A Forever Phase Yanni Cabrera

DISCLAIMER: To conceal the identity of Cabrera’s family member who wanted her to straighten her hair, they/them pronouns will be used in reference to them.

For senior Yanni Cabrera, natural hair is more than just a phase. It’s a part of her that has been straightened, cut, and growing alongside her while expanding her understanding of self. She refuses to change it to fit others’ standards of beauty.

A family member of Cabrera’s was often an advocate for straighter hair. This individual would tell Cabrera to straighten her curls to look “more elegant” before events. Of course, Cabrera refused.

Cabrera was determined to break free from the expectation imprinted on the natural hair community to become more palatable for others’ tastes. That took a conscious effort on her part, given how family members would tell her that her curls were never good enough.

“I wanted to get that idea out of my head because I know that [they]...[they] had been internalized to think that,” Cabrera said. “People have told [them] that straight hair is what you need to look elegant but I refuse to let [them] do that to me.”

In Cabrera’s life, accepting her hair for the way it is was a struggle because of outside voices trying to cloud her decisions. She acknowledges that this battle isn’t confined to her and her personal struggles. To Cabrera, there’s a reason why she thinks it takes natural haired people so long to come to terms with their hair. “Because of media,” Cabrera said. “ What others think our hair is supposed to look like.”

That standard that the media has put on Black women isn’t equally distributed, according to Cabrera. She feels that on a large scale, White women can wear their hair however they please without anyone telling them to change it. Black women aren’t granted that same privilege.

“Honestly I get angry at the double standard,” Cabrera said. “If White women can be out here without doing anything to their hair and just have it out and straight and whatever and be elegant and professional, Black women have that same exact right.”

Cabrera went on further to explain how this double standard just doesn’t make sense. She feels that White women aren’t given the same critiques that Black women are when it comes to hair.

“It would be ridiculous of us to [tell] a white woman ‘your hair doesn’t look natural, you need to curl it, you know, or crimp it, or whatever,’” she said. “Like, that would be a ridiculous statement. And it’s just as ridiculous to ask a Black woman to do the same.”

She also sees a level of inequality within the natural hair community between curlier hair types versus kinkier curl patterns. Cabrera spoke on how Instagram and many tutorials on the platform focus on looser curl patterns while neglecting to embrace more afro textured hair.

“I definitely think it’s underrepresented and I wish that I saw more of it…” Cabrera said. “I’ll see tutorials on braiding that kind of hair and trying to tame it down a certain kind of way but I wish I saw more that was like, having it out more.”

In Cabrera seeing all the inequalities between hair types, it has helped her to embrace her own hair more. She wears her curls proudly, no matter the place and has a desire to see the movement that she so loves become a place where all hair textures can do the same.

Q: What are your thoughts on people touching your hair?

A:“With the ‘can I touch your hair?’, it's just weird. Like why? My hair's a part of my body. Can I touch you is a weird question to ask somebody”
Cabrera looking at an old photo of herself.
There's a stark difference between these photos. To the left Cabrera's hair is straightened and to the right it's in its natural hair. (Photo courtesy of Yanni Cabrera)
“I really love this natural hair movement that has started, I really do. But, it has to be for everyone”

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