*Don’t touch my hair plays in the background.*

I never had to ask what the plans were for the weekend, I knew exactly where I’d end up: what felt like 5 hours of hell under the hair dryer, helping my aunt pick up rollers and pins from the floor, and the day never ended without a fresh, pressed blowout.

Hairdressing has been a part of my family for a couple of generations, but like mine, many families have their own standards of beauty, whether it may be because of convenience, personal preference or even societal norms.

Growing up, my hair had to be straight, it just had to be. The women in my family taught me to get relaxers at a very young age up until my young adulthood. It took me shaving off my hair to look in the mirror and realize what I looked like naturally. I didn’t see my curls until I was in my early twenties. And by no fault of my family, I felt like they hid a part of me.

This curly hair journey is different for everyone, and it stems from many different places for many different reasons. But wherever it comes from, it should feel like yours and no one else's.

Below is a collection of natural hair testimonies that showcase growth across generations, within society, and within our minds and souls:

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“I grew up during the early 2000’s era. Raven Symone still had her TV show on Disney Channel. Beyoncé’s solo music career was taking off! Sanaa Lathan just won a NAACP Image award for Best Actress in the movie Love and Basketball. Black women were on the “come up!”

Though I saw Black women that looked like me, they all had one thing in common: relaxed and straighten hair! This was my example of beauty. That put a lot of pressure on us. We said we would straighten our hair because it was easier to maintain.

I thought my hair was nappy then. Now, I love my hair. I recently straightened my hair just to see how it looked, and I completely missed my natural curls!

I love the sisterhood that it (the natural hair movement) has created amongst Black and Brown women. We see each other and already have common ground to relate too and share with one another. It’s an actual bond and a smile that says “sis I got you.”

  • Shenyse Harris, United States

“My hair is curly & extremely thick. Growing up, I always gave my mom a hard time while she was doing my hair so she found it easy to just take me to the salon & have it straightened and even relaxed to help prolong it.

When I was younger having my hair straight was the “it” thing. Curly hair has always been beautiful but during my time growing up straight hair was how girls in my school would rock their hair. Looking back at pictures from when I was straightening my hair, I do regret damaging my curls & not appreciating how beautiful rocking natural hair is. Now at 27 years old, I wouldn’t have my hair any other way but curly.

My daughter August has very very curly hair which is also thick. I love her hair, I never imagined my daughter having curly hair like me but honestly it’s such a beautiful thing. I try to remind August everyday that her hair is beautiful & that we (her parents) love how curly her hair is.”

  • Ashley Rodriguez, Dominican Republic & Puerto Rico

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“I don’t think my culture impacted how I felt about my hair growing up. I think society impacted it. I would always see girls with their hair straight, and I would always want it like that. I hated my hair because it wasn’t thick and, when I straightened it, it would get frizzy.

Now, I love it. I don’t straighten it or anything. I just embrace it naturally, and I love how it’s healthier, more now than ever.”

  • Jazmin Logroño, Dominican Republic & Puerto Rico

From the time I was young, I've always had relaxed hair because it was more manageable and it wasn’t convenient for anyone to sit for hours. It wasn't until after college I started to love my natural hair and embrace it and to be honest, it was partly because I saw more young black influencers rocking it.”

  • Angeline Jonga, Africa

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“Growing up, I felt that Dominicans really wanted to take on these European beauty aesthetics. I felt like if I heard the terms ‘pelo bueno’ and ‘pelo malo’ one more time, I was going to really explode. It was a constant issue in my family because my sister has super straight long hair and that was something that the entire family always pointed out: ‘you have a daughter with good hair and a daughter with bad hair.’ It played a huge role on my insecurities...I used to do anything and everything to make it something it naturally wasn’t.

Now, my relationship with my hair is… I just let it be. It can only be described as absolute freedom. It’s been like dating my hair. You know, it’s much deeper than just your hair. And I think that’s what ends up being the journey for most curly girls. It starts with your hair but then it leads to you really loving yourself. I don’t let people define my flaws for me. I decide what my standards of beauty are.”

  • Ivanna Abreu, Dominican Republic

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Cam Valdez

is a TGM Contributor from NYC you can find wrapped in a blanket burrito, show binging all winter, pretending to be a Latina Carrie Bradshaw, and probably the only person alive racing to the news stands for new magazines.