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Teach your Girls to Love their Curly Hair

Teach Girls to Love Curly Hair

Like all Mums to biracial girls, I want my girls to love their curly hair. Not just to accept it but to love it, own it, be confident about it. That starts with me, their Mum the first person who will touch and style their hair and show them how to care for it.

Words such as ‘difficult’ and ‘time-consuming’, ‘thick’ and ‘course‘ no matter how innocent, all have an impact on how our daughters perceive their hair- and their own self. Because hair is representative of who they are as biracial or black women.

I wanted to know, from someone who’s been there, what it really means. So I spoke with Shannon Fitzsimmons best known as Instagrammer and Natural Hair Enthusiast UKCurlyGirl, recently about her experience.teach your girls to love curly hair

Shannon works with women from all walks of life who are making life-changing, sometimes complete philosophical changes from relaxed hair to embracing the wild curls that they were born with.

In many cases, these women have grown up ashamed of their curls, taught that straight hair is better- easier even. Wearing their hair natural was never a possibility.

Shannon’s work has attracted a huge following with almost 20k Instagram followers and a further 4k+ on Facebook. Already with a book ‘Get My Curls Back!’ under her belt and a line of curly hair products, Osocurly, she’s a well-established name in the industry.

So with all this experience showing women how they could embrace their curly hair, I wanted to know what drew Shannon to this work and what we can do as Mums to biracial girls from a young age.

Shannon’s story began as a child growing up mixed to a Nigerian Dad and a Scottish Mum in London. Her school was mostly white and her Dad was largely absent from her upbringing.

She remembers the questions, ‘what are you?’ from her friends highlighting her difference, and she struggled to like her thick coarse hair. She wanted straight hair, like the other girls in her class. And athough her Mum was always positive about her curls, she knew her hair brought with it extra ‘complications’.

In High School, she experimented with colour and wanted desperately to relax her hair, wanting her curls to reflect the Beyonces and Christina Milians with more wavy curl patterns.

Whilst her Mum discouraged her, eventually Shannon did relax her hair, using the excuse that she was going off to Uni and it would be ‘difficult’ to find the right hair products outside of London.

Again, the word ‘difficult’ featured in her journey.

In 2014, her hair had become so damaged it hardly had any curl pattern at all. Upkeep was expensive and her hair was thinning.

She started the transition back to her curly all-natural hair. Though she’d never really bothered to learn how to take care of curly hair, she decided to cut off all the damaged bits and start again.

The change was significant. She felt more confidant, and she noticed how her journey seemed to inspire many of her friends who saw not only the change in her hair but also in her. She was teaching herself self-love.

teach girls to love curly hairQuite early on, Shannon started posting about her progress. And whilst it started off as a hobby, it soon turned into a career. Her book, “Get My Curls Back” was a chance to show the world how we could do it too.

Her experience has propelled her to build a community of women who love their curly hair. Working with women who are often at the end of their hair journey in terms of already being grown up and through the most difficult stage of teenagedom, I wanted to know what advice Shannon could give us Mums of mixed kids to teach our daughters to love their curly hair from a young age.

For Mums raising mixed girls, she had this to say:

  • Use all natural products in your children’s hair (no chemicals, no sulphites, no parabens).
  • Look at the back of each product for an ingredient list and if the first 3-5 ingredients don’t contain water, it’s probably not moisturising enough.
  • Show your daughters bloggers or you tube videos with similar hair types. Girls like them who are confidant and happy with their hair. Girls who have a hair routine and they have healthy curly moisturised hair because of it.
  • Make the experience of braiding and twisting a positive experience- a special occasion that they can look forward to every week.
  • Get dolls that feature their hair type. Curly, afro dolls are widely available now. Even curly styling heads so they can practice doing their own hair.
  • Mums, you should practice was well. Get onto youtube and watch videos on how to plait and cornrow. There’s really no excuse anymore.
  • By about 11 years old- sometimes later depending on the child- your child may be ready to start doing their own hair. Let them experiment and watch video tutorials  then let them go for it! It’s empowering and important in their own hair and identity journey.
  • Never let your daughters think their hair is ‘difficult’, thick or ‘complicated’. That means showing them women who are happy and confidant and who go through the same styling process as them.

