Whenever I go to a mirror to look at myself, I always notice my hair first because my hair has always been a focal point. I mean — I have a lot of it , it’s puffy, and it’s big. Sometimes my hair even grabs the attention of other people , which is probably what influenced me to hone in on it so much. As if, it shapes me. During that first glance, I’ll examine how defined my coils are, the length, where it falls (using my own body to measure) and the health of it. I make a judgement based on if I think it looks good or bad, nice or crazy. My hair and I have an interesting love story, and really thinking about it makes me wonder at its depth in complexity.
Recently, I went to a salon to get my hair straightened for the first time in a long time. Due to my busy schedule, I didn’t have time to prep my hair beforehand. So, I went into the salon with my hair as is — it was not detangled. When I got there, the owner of the salon asked which service I would be getting and for me to take off my hat. As soon as my hat came off, the stylists in the salon were pretty much looking around to see who would have the task of doing my hair. Once I got to the shampoo bowl, I could feel myself trying to relax, not to make a big deal of the energy shift that I had just felt. Then, hearing the back and forth chatter between the stylist at the bowl washing my hair and another stylist, I was getting super uncomfortable. I couldn’t make out everything they were saying because they were speaking in Spanish, but what I caught wasn’t nice. My stylist asked me “ Mami, do you want an extra deep conditioner? Your hair is kind of bad.” I was so upset, but still I sat there trying to get through the rest of my service. That rude comment, more chatter, snotty attitudes and the rest of events directed towards my hair during my time there played over in my mind. I found myself thinking about other times I felt that way about my own hair and why. How that sort of negative reaction can play a factor on my image of myself.
After three and a half or so more hours and being switched to four different stylists, my hair was done. Completely straight. Every kink, coil and curl was smoothed and flattened. One of the chatty stylists who didn’t have nice things to say previously, commented on my way out. “Oh mami, wow, very nice... beautiful.” I honestly think for so long I’ve been conditioned to think of how I’m viewed by the outside world, that it started to shape how I see myself. If I wake up satisfied with how I look in the mirror, then I’ll feel that confidence the whole day. More confidence than on the days I haven’t washed, moisturized or defined my hair. On my ‘bad hair days’ I usually cover up with a hat, lip gloss and hoop earrings (that combo can also be interchanged with a turban or lazy bun). Maybe I hide on those bad hair days to avoid feeling the way I did in the salon.
My relationship with my hair is interesting, it changes. The color, style, length, and health all add to my hair’s character which I think closely reflects my personality. All I know for sure is that I pay close attention to my hair, and with every twist and curl, the love story continues.
Imani is a dance instructor based in New York City. She loves God and she loves people. Follow her journey on Instagram @nanilalionne.
Sunday Style is a New York City based digital publication on personal style.