By Amelia Moseley
Ever since I was little, people told me I was different. “Exotic” sometimes, but different all the same.
My hair seemed to draw the most attention. They said it was difficult. That it was funny. They asked where I was from. Everyone wanted to touch it, a bit like a pet, and most didn’t ask first.
The voice in my head said if I changed it, they’d leave me alone. I could fit in.
So, when I was 10 years old, I asked if I could put a harsh chemical on my head that would permanently alter the bonds of my hair.
It’s a process that’s been popular with afro-haired women for decades. If you ever want to see your natural hair again, you have to cut it all off or suffer through a transition period of years.
My favourite childhood supermodel Naomi Campbell seemed to agree with me, with her impossibly long, straight strands falling perfectly over her shoulders.
(Little did I know that Campbell’s real hair would famously start falling out from a form of alopecia caused by years of chemical straightening and endless weaves.)
The only other famous person with afro hair that I admired was labelled “scary”.
I’m sure you can work out who that was.
My dad, representative of the Caribbean side of my heritage, said he preferred I kept the hair I was born with. My mum, wary, told me to wait until I was at least 12.
I turned the big 1-2 and chemically straightened my hair before anyone could stop me. I didn’t stop doing it for 16 years.
Is it different growing up with afro hair in Australia now? I asked the experts:
When people touch my hair, sometimes I get really annoyed especially when I’m in class… and every time I’m at the shops someone touches my hair. Sometimes they ask and sometimes they don’t.
It’s annoying because when people touch it sometimes they pull it so much that it hurts and sometimes it sort of scares me because people just run up to me and touch my hair.
I would say “please stop it” and sometimes I would say “you can touch my hair, but just be a bit gentler.”
When I straightened my hair, I felt more confident. I felt like I could never leave my hair down when it was curly.
Then I started to see more people wanting curly hair, so I got a big chop and went curly too.
If I’d seen more people on TV and on social media, I probably wouldn’t have chemically straightened it.
A lot of people just want to touch it, like it’s a new thing, like they’ve never seen it before!
When I first came to high school and a few of my friends asked, I didn’t mind because I didn’t really care as much… But now they know ‚ÄĒ don’t touch my hair! You’re going to ruin it! Cause I’ve put it in this style and I dodge their hands and everything.
I would like to see more diverse people in general, everywhere, in social media and on TV and on ads. It’s good to see a celebrity that looks like you because you know it’s OK to be yourself in your own skin.
I feel like now because of social media I’ve seen so many different curly haired girls and there are all sorts ‚ÄĒ different textures and styles. It motivates me to have healthy, curly hair.
I like my hair because it’s unique. It’s curly, it’s very different ‚ÄĒ that’s what I like about it.
I usually go to an African salon cause they’re more experienced in that kind of hair.
I know everyone there … they know what kind of hairstyle I want and what works better on me.
From this African shop we get extensions and then we braid it with my hair and then after a couple of weeks, I do it to my mum.
I braid my hair because it’s easier and if it’s in an afro it takes more time and gets too knotty.
On YouTube, I look for people who have afro hair and what products they use. And then other people can learn from it as well as seeing others with afro hair which makes them happy.
“They might not see it yet, but their hair is actually so beautiful. Everyone has different hair and you should just embrace it. It’s OK to stand out and not be the same as everyone else,” says Hansa.
“Even if you’ve never seen someone in the media or your friendship group that has curly hair, there’s always going to be someone else that does have the same hair as you and then they’ll get inspired by you ‚ÄĒ it’s like a cycle,” says Dima.
“Just be yourself. There’s no reason to change your appearance to fit in. Just have fun and play around with your hair,” says Marwann.
Saturday 15th is World Afro Day. Hear more from Amelia and the kids on BTN.