BY COCO & CURL
A huge part of being Natural is about finding your own voice in a sea of external opinions - what people think your hair 'can' do, what hair people think you should have and how you 'should' look. Luckily, with the Natural community comes an equal number of voices encouraging you to do you, and who offer a wealth of wisdom with stories from their own Natural journeys.
We sat down (virtually) with Young In to share her story on her life as a Korean curly, and her decision to embrace her curls with a big chop earlier this year. Hopefully, her words can give any of you who are (thinking of) going Natural a bit of inspiration.
Growing up, how did you (or your parents have you) do/style your hair? What were the beauty standards like in your house and wider community?
Growing up, my curly hair was never embraced but I also think it’s a cultural thing. I never saw Koreans with natural curly hair and if they did, it was always an older mature lady so it wasn’t a super desired look.
Even when we went to their hair salon, the Korean stylists would say “wow..you have a lot of hair and a lot of curl" and it had somewhat negative connotations. I was always told about chemical procedures that would give me stick straight hair so that’s what I always knew. Even my mom has very curly hair and yet seeing her constantly straighten it made me think that was the norm.
When did you start to get familiar with your curls?
This January 2019, I was thinking about redoing the Brazilian blowout treatment for my curly roots that had grown out. Just out of curiosity, I looked on Instagram for #naturalcurlyhair or similar tags to see what other people were doing.
Although I didn’t see too many Koreans, I was still amazed at all the beautiful wavies and curlies that I found. As I started looking more and more into the curly girl method I was curious to see what my hair would look like if I actually grew my natural hair out.
What made you decide to do a big chop?
My hair had a very defined line between what was natural at the roots and what was pin straight from the prior chemical treatments so I knew if I wanted to go natural, I’d want to cut all the dead hair off and just start fresh.
How did your friends and family react to you doing the chop and embracing your curls?
Everyone was extremely surprised that this was my natural hair. It’s a daily conversation telling someone “it’s not a perm. This is my natural hair!” but it’s a conversation I love having bc I’m bringing awareness and supporting my fellow Asian curlies.
My mom still felt like the curly look wasn’t for her but when I’m out with her and people compliment on the curls, I feel like its showing her that straight isn’t the only beauty standard.
How did you react to your chop at first?
Since this was my first time going natural, seeing the curls was already a big shock. On top of that, I chopped off all the dead ends which basically left me with a pixie cut. So the first day when I looked in the mirror, I kept having this feeling of “oh God what have I done!” But the week after I kept telling my fiancé “I’m so in love with my curls!!” it’s definitely been liberating and I keep finding more things I love about myself.
What would you say has been the biggest challenge in going through this change?
The biggest challenge has been getting over my own fears of what I thought I looked like and what I thought other people would think of my hair. Once I came to the realization that my hair was dope, that fear went away. No one can tell you how to feel about yourself if you already feel confident and love yourself.
What would you say has been the most rewarding aspect of it for you?
The community, my confidence, it just opened up a new world for me. Because my hair is different from the stereotypical Korean look, it’s such a conversation starter. I’ve gotten to know more Korean curlies and its awesome to hear about their stories. Even me doing this interview is so I can spread awareness. We’re out here!!
What’s some advice you’d give your younger self?
I’d tell young Young In (hehehe see what I did there) that your hair is beautiful and just because someone else doesn’t know how to style it, doesn’t mean you have to change it to be more “manageable". Do your own research, don’t be a sheep to product marketing.