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What was it like for you growing up with textured hair?

I had straight hair until the summer before starting college when my texture completely changed. I was mostly in a state of denial and never took the time to care for my new texture.

Hairstylists told me they loved my curls, but then elders from the Cambodian community, including my own mother, were telling me that I needed to straighten my hair because my curls were unacceptable and unsightly.

Simultaneously, I felt like I was highly fetishized and sexualized by men of other races who found my hair to be “exotic”. I didn’t have anybody I could look up to from my own community who had hair like mine, nor did I see it represented in the media.

I was groomed into believing that, as an Asian woman, I could never be considered beautiful to my own race because of my hair texture, my skin color, and my body frame.

What made you decide to embrace your naturally curly/wavy hair?

The year I started embracing my curls, my friend, Melanie, asked me to volunteer for her curl cutting class in March where she gave me a cut specific to my texture and gave me hair care tips. It was a very indisputable way for me to face what my texture actually was.

At the same time, I was naturally becoming more curious about curly hair through my former colleague, Tiffany, who has beautiful curly hair. She’d let me in on what it’s like living with her specific texture and how she took care of it. The more we talked about curls, the more I wanted to explore this part of my identity.

One day, I realized that I had to stop waiting for a role model who looked like me to magically appear. I decided to become my own role model instead.

What has been the most empowering moment of your natural hair journey so far?

I’m very lucky to say that I have had many empowering moments during my natural hair journey, and those moments are embedded in each and every single message I receive from other women who express that they share similar experiences to mine and are appreciative that they came across a photo of my face with my natural hair texture.

It’s astonishing how impactful and reassuring it is to simply see someone else mirror the parts of yourself that you want to love and validate. Ultimately, these moments have become part of this synergy that I hope will positively influence other people to step into their own light as well.

How do you protect your curls at night?

Way before I started embracing my curls, I’ve been sleeping on a 100% pure non-dyed 19mm mulberry silk pillowcase I ordered from an Etsy vendor called AdorabellaBaby. Additionally, I put my hair up in a “pineapple”, with either a silk or satin scrunchie.

I’ve tried bonnets and scarves, but I still prefer just my pillowcase and pineapple.

Who is your curl crush?

I have so many!!! Here’s a list of a FEW curl crushes including influencers, celebrities, poets and writers:

@honestlizhere, @lalahdelia, @kellyshabahzian, @spisha, @theblendedbeauty, @jannelleoshaughnessy, @curlybritt, @mamacurlee, @cleowade, @tashimrod and @iamsandraohinsta

What's your curly girl essential you can't live without?

My diffuser! This particular tool and drying method is my biggest difference between having a good hair day and an OUTSTANDING hair day. My volume, bounce and definition is that much better when I diffuse compared to when I air dry. I don’t have any particular brand for a diffuser that I obsess over, I just use the attachment that came with my CONAIR blow dryer.

What is your current hair regimen? Any favorite products you’d like to share?

Cleansing/conditioning routine: I cleanse my scalp every time I wash my hair because it’s super fine and prone to buildup. While conditioning. I massage all my curl clumps with water and conditioner until every strand is properly coated (each clump should be smooth and slimy).

Wet styling routine: Divide my hair into 4 (top/bottom, left/right) then finger rake leave in conditioner in each section. Then I’ll finger rake in some sort of a curl cream throughout my whole head, then use the praying hands method to apply gel in 4 sections. Depending on time, I’ll diffuse upside down with warm air or let air dry.

Product lineup: changes every so often but have recently fallen in love with Briogeo’s Don’t Despair, Repair Mask (deep conditioning), and Innersense’s I Create Hold Gel and I Create Volume Lotion. Two of my favorite drugstore buys are Aunt Jackie’s Flaxseed Gel and Miss Jessie’s Jelly Soft Curls.

What has been the most challenging moment of your natural hair journey so far?

The idea of attending a community event organized specifically for people with curly hair is quite unnerving for me because I’m concerned about being judged for taking up space, and I’m never sure if I’ll feel like I belong if I don’t see other people who look like me showing up in the same room.

I was in this situation not too long ago and had a lot of doubt about attending a particular event. At the time, I didn’t have enough energy, confidence or headspace to take on the reality that I more than likely will be reminded of my difference in a room full of people.

Through the encouragement from friends, I ended up going and am so grateful for it. I made some really great connections there and felt like I was at home.

I’m putting it out to the universe that I wish to see more events for the curly community in southern California please!

Are there any techniques or methods that have made a huge impact on your hair health?

Praying hands method will always be my favorite way to apply products during the wet styling process. On my hair personally, this particular application method guarantees less frizz with the best definition and doesn’t weigh my hair down.

I also am very committed to deep conditioning at least every 1-2 weeks.

When I first started, I didn’t have any heat or coloring damage, but it did take about 8 months before I started seeing ideal results. Being consistent and curious has been key to my hair health and the progress of my curls.

What's your advice to women who are still struggling with loving their natural texture?

Loving your natural texture is a choice and an effort that you have to make every single day. It’s something that you have to show up for on your own.

But you never have to do any of it alone.

Thanks to the internet, there are so many resources and groups you can join to connect with other people who share your story or who can help you learn the power of your curls.