I don’t do it by choice because I love curly hair.”
“[I have] these locks so that I don’t have to touch my own hair because I’m lazy, and it’s a lot of work. It keeps my hair healthy and so I won’t manipulate it or damage it. I keep it protected. So inmany ways, me keeping it protected is kind of like self-expression. They say it’s your crown so I keep it protected and maintained and clean and I nourish it. I’m proud of my hair because I learned how to handle it, and I know what to do with it and what not to do with it. A lot of girls don’t know what to do with their hair. They’re struggling or stuck. That’s why I’m proud of my hair, because we have a relationship with each other.”
“I am proud of it because it has come a long way from damage and heat struggles to it now being semi-healthy. [I’m] still struggling with heat damage, and color because it’s the first time I ever put any type of chemical in my hair, so I’m super excited because the color in my hair is my actual physical embodiment of the change that I’ve been through in the past year and a half as a far as growing up and being a different person. I got sick of looking at the same old Savanna while feeling different and changed my hair, so now I feel like the person I say that I am to everyone else. I think my hair fits into my culture and my being black because it is a piece of me that makes me just like a lot of other people … but it also defines me and sets me apart in a room full of people who don’t look like me. I don’t usually wear it straight. It’s usually curly or twisted or something of the sort underneath a headwrap and that allows me to stand out and be different in communities where I am the majority. It allows me to feel at home.”
“To me, hair is nothing. You can chop it all off, you can grow it out, you can dye it. It’s just on your head. It doesn’t matter. I think it’s like a growth and expression of myself, but I can change that whenever the f**k I want to. I think the world has a definition of black that doesn’t exist and I can be whoever I want to be when I want to be. Black doesn’t define me just like my hair doesn’t define me.”
“I am proud of my hair because I am the only one with my hair and I believe that with my locks, if you can’t love me at my three months then you don’t deserve me at my three years.”