A month before graduation, I was dead set on straightening my hair for my big day. Many of you curlies  know what I’m talking about, the pressure to look “polished,” “sharp,” and “professional” for a big event. I think throughout the better part of my life, if there was an important occasion whether it was prom, homecoming, or graduation, I straightened my hair. People even voluntarily straightened it for me, viewing the transformative aspect as a fun hobby or helpful trick to maintain my usually curly tresses. Something changed though, the closer I got to graduation…I realized straightening wasn’t going to happen this time around.

The last time I graduated was in 2012, and this was before I had even sniffed at the idea of loving my natural hair. I’d spent a long part of undergrad flat ironing my hair to a crisp and walking the stage was no exception. My hair was colored, damaged, and I remember washing it knowing I had to commit to straightening it because it smelled burnt when it was wet and no longer had a curl. There were many things I was fortunate for during this era, but I had no pride or self-love in my hair, I just knew I’d accrued damage it felt like there was no going back from. I remember trying to compensate by curling my hair so it at least resembled a little bit of who I was, but flat ironed curls are nowhere near as awesome as the natural ones.

Fast forward to the week of graduation 2017 when I was getting ready for my graduation shoot. I had prepped my hair for perfect straightening treatment starting with the Shea Moisture Raw Butter Deep Treatment Masque to give it good conditioning and adding Mielle Organics Mint Almond Oil to add some shine. I thought I’d have my hair curly for one set of photos and straight for the day of to set up two different looks for my big week. Most of us know straightening your hair feels like having an alter ego. You can style it differently, it hangs around your face differently, and people’s reactions to it also varies, I was prepared for all of this. However; I remember getting my pics back from my shoot and thinking…my hair looks awesome; do I really want to straighten it?

I thought about how far I’d come in self-love, care and embracing my natural beauty. That’s not to say I can’t have all of that and still straighten my hair, but the motivation for taking a hot iron to my head lies in some pre-disposed belief this is “professional” or my hair won’t have this “wild” look. I haven’t straightened my hair in over a year and minimize when I do because of the damage, but also because I love my curls. After my fiasco in undergrad, it took a long time to get my hair healthy and why wouldn’t I want to walk the stage with my curls out loud and proud? So, the day of graduation I compromised, because unfortunately the Chicago humidity wasn’t going to let me grad hat stay on with my curls, so I did a slicked down bun and let my hair out later.

At the end of the day, I felt like myself. I was happy with my hair and knowing it and all the blessings learning about natural hair care has given me is an aspect I carried across the stage with me. I didn’t let the pressure whether internal or external define my beauty on my biggest day. My beauty is mine to claim, mine to define, and mine to love.