Finding strength in my curls

Society and cultural pressures can have a large impact on female beauty standards and how young girls view themselves.


Emilie Ramos

Me wearing a black wrap around my natural curly hair.

Hair for me, has always been a main focal point in my life. Societal pressures and my culture have made it difficult for me to appreciate the true beauty of my hair until recently.

Emilie Ramos
This is how my hair typically looked during middle school.

I am Puerto Rican/Dominican, born with naturally curly hair. Growing up, from elementary to middle school, I would straighten my hair constantly because that was the style of hair I became confident with.  Since I was so used to my hair being straightened, I would grow insecure of my natural curls. If there were days where my hair couldn’t be straightened, I would hide my curls by throwing it in a bun or ponytail with a headband. It wasn’t until my Sophomore year of high school that I would begin the journey of embracing my curls.

The female beauty standards for Dominican woman can be highly criticizing as well. The term “Pelo malo” (bad hair) is used towards women who have kinky, frizzy, or curly hair. These type of standards are the same way for Puerto Ricans.

Friends have also been quick to ask many questions about my hair and state their preference for how I should wear it: “I like you better with straight hair”, “Why is your hair so dry”, “Maybe you should try brushing your hair.”

Emilie Ramos
A recent photo of me embracing my curls.

During my most vulnerable moments, I felt my hair was too much. I would grow tired of conditioning, brushing, treating, and braiding it every couple of days. There were days I considered just shaving it all off.

During my Sophomore year, I had a mental breakdown with my hair and overall presentation of myself. It became exhausting caring about the appearance of my hair. I decided that taking care of my hair was more important. Fast forward to now, my curls have changed for the better; I still get blow outs every once in a while, yet I know now that letting others judge how I express myself is not okay.

I have learned that hair doesn’t define who you are, and the importance of loving yourself. I refuse to let society, my culture, or friends influence my perception of myself.