Real Women Share Their Kinky-Curly Hair Stories

Updated 07/10/18
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We're not conditioned to love our curls; it just doesn't work like that. Especially when we live in a society that just recently widened its stereotypical scope of beauty. A scope that once shamed natural hair, in many unjustified cases labeling it "unkempt" and "unacceptable." Within the past few years, young girls have been suspended from school for wearing their natural texture and women have been fired from their jobs. Our work is far from done.

Thankfully, this does not take away from the true beauty that is curly hair in all of its kinky, textured, coiled glory. Instead, it builds within us even more resilience, confidence, and strength that comes with wearing your natural curls with an unshakable pride. Learning to love and care for your curls is no easy feat. However, these 15 inspiring women who carry the most glorious crowns of curls, are living proof that it's worth it.

Bianca Alexa

"I was relaxing my hair for more than half of my life—I honestly had no idea my hair was this curly. It was more of a blessing in disguise when I went natural, because at the time I felt like I had no other option. My hair was falling out due to stress and just overall damage from dying it and straightening it so much. So I ended up cutting it to let it grow back out, and that's when I embarked on my hair journey in March of 2012. I had to learn how to love my hair and myself in this natural state. I was so used to having long straight hair that for the longest time I believed that was what made me beautiful. 

"I did the big chop by myself in the bathroom—it was sort of a spur-of-the-moment kind of thing. I was so excited at first, but then I immediately freaked out because I was left with about two inches of hair and no idea how to care for it. It was a huge learning curve for me because all the old hair products I was used to definitely didn't work on my natural hair texture. Also, when I cut my hair it didn't have much of a curl pattern because it was so damaged. It wasn't until maybe three to four months after the cut that I started to fall in love with my hair because I finally found hair products that worked well with my hair. My curls started forming because my hair was finally healthy and able to grow. I had to redefine what I thought was beautiful, and now I love my big messy curls.

"I'm constantly learning about my curls because no two days are alike with this hair. You may think that you have a great wash 'n' go routine down, and then all of a sudden your hair is just like Nope, not today. I strive to have healthy hair, but it's definitely an ongoing journey to maintain healthy curls. Especially when I'm so scissor happy and love dying my hair so much. Your hair can stop responding to your go-to products for a variety of reasons: climate changes, product buildup, hair dyes, split ends, and more. This is why I’m constantly learning new ways to work with my hair and combining different products to get more or less of the same results that I'm looking for. I always aim for big hair that's moisturized but not weighed down by products."

Lilas Mia

"Discovering my curls and embracing exactly who I am has granted me many incredible opportunities to share my individuality and promote self-love. From a young age, it's so important for girls in this generation to be taught that they are enough. You are your best when you begin to truly shine in your own light and find happiness in your imperfections, through the kinks, curls, quirks and all.

"More importantly, embracing my curls has brought me out of my comfort zone to meet other inspiring and supportive women whom I get to call my friends. My hair has been such a blessing of a journey that I wouldn't trade for anything else. And the best part is that I didn't have to be anyone else but myself." 

Kristen White

"I never wore my hair natural until I was 22 years old. I never thought I'd look good with it. Plus, I had this super-amazing hairstylist in Washington, D.C., who straightened my hair to perfection. When I moved to New York, I had no one who I trusted to care for my hair, so I took on the fro process.

"The first few times I tried natural styles, I looked like a wet dog and I doubted myself. I kept trying new products people recommended for me. Through that experience, I realized what works for you may not work for me—everyone has their own unique coil and mine is special. I loved on my hair and nurtured my curls as if I was falling in love again. Gel products don't work for me, they weigh my hair down. I love cream-based products. There are so many things I love about my hair. I love the way my hair smells freshly washed. I love the way people love my big hair, which so perfectly matches my big heart. I love the versatility my hair has to be curly, straight, braided, up in bun, or down with no direction. Love on your coils, nourish your coils, and flourish with your coils. Allow yourself to explore styles you never thought would work. Take the risk with your curls. It may become a part of who you are and shape your identity. Love on every part of your crown and watch who you become." 

