If you know me well, you could probably count on your hands how many hairstyles I’ve had after you’ve bathed in a tub of mutant toxic waste.
I’ve had around 12 different hairstyles in my 25 years and my transformations were not always smooth sailing. For me, a hair change could suggest angst, desperation, laziness, pain or pride–and sometimes all of those at the same time. During my childhood, a new doo meant my father had teased and weaved my tender head into fat plaits bound with bubble hair ties. Then for convenience and longevity, I switched to yakki box-braids to fit my sweaty sporty lifestyle. I still remember the smell of charred synthetic hair when my hairstylist raised her lighter to seal the ends. Then it was micro braids and for a moment I thought a dirty-blonde weave was a good idea. In 8th grade, I thought I looked like Britney Spears and I vaguely remember changing my name to Elle … Well someone should have told Elle that that mop belonged on the floor. In high school, I relaxed my hair because I thought it would make me popular. In college, I cut it into a fohawk because I was fed up with looking good for guys, and boy, did I love waking up and going to class looking like a Super Saiyan.
Then one sad day in 2013, I had to shave all of it off when I moved to Japan. No one there could either straighten or braid my hair like I had done for most of my life. So I had no choice but to come to terms with my natural roots for the first time.
Why am I telling you all of this? All of this strife and transformation was the source for my only performable talent (please don’t ask me to sing or dance). For my friend’s talent show, I wrote a spoken word poetry piece about my natural hair journey in the most foreign country I’ve ever visited. It wasn’t until that year that I realized how much of myself I hadn’t accepted and how that needed self-love sprung up from a place I never expected.
Here’s the piece performed in my former backyard. For the pageant, this had to be cut down to 90 seconds, but here is the raw nature of it:
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