More Than My Hair

Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.

I was five years old when I first had my hair “burned” at a beauty salon. There I was, not even knowing how to properly spell “hairdresser” and I probably knew more about the process than a thirty year old white woman. You’re probably wondering what kind of pretentious, spoiled, five year old frequents the beauty salon every weekend. Well, I’ll tell you this, I am not rich. I am Dominican. If you’re even remotely familiar with the Dominican Republic, you know our breath-taking beaches. But, beyond our palm trees, lies a history that we have been ashamed of for centuries. How does this relate to my hair? The problem comes from the fact that I have kinky, coily, curly hair.

I originally loved the fact that I had curls, it made me different from the other girls. But, every time I stepped into a Dominican home, I was confronted with an outraged, “Arreglate ese pelo!” or “Fix your hair!”. What was there to fix? What was wrong with it? Slowly, I realized why my mother had taken me to the hairdresser, before my age even reached double digits. It was to tame my hair, to prevent my natural strands from ever emerging, it was to mold me into my culture’s definition of beauty. As my confidence was fragile, it created a long lasting hatred towards my hair. I made it a priority to straighten it every weekend missing out on experiences because it had been rooted into me that the way I look is more important than anything else.

One summer, I was invited to attend a summer leadership camp with my cousins. I was excited to spend my summer somewhere else, but I rejected the offer, since I did not want to spend two months without straightening my hair and thus having “ugly hair”. After an unproductive summer at home, I decided to make peace with my curly strands. I began to focus less on trivial features and more on who I am as a person, what my passions are, and what I want to do with the rest of my life. Forgetting about my hair and focusing on myself helped me build the confidence I needed to explore all that was out there for me. I joined a Pre-College program at Rutgers University that exposed high achieving juniors to careers in business; it allowed me to take a college class every Saturday for five months. I also participated in a Business Intensive Summer Camp at Stevens Institute of Technology that helped me develop my passion marketing. And lastly, I gained the confidence to start my own fashion blog. I wanted to share my confidence story with girls, but also express my love for fashion, an industry I ultimately hope to work in.

My hair taught me to come to terms with the things I can not change. It taught me that no matter how straight my hair is, none of it matters unless I have the vocabulary to express myself, the mind to think abstractly, and the heart to accept all people regardless of skin color or hair texture. And most importantly, realizing this gave me the confidence to go after my dreams. It ultimately led me to discover that I am passionate about marketing and hope to pursue it fully as a career. If someone would’ve told my seven year old self how much my hair has impacted my life, I would never believe it. Several years ago, I saw my hair as my greatest flaw, as what I believed would hinder me for the rest of my life. Now, I am confident, grateful, and blessed to have my curls.

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