Shanika Hillocks

"When I got the big chop back in 2014, I immediately felt liberated and sexy. It was like I should have been rocking the hair I was born with my whole life. As the first six months passed, styling my natural hair taught me patience with experiencing awkward growth stages. It also taught me flexibility—cue failed bantu knots and twists outs. And the understanding of products that work best for my hair. Today I'm enjoying the versatility of my natural hair: Over the past two years, I've worn everything from box braids, corn rows, and braids outs, and I enjoy being able to transform my look."

Ashley Chew

"I haven't always loved my hair texture. My former modeling agency always pressured me to wear weaves and my ex-boyfriend thought of natural hair as "nappy." So I had very blonde, damaged hair that I hid underneath extensions. This was before the natural hair movement really expanded in mainstream media around 2012. Instead I would paint women of color in afros and project my natural hair desires that way. One day, I became tired of hiding it. I took my weave out and whole life changed.

"As a model, I'm very careful of how my hair is taken care of on set. Some girls have lost their hair from it being burnt off due to neglect from stylists, thus having to resort to wigs or deal with long-term damage. I have 4C hair, so it's already a lot to handle and has a life of its own. My hair seems intimidating to many people because I don't wear twist outs often or have a silky curly pattern. I've admittedly walked into interviews and castings hoping my hair didn't look "unprofessional" or "unkempt." Luckily, in New York City there's more acceptance in different industries to navigate with natural hair."

Del Wilson

"People say I look like a totally different person when I straighten my hair. These sentiments used to bother me until I realized they were totally right. My curly hair is me. It's the natural crown that I've been chosen to carry. When I alter it from its natural state, I lose some of the essence of who I am and of who I'm meant to be. I'm meant to have a curly fro, and I'm madly in love with that." 

Kiah Clingman

"My hair has magical powers. It has the ability to stretch, shrink, coil up, bounce around, and mold itself to objects around it. Whether it’s a five-day-old twist-out that reaches toward the sky after I unwrap it from a pineapple, or it’s conditioned and braided up under one of my favorite wigs, it’s my beautiful hair. It has taken me so long to realize this.

"After altering my texture and changing the chemical balance to one that isn’t natural, I realized my hair is wonderful. After allowing multiple sores from a hot relaxer burn and damage my scalp, I realized my kinky hair is amazing in all its glory. My hair used to represent the psychological trauma ingrained in not only myself, but my mother, my grandmother, and previous generations. Now my hair represents the power I have to change, to adapt, to be completely synced with the natural world around me. My hair is so much more than hair. It’s me."

McKenzie Dawkins

"As a young kid, my mom kept my hair mostly in neat, braided styles. By the time I was a teenager and getting my hair straightened every other week, I had no idea what my natural texture was. I relied on relaxers throughout high school and college. When friends started to ask if I'd ever go natural, I was sure I wouldn't. My reason was that I didn't think my hair had a texture and was a little scared I wouldn't know what to do with it. I was scared of having to learn what to do with hair I didn't recognize beyond the new growth that I got permed the minute it showed up.

"After wearing weaves the last two years of college, I discovered that much of my hair had grown out about halfway. I had essentially been protective styling for years before I even knew what protective styling was. So after graduating I decided with all this new growth I might as well go all the way—it was a now or never type of situation. I transitioned the rest of the way until I was fully natural and clipped off the last of my straggly ends. It took months to learn what to do with my hair and what products it responded to. I'm still learning all the time. But what started as fear of the unknown turned into curiosity about my curl pattern. And that curiosity turned into excitement and love for my natural texture.

"So my story goes like this: Once upon a time, I said I'd never go natural. Then I went natural and said I'd never dye my hair a crazy color. Now I rock a huge, crimson red curly fro every single day, and I'm a braver, bolder woman for it."

Chelsea Johnson

"I put my natural hair in the friend zone for 15 years before we fell in love. I had listened to friends, magazines, and employers tell me or show me that kinks weren't going to get me where I wanted to go in life. Realizing I'd never even given my natural hair the chance to thrive, I began cheating on my relaxer out of curiosity. My love for it grew in secret through a long transitioning process, and the embrace was so affirming that I have never looked back."

