Guest Blog:”My Her” By Vanessa Lunnon

My “Her”

Author: Vanessa Lunnon

 

Ever since I was a kid, I had this big head of hair. I call her, my “Her”.  

She is my big, wild, untamed, and naturally curly hair.

I grew up in a mostly Caucasian suburban neighborhood on the outskirts of Denver, Colorado.  So, nobody I knew had this hair.  The exception was of course, my mother.

We were seemingly alone in this journey of “The Taming of the Her”.

My mother struggled and seemingly detest of her own natural curls were by default passed down to me.  As I was a child, she blew dry her hair and therefore mine; she cut her hair short, and therefore mine; she told me to comb my hair when it was curly, only to have a massive frizzy mess.

The struggle was a real frustrating dead end (no pun intended) – – or so I thought.

Now, to give you a full understanding of my hair story, I have to give you some background on my family …especially, my mother.

My mother was born in Mogadishu, Somalia to an African Nomad/Caregiver/Dula (my grandmother) and an Italian soldier (my grandfather).  She grew up in an Italian Catholic colony speaking Italian as her first language.

For the most, part my mother was raised by nuns as a child. Due to her father’s passing when she was very young, her mother was required to be absent for long periods of time for work while supporting three children.

My mother’s first memories are ones of being mistreated by the nuns…specifically being punished by the nuns by having her long and luscious rich locks tugged, pulled, and dragged.

The relationship with her hair was seemingly doomed from the start.

My American (U.S.) born father met my mother in London while back packing in Europe after college and the rest, is, as they say, history.  The two would eventually get married both move to Colorado where my father was born and raised and go on to have two children one boy and one girl. That girl is Me.

I had hair and curves like my mother and my father’s light skin and height.

As I grew up, my mother would try to blow dry my hair straight all of the time.  It would take hours.

She struggled with her hair, and therefore, she struggled with mine.

There was lots of tugging, tangling, pulling, and still…it was what it was.

Still curly, and on a good day at best frizzy.

It looked NOTHING like any of my friends, let alone anyone I remember seeing on TV or in the media.

There was an exception…Diana Ross.  

I had “Diana Ross Hair” as my father would call it.

My Dad loved it.  My white father loved Motown music and especially Diana Ross.  I mean who doesn’t?

He wasn’t totally white, mostly German, Irish, English, French and his grandmother was Native American…

but you get the picture.

He used to dry hair upside down and make me flip my hair.  Of course my textured hair it would stand straight up.

He would applaud. “All riighht!” He would say and would use words like ”cool, groovy, dyn-o-mite, super-bad’

I would stare back in the mirror with my large hair and light skin and wonder how I would explain this to my friends at school and also not disappoint my father’s excitement and hard work.

I just wanted to fit in, but it seemed to me the more I tried, the more awkward I became

The fact of the matter was I just was different.  I tried to chop my hair myself, and as much as it was creatively fulfilling (obviously I needed another creative outlet), my hair was a disaster.

Thick and curly – and what some may call, a hot mess.

My Dad would tell me women used to come up to him and tell him they would “die” to have my hair.  They would come up to me and ask me to touch my hair.

 “Ugh…okay, I guess you can touch it” I would say.

I didn’t get it.

I tried everything to make my hair conform.  Again, I just wanted it to be like everyone else’s hair.  If I shampooed my hair enough, I swore, my hair would turn into silk Farrah Fawcett locks.

I tried every shampoo, the natural hair treatment, and even the expensive high-end salon detangling sprays everyone swore would work on my hair.

They never did.  Sigh!

I eventually found a cheap solution to my hair problems that was a temporary fix of a weighted conditioner and manually muscling through my curls.  It worked for what it was, but in general, not a healthy option for my hair.

Alas, it seemed I was destined to have hard to manage, dry, and curly hair.  That was it.

My mother still stuck to her narrow ideal of the beauty ideals of her time, continued to struggle with keeping her hair straight.

In the wake of my parents divorce, when I was in the sixth grade I gave up on the straight hair struggle.   That was all I could manage at the time.

It was going to have to be curly hair.  For the first time, I was going to embrace my locks in their natural state and grow out my hair. That was a defining moment.

I was the chick with Big Curly Hair.  I was going to be known for my hair whether I liked it or not.  It was me and I was it.  We became one.

My “Her” and Me. 

 

It wasn’t until years later when I was encouraged to straighten my hair professionally did stop identifying myself with my hair.  I realized that you can be more than one thing.

Around this same time, a new term was all of a sudden being commercialized;

“Ethnically Ambiguous”…

This is a drastic departure from my prior professor in college, who upon graduation from drama school, told me that all of the blondes where going to get all of the jobs.

It seemed as if in that moment, people of mixed race were now being asked to be represented and in demand.

All of a sudden I had a box.

My “Other” box I had checked on applications and other official forms in which I had self-consciously checked all my life, was now being recognized.  I now had a space.  I realized whether I belonged or not, I had a box – a space to finally identify me.

The question, I was asked almost daily of “what are you?” could now be answered by Mixed”.

Also around that same time, I remember being in Los Angeles, walking on Wilshire Boulevard into a beauty shop and talking to my friend, who is also of mixed race, about our beauty regiments.

She is half Filipino and African American so we were sharing our beauty secrets and tricks of trade for our naturally curly and textured hair when we literally stumbled upon the Mixed Chicks™ hair care line.

We were laughing and yet amazed because we said, “hey, this is us!”

I remembering being so thrilled to have found a product like this on the store shelves.

That one little moment was monumental for me for so many reasons.

It gave me a chance to see myself as who I am, a multi-cultural being.  It gave a chance to see others like me and know I had a place in the world.

I was yet again being reinforced by the idea that I finally had a place to fully embrace all parts of me.

I am so thrilled about the recent natural hair movement.  To me it is a step in the direction of fully accepting of all parts of ourselves.  What a blessing this is.
So the question for me moving forward is: “What if?
What if our hair, our “Her were like our inner child.

What if we nurtured it, accepted it, and embraced all of it for what it is and as it is?

What if we accepted the good days and the bad? We celebrated the missteps and successes?

What if our hair was not who we were but an external representation of our inner personal dialogue?

Everyone deserves to feel loved and be honored the way God made them.

If every one of the hairs on our head is numbered we must honor the magnificence of what that represents.  We should lift our heads wear our crowns high, as the Royalty we were intended to be.

Personally speaking, I have gone on to build a career as an actress, and producer, plus size model and body acceptance and diversity advocate for that ethos.  My most recent work in the diversity movement gives me purpose to help fashion, art and media be a true and full representation of diversity.

It is my hope that the next generation(s) will only know what it is like to have a place to fit in, a shelf in the isle, a box of their own.

I hope they would only know an inclusive place in the world where they feel they belong.  It is my sincere hope that products like Mixed Chicks™️ will help more people and more brands alike become more representative in the journey of self acceptance, diversity and inclusion in this world.

Thank you Mixed Chicks™ for creating that box for me, my mother, and so many others.

 

It has made me who I am today.   I am a #mixedchick