I don’t want my daughters to get to adulthood and decide it’s easier to straighten it. I don’t want them to think their hair is ‘difficult’ or ‘wild’ or ’embarassing’. And it’s so easy to get caught up in that talk when it comes to embarking on what can often feel like a huge learning curve.

teach girls to love curly hair
Women showcasing their curly hair journey at one of UKcurlygirl’s curly events.

Coming from a woman who’s lived it and who teaches fully grown women to repair the damage a lifetime of shame and fear has ingrown, this is stuff we can listen to.

Shannon offers curly haired women 1 to 1’s- a consultation with Shannon offering personalised hair advice and product recommendations. She also offers regular brunches throughout the UK for her followers to discuss hair, transitioning tips, hair struggles and routines.

If you’d like to get in touch with Shannon, follow her on Instagram @ukcurlygirl or visit her website at Ukcurlygirl.com


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Curl politics: How to teach your mixed kids to love their curly hair

“My Curly Hair is Different”
I have three girls. Three types of curls. Oldest has long flowing curls that are admired and replicated in some of the most beautiful of mixed girl celebs such as Nathalie Emmanuel (Game of Thrones) or Thandie Newton.

My youngest has wild, looser curls that have already passed her shoulders. Her hair will pass as ethnically ambiguous allowing her to pass as Indian, Latino, Middle Eastern or even Mediterranean.

My middle daughter has amazingly thick, short curly auburn hair. Her curls are tight and when it grows, it grows up and out. And although hers is unique because it is light in colour, her 4-year-old self is already becoming aware that somehow her curls are ‘different’.

I was always aware of the straight hair girl envy but within the confines of the curly hair spectrum I thought it was all the same.

I was wrong. Each morning now my middle daughter insists that I brush her hair straight and braid it, so it touches her shoulders, like DD1 (darling daughter 1). When I oblige, she is frustrated at the outcome, pulling at her hair in all directions, unable to articulate her feelings of frustration.

It is different….
It’s only recently that she’s become more ‘aware’ of her hair, comparing frantically with her sister to have the same hair dos and frustrated that hers don’t turn out the same.

I have to admit, the ‘politics’ that has engulfed my home over hair has surprised me. Perhaps I was naive, raising three girls, looks are bound to be important. But it’s taken hold of my 6-year-old and now 4-year-old with a vengeance.

I’m done emphasising how beautiful my DD1’s hair is. She understands it now as it’s constantly reiterated by her cousins, her aunties and even women in the street who stop and comment on how beautiful her hair is. She’s grown to love her curls- perhaps because her hair is longer, perhaps because of all the outside admiration or maybe just because she’s grown up.

But my middle daughter sees and hears all the comments intended for DD1 with long, loose curls. Just the other day, I met two mums in the playground whom I knew from school. All of my daughters had their hair out that day and both ladies commented. “Oh I never knew DD2’s hair was so … different. Hers is definitely more Afro-like.” That, in itself is not bad but always, I feel these comments are loaded with meaning.

What can you do?
My struggle has been to acknowledge that her hair is thicker, it is more Afro-like and, it’s beautiful.  Each day, when we have battles over her hair as she pulls at it and screams in despair, I try to surprise my little one with new hairstyles, showing her the uniqueness and variety her 4a curls can offer. Puffballs, braids, cornrows are among some of these and helpfully, she’s usually happy with the outcome.

Just the other day, I was amazed, after showing my girls a Youtube video of a natural curly hair vlogger sharing some hair tips, I could see the positive impact it had in showing my girls that their hair is beautiful. (Check out my FB post here…)

My partner and I both agree that straightening their hair is always on the table. So if they ask, we say they can- but why? And because it’s never a ‘no’, the realisation that actually, they could have straight hair anytime, is liberating.

Truthfully, though what has had the most impact is a book called, Penny and the Magic Puffballs by Alonda Williams whose experience wearing her hair up in puffballs gave her magical powers. For DD2, because her sisters can’t wear their hair up in these puffballs, it offers her something unique and special that’s just hers— putting a positive spin on the fact that her hair isdifferent.

Books can be magical in so many ways but particularly in reflecting the image or experience of a child when it comes to hair or appearance. The list below is not exhaustive but it’s a start to getting your biracial kids on the right track to embracing their curls. From children who just plain don’t want curly hair to others who are embarrassed to leave it natural and still others who wondered why it was so… different.

These books have been liberating for my girls. I would encourage you to grab yourself a few to have handy when your kids need reassurance that different is good.

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