Cynthea Corfah

"It wasn't until my freshmen year of college that I decided to transition back to my natural hair texture. Despite personal insecurities and lack of length, I made the jump. I haven't looked back since. Some days are more frustrating than others, but overall it's been an exciting and freeing journey.

"There's no better feeling than learning to love your hair just the way it grows out of your head. No relaxers, no straightening irons, just my gorgeous, curly, nappy, coily, one-of-a-kind hair."

Taylor Cole

"Growing up, I didn't always love my hair because of how draining it was just to get someone to style it. I’ve always been told my hair was 'too thick.' Back in the early 2000s, the popular image of natural hair was the hair that produced perfect curls after only adding a dab of water. However, this was not the case for me, which lead me to believe that something was wrong with my hair. My kinky texture and I have had our ups and downs with costly hair product experiments. 

"My journey to loving my hair became a lot easier in my early adulthood when natural hair care lines started developing better products and paying more attention to thicker hair textures.Then I realized that I wasn't alone in the process of having to truly work with my dense texture. My love for my hair over the years has transformed tremendously. I've learned to accept that my hair is thick and beautiful. So although it may not be the 'perfect curl,' I've learned to absolutely love my 'too thick' hair because that's what makes it beautifully versatile."

Shanelle Drakeford

"Since the big chop in 2012, my relationship with my natural hair has been a therapeutic one. I decided to start over with my hair shortly after losing my mother—so in a way, my hair is an active marker of my growth and resilience. Naturally after going damn near bald, I felt naked and unprotected, similar to the first few months without my mom.

"During my in-between stages, I battled with styling my hair because of the awkward length. I felt angry and confused, and for the first time in my life, I was uncomfortable in my own skin. But like all things, it got better. And although I have had some breakage, with my hair and in life, it reminds me that my natural hair is the quintessence of strength, vitality, and growth." 

Sidnee Michelle

"Being mixed with Haitian and Puerto Rican, I never could understand my hair. Most Puerto Rican women I knew had beautiful curls. Their curl type was usually a 3A mixed with a wave. There I was with super-curly, damn near kinky hair.

"I had to realize that everyone's hair is beautiful, just like my 3C curls. I then began a career on camera, which called for a lot of straight styles, which equaled heat damage. Here I am in 2017, working to keep as much heat off my hair as possible so my curls can flourish once again." 

Candace Hokett

"I didn't always like my natural hair, and to be honest I still haven’t fallen in love with it. I permed my hair until fall of 2012. I convinced myself for six months that I'd just stretch my relaxers until I started seeing bountiful tight kinky curls. I loved my transition to natural. It only took me only nine months, and I didn't have to do the big chop. Now that I'm fully natural, I've actually worn my hair in its true wash-and-go state. I just don't feel as beautiful. I get less male attention. I look way younger, not as 'glam', and I feel the need to over-compensate with my statement-making clothes and makeup if I don't have extensions.

"My hair fell out in half dollar–sized spots all over from a bad breakup and stress in 2015. Since then, it’s never been the same, and I’m too afraid to risk my growth progress again by manipulating it. My hair is now over 14 inches long, but it only grazes my neck in its natural state since my curls are so tight. I’ve never admitted this until now, but to be honest, I am not proud of my tremendous shrinkage.

"I feel like length shows the world how much I can take care of my hair. And even within the natural community, there's a divide if your curls aren't as full and long. I don't 'train' my curls because I fear heat damage, split ends etc. I am so busy and these non-gifted hands can hardly flat twist to save my life, so I end up getting cornrows and wearing wigs for protection. I am working on just letting go. I work at BET for God’s sake; if anybody can rock a kinky fro, it’s me. But I have to accept that my severe shrinkage is beautiful just the way God gave it to me."

Ajea Nicole

"Being on this natural hair journey for the last three years has taught me how crucial it is not to compare my hair to someone else's. I remind myself daily that a part of embracing and loving this journey is being able to find beauty in every part of the process.

"My hair may not do what I want it to do right when I want it to happen and that's okay because things take time. Being natural above all has taught me that the same way I pour love in my body and myself, I have to pour that same love into my hair, no matter what."

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Curls Blueberry Bliss Control Jelly, 8 Ounce
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