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Why I'm fed up of everyone fat-shaming my hair

Big hair: trying really hard not to care.

04 Jun 2019

I have plus-size hair. If my hair was a person, it would be a curve model. It would probably have a body positivity Instagram account. It would be posting life affirming messages and telling its followers to accept themselves for who they are.

Big hair; don’t care.

Unfortunately for my hair, however, I do care. I am constantly fat-shaming it.

My hair does not fit standard women’s hats, or helmets, or any kind of headgear. It doesn’t fit in most hairdressers’ sinks. It blocks my friends faces in group photos, has terrified boyfriends past and present, who think they may suffocate in it during the night. My dad calls me a little lion and says my hair is a wild mane. I have had professional photoshoots where my hair has been called an ‘issue’ by directors.

Seen the meme of Monica from Friends when she goes to Barbados? I have. I get sent that every time I go abroad. There is basically a sweepstake going among my friends for how big my hair will get once the humidity hits. I once got trolled by a friend’s fiancé when I was in Greece and my hair hit its maximum wingspan, commenting on my Instagram post that I was morphing into eighties ballad singer Bonnie Tyler. (Google that eighties perm, I dare you).

These jokes are harmless and well-meaning, but they are a constant background noise to my own hair insecurity. It is one that is propped up by the messages I see in the media all the time. My hair is the ‘before’ look to so many movie makeovers: see Sandra Bullock in Miss Congeniality and Anne Hathaway in The Princess Diaries. Whenever I see my hair represented in a film, it is a joke, a disaster; something that needs to be fixed to make the female lead attractive.

The beauty industry parrots this. The language that pervades marketing for hair like mine is all about suppression: taming, fixing, controlling, soothing, smoothing. My childhood hairdressers also acted bizarrely around my hair for years, finding it somehow appropriate to speak to me as if my hair was problematic to their schedule.

“Oh it’s you. Hmmm, that will take significantly more time, let me see if she has that much time”

It took me years to muster up the courage to speak up about this to them.

As women, our hair is an intrinsic part of our identity, whether we have it or not, whether we cover it or not. This is especially so for women of colour, who have spent decades fighting for their natural hair to be more visual, more included and more catered to. I am so happy to see the natural hair movement flourishing and stirring books on the cultural significance of black hair like Emma Dabiri’s amazing Don’t Touch My Hair. I wish I could instil some of their confidence into me. I wish I could embrace my own curly, Lion’s mane with as much passion. But unfortunately, I still feel the butt of the joke. My hair has no body positivity.

It’s why I was overjoyed to see that big hair - the type that Bonnie Tyler would be proud of - was making a catwalk comeback. The autumn winter shows this year saw elaborate disco waves at Michael Kors and bushy crimped waves at 3.1 Phillip Lim. It started when Guido Palau created super-sized hair at Valentino couture and the sky-high voluminous ponies at Versace pre-fall last year.

Why striking for me? Because after Kaia Gerber walked for Valentino with that vertical parachute of hair behind her; I have never had so many people I know send me the same image on Instagram. ‘Literally you’ they said, and I agree. Both of these moments are the first time I have really seen my hair walk down a catwalk and be celebrated.

Palau has said the reaction to the Valentino look was so positive, he was inspired to go big again for Versace, saying he was happy to offer a “choice” for women to “celebrate your own hair texture.” If this ushers in a new hair trend- one that transitions from the catwalk to everyday life- it cannot come soon enough for me.

I would love my big hair to not be a dramatic catwalk statement, or an embarrassing accident that needs fixing, but an accepted hair reality. Everywhere I look, I am being told my hair is taking up too much space. With these positive steps forward for big, natural hair- perhaps now is the moment for big hair acceptance. But it strikes me the most negative voice I need to drown out is my own.

Big hair: trying really hard not to care.