It took me a long time to discover that my hair is curly, and even longer to style it curly every day. You see, I'm mixed race—my father is white and Dutch, and my mother is black and from St. Kitts—and every member of my family has different hair textures. My Dad has smooth, Caucasian hair that he has to wash every day. My sister has light brown 2a hair that she can easily style from straight to wavy to curly. I have 3b/c hair and my Mom's curl pattern is a bit of a mystery but it would probably be 4a or 4b. We run the entire spectrum from smooth to textured, wavy to coily, and curl-shy to curl-happy.

Kathryn - Age 9

Growing up, my mom always tied mine and my sister's hair back into pony tails, carefully smoothing it down and stretching it out. I grew up with what I now recognize as a full-bodied mane, but at the time, I hated my hair. Girls around me whose hair was already stick straight shared horror stories of pressing their hair in the laundry room with clothing irons, and it was virtually impossible to find curly inspiration in magazines, on t.v., or anywhere. My mother firmly forbade chemical relaxing as an option, so I longed for the day when I would know how to blow dry and straighten my hair—something which I've still only done a handful of times in my life.

I embraced my curls almost entirely by accident.

First, I had to suffer through braces and puberty combined with my hair in a perpetual ponytail, and often hidden under a hat, going from misunderstood haircut to misunderstood haircut (I still have nightmares of hairdressers pawing at my hair with disgust and telling me there was really nothing they could do with it). Finally, as a high school junior, I begged my Mom to cut my hair short. I was convinced that only then would I actually have the time to properly straighten my hair on a daily basis. And after some effort, she conceded. We cut my hair short, I straightened it for a week, and then I got lazy and gave up.

Kathryn - Age 17

You see, though I was too shy and scared to try to style my hair curly myself, and had no one who could show me, I had been accumulating research on how to achieve the gorgeous, voluminous, defined curls that I sometimes spotted in my community. But having never let my hair dry naturally, I really had no idea what my hair texture was, and growing up in the '90s, it was hard for me to imagine that it could be curly. The occasional hair inspiration I spotted stuck with me. I knew from this spotty research, that scrunching was vital, as was a customized arsenal of hair products. And I already knew from my lifetime of black hair care that conditioning deep conditioning and leave-in conditioner were not optional.

Fed up with straightening my newly short hair and curious to put these nuggets of wisdom to the test, I nurtured my hair to its natural texture for the first time at the age of 17.

Curly haired Kathryn was born.

I was so surprised to discover that I was capable of creating curls and coils. From that point onwards, I struggled to find products and haircut inspiration in a world not particularly interested in a diversity of curl patterns, with NaturallyCurly.com as the only exception. Here, I eventually discovered no-poo shampoo, having one's curly hair dry cut, and pineappling my hair—hacks that are still staples in my curly hair regimen.

Kathryn - Now

The landscape for curly girl support has since entirely changed, and so has my approach to my hair. I often think of my hair as a kind of bonsai tree. I meditatively observe it, I carefully prune it (yes, I cut my hair myself), and I observe how it reacts to different moods and environmental conditions. I've learned how my hair acts in cold Canadian winters, humid Carolina summers, and in the hard-calcified water of Paris and London. I know the full arc of my hair texture from wash to wash, from first day to seventh day hair. And I have a much better sense of what kinds of ingredients my hair really loves and really hates. But I'm still not finished with this journey yet. I'm always looking to fine tune my hair drying and curl refreshing game, and to take my texture in all the directions that I want to, regardless of what's trending. Next up on the curly hair journey? Experiments with afro picks.