There's this intersection between my height, hair and heritage. An intersection where my 5'11 stature, brown skin, tight curly hair, and last name Gonzalez come together in a way that makes it hard for people to pinpoint where I'm from or who I am.
People don't know whether I am married or Hispanic, typically assuming I am married. I mean, how many nearly 6'0" tall women could people possibly know that are Hispanic? So the assumption is that I must have married a Mexican because Mexico is the only country with people who have the last name Gonzalez (major side eye + a minor in sarcasm here because Gonzalez is like the Johnson and Wilsons of the US). You barely see brown Latinas/Latinos on TV screens, so odds are they have not seen a tall woman like me with this complexion and this tight curly hair playing the role of a Hispanic woman, well...unless we are playing a nanny or maid (different country, same stereotypical ish). I really discovered people's ignorance about my ethnicity/heritage around 2004, post college. I would eventually find my voice to respond, often with sarcasm or a side eye.
I am essentially a walking contradiction, not fitting any stereotype associated with my height, heritage or hair.
I am expected to be shorter with long silky curls, a lighter complexion, and smaller lips because I am a Latina.
With that said, I wish I could sit here and say that my hair type didn't matter, that I had a great hair experience, but the truth is my hair texture made me feel less confident during my childhood and well into my teen years. I truly believed for the longest time that my experience as a Latina would have been different if I would have had looser, silkier curls and long hair. I wanted to have a complexion like my mom and hair like my Panamanian childhood friend. She was pageant ready with her lighter complexion and long dark silky curls, and here I was this long, lanky, caramel drop with wooly hair. No amount of salsa dancing, arroz con pollo eating, or Spanish speaking could change how people treated me. I was always immediately labeled as African American, except I wasn't born in this country nor were my parents. I was called bald headed and experienced a few nightmare styles because my poor mother did not know what to do with my hair. I was even teased about my big ole lips.
Now, you would think I would be more concerned with my height but my height experience was different and positive. My mom is tall, so I felt normal and had tons of height confidence growing up. However, while I still look like my mother to this day, I was not light enough nor did I have her hair type.
As a result, it took years before I really learned to embrace it and take good care of it. As soon as I figured out how to take care of it, it grew and I realized that my hair was more like my mother's than not, it just needed proper care. This hair 'love affair' took place during my college years when I attended Florida A & M University (Go FAMU!).
I was filled with black pride during my college years and that pride extended itself to my hair. I learned self-love and appreciation in ways that showed up in my fashion choices, my hair style, and my overall confidence.
During college at FAMU, before really entering into corporate America, my fight was to be the best of the brightest, to beat the competition. I was not assigned the unwritten rule and task of representing the entire diaspora of black folks which resulted in such a liberating and educational collegiate experience. That bubble burst when I entered corporate America. I was in for such a culture shock. I used my height and hair as a rebellion against the corporate norm because of that. A corporate norm that meant my natural state, my hair especially, was not acceptable.
It was my way of saying I am here in all of my glory. I wore twists, my afro, braids, etc., All while in a finance program at a bank. I eventually switched it up because A) curly hair is so transformative, and B) I also became client interfacing and the desire to succeed in my career without dealing with snide remarks and awkward looks was more important than rebelling against the ignorance about my hair.
Side bar: For those who don't understand why we are not here for others wearing our hairstyles like braids and such, this is the reason why. When we, as black women, wear these same hairstyles we are told it is unprofessional or it used as justification for keeping us from advancing. Celebrating one group while degrading the other group for the same style is the problem. I digress.
My personal and professional experiences have taught me that no hair texture, length, growth, weight loss, skin complexion or job will ever determine, nor should it ever determine a persons self-worth. None of those things matter to the most high so it is pointless to beat yourself up over it. I think realizing that God loves me no matter what my height, color, background, or silly hair type is has made it easier to love myself.
We all deserve love, especially from ourselves. I believe every single woman should take the time to really learn to love herself.
Girl date yourself.
I did it and I discovered some pretty cool things about myself. There is an actual poet who resides within me. I have tried every type of food, went to all kinds of restaurants and eventually decided to become a vegan. I went to concerts, jumped out of a plane, etc.,. So to all of my beautiful curly haired ladies love every curl, every ounce of what makes you you and love on you as much as you can stand. That kind of self love really does open up the door for others to love you too. Discover the beauty in your bounce. It is a beautiful thing.
To read more of J. Enovy's body positivity experience, check out her blog Tall District.