People would stop me on the street and always comment on your hair. I wanted all of you to learn that it was less important what you looked like, and more important how you treated other people.
CurlyTeen Scene is a column especially for curly teens. Julia Rizzo is a teenager living in Central New York. When not writing, she enjoys acting, reading and snow skiing. She has loved writing as long as she can remember, and plans to pursue a career in English. She hopes her column will provide encouragement and inspire girls to love their curly hair.
My mother, Dianne, is my support and role model. While her hair is short and wavy, my brother, sister and I all have crazy curly hair. I am sitting down with her (sitting is not something she does often) to talk to her about raising three curly kids, Lilly (13), Gabe (15) and myself.
Me: What did you do to help us take care of our hair when we were little?
Mom: I didn’t comb it, if I could help it. I conditioned, conditioned, conditioned. If I had to comb it, I only combed it when it had conditioner in it. In a pinch, I used hand cream. Also, find a stylist that’s accustomed to cutting coarse, very curly hair.
Me: Tell me about Lilly’s hair when she was a baby.
Mom: As an infant, Lilly’s hair stood straight up (she puts her hand on top of her head with her fingers straight up). We couldn’t get it to lay flat with water, or anything else, until she was about nine or ten months old. Then it started to curl. Now when I see a baby with a mini mohawk, I wonder if they’re going to have curly hair.
Me: Do you have any other “hair stories”?
Mom: Gabriel played soccer when he was a little guy, and I could always tell who he was by his hair. Then he got a buzz cut later that summer and it was harder to pick him out on the field! One time when he was 13, you got a hair cut and the stylist straightened your hair. We went shopping later that day and I couldn’t find you in the store because I didn’t recognize your straight hair! One day, Dad took Gabriel to the barber shop for his first haircut (he had ringlets), and I didn’t know he had taken him. When I came home, he was sleeping in his crib, and I went up to check on him. I put my hand on his head as I always did, and he had no hair! He had no more curls. I think I cried.
Me: I went through a period where I really didn’t like my hair. How did you get me through it?
Mom: People would stop me on the street and always comment on your hair. I wanted all of you to learn that it was less important what you looked like, and more important how you treated other people. I didn’t want you to feel like your defining characteristic was your hair. It is one thing that is unique about you, but not the only thing. When you didn’t like your hair, I helped you focus on your strengths. I helped you learn how to take care of it and find products that worked well with your hair type and texture. I encouraged you to be yourself.
Me: What’s your advice to curly kids and teenagers?
Mom: Your hair is one small part of who you are, even though it’s the part that may get you the most attention and response from strangers (especially older ladies in the supermarket). Beauty comes in all shapes, colors, sizes, and degrees of curliness. But true beauty comes from within. As my grandmother said, “Beautiful is as beautiful does.” Do not let others define you.
Me: What’s your advice to other mothers of curly kids?
Mom: Don’t try to make your child, or your child’s hair, something it is not. If your child doesn’t want to sit still for hair care, keep it short for a while. Remember, it’s hair! I’m 5-foot 1-inch tall, and I’ve always wanted to be taller. But I'm not! Find products that work with your teenager’s hair, and then encourage them to develop their whole selves. Don’t focus on the outside. Focus on their character. and that you really really love them.
I’d like to thank my mom, Dianne, for taking an hour to sit down be interviewed.
Email your questions/comments to Julia.