Last year Elizabeth Acevedo’s spoken word piece, Hair, went viral. In it the Dominican poet artfully breaks down the oppressiveness of a beauty standard that prizes fair skin and straight hair.
In a recent interview with Latina magazine, Acevedo expounded on what she was told about textured hair growing up.
So my mom is fairer-skinned, and her hair is a little straighter than mine. I grew up seeing that image. I grew up with the blonde Barbie, like so many of us do. That impacts you. I remember washing my hair and pulling it down when it was wet, hoping it would stay straight. I was trying to replicate what I was told was beautiful: a fair-skinned, straight-haired woman. I never saw women like me depicted as beautiful, particularly in the Dominican community, where, at age five or six, you’re straightening your hair and being told it’s a sign of elegance, sophistication and being well-kept. Curly hair, I was told, is the hair of prostitutes. It was considered less than in every shape, way and form. I grew up thinking my hair was never good enough for the spaces I wanted to occupy, but then I realized I don’t want to be in those spaces. If I can’t go to the boardroom, ballroom or wedding the way my hair is, then I don’t want to be there at all. It’s been a hard lesson to learn.
Acevedo went on to say that even though she understands the problem with finding straight hair superior, she has an internal struggle with believing that her curly hair is beautiful;
I remember performing “Hair,” which is about embracing my own coils, but I was still straightening it, though of course never on the days I was performing that piece. I was in that stage where I was like, “I don’t straighten my hair as much as I used to, and I don’t think I’m prettier with my hair straightened.” But yet, I was straightening it when I’d go to events or places I’d be photographed. And I thought: There’s a reason why. I did think I was prettier with my hair straight. So I had to own up to my whole words. Writing has forced me to be a person of integrity, because once I put that out into the world, I have to live by that.
Wow. Ladies, what are your thoughts?