It is a truth universally acknowledged that girls with curly/frizzy/kinky hair have been largely overlooked (or undermined) in pop culture. Most of the cover girls we millennials grew up with have tended to rock the sleek, the glossy, the blow-dried ‘do, in lieu of the Botticelli-esque fountains of unruly curls, or straight-up awesome afros. For every shiny, straight-haired protagonist in a high-school movie made between 1990 and now, I can show you a devoted best friend character, whose curls are a metaphor for her “spunky/sassy/sorta zany!” outsider status.
It’s time pop culture got with the program, updated their rigid, diversity-barren beauty standards and encouraged us curly-haired ladies to embrace what god gave us. And guess what? It’s slowly, but surely, happening. See: Tracee Ellis Ross, and her wonderful ‘do on ABC’s Blackish, or even the latest Dove campaign. The brand is known for creating body positive campaigns—albeit to sell stuff. But I’ve got nothing but love for their latest corporate efforts to promote self-esteem through the natural hair movement.
Their new ad starts by stating that only four out of every ten curly girls love their hair, and goes on to interview little girls with curls about how they feel about their hair. As one 6-year-old girl put it: “I want my hair to be straight.” An 11-year-old said, “Sometimes I wish I could just rip it out.” It’s kind of heartbreaking to see these beautiful, ethnically diverse young girls already feeling pressure to conform to the media’s narrow, largely non-diverse versions of beauty. But wait: the commercial goes on to show curly-haired adults empowering curly-haired kids, vis a vis a crazy dance party. Sure it’s an ad campaign (complete with the hashtag #LoveYourCurls), but it’s a refreshing one. And despite what critics have said, it’s not just about hair, but about diversity empowerment.
As a lady who’s struggled for many years with her own kink, I’ve recently allowed myself to join the joyful chorus. As a girl, I spent hours with painful chemicals on my head trying to achieve a straight-haired look that I finally, happily abandoned as an adult. Having curls can be a unique challenge, but the reward is wild. You can be who you are and be happy about it. Personally, I think there’s simply something lovely about being a woman and feeling able to occupy the largest amount of space possible on one’s tiny wedge of the planet — even, yes, the space around one’s head. So to all my fellow curly-haired friends, Dove users or not: I hope you can relate to this campaign’s message. Be the architect of change for a new generation of girls who deserve to feel good about who they are and how they look—naturally. And to those in the media, let’s do more celebrating of curly-haired girls and less kicking them to the sidelines.
In the meantime, check out the full ad here: