I am Not My Hair: Raising A “Smart” Girl in a Vain World

toddler hair
26 Comments

“Whooo-wee!  That child has some pretty hair!”  It’s a phrase that I’ve gotten use to hearing.  It’s what strangers say the first time they see my daughter’s long corkscrew curls.

My daughter is multiracial and has a head full of hair that reflects her heritages.  Her curls are big and glossy, picture perfect and cascade down her back.  When you pull one of her curls, it literally springs in your hand and automatically bounces back in place.  Her poor little head is constantly being touched and marveled over by strangers of all ethnicities.  “What a pretty girl.”  “She looks like a little doll.”  “Child, I’d spend my whole paycheck to buy hair like that.”  That’s what my little girl constantly hears day in and day out.

My daughter’s exotic looks attract lots of attention.  As her mother, I’m often concerned.  I wonder what it does to a child’s self worth when the world places such an emphasis on how you look.  I want my child to be judged by the content of her character, not the curl of her hair.

Pretty doesn’t last forever.  Pretty can fade.  Pretty doesn’t pay the bills, get you a good education or a great job. And I certainly don’t want my only child to grow to be one of those women who uses her looks to try to get ahead in life.  So I’ve made it my mission to raise her to be a smart girl in a world that puts entirely too much emphasis on physical beauty.

For every “pretty” she hears, I tell her how “smart” she is.  I tell her that God looks at her heart, and that being a kind, smart girl is the highest goal.  I praise her for being good at math and science.  I applaud her for doing well in spelling.  And I give her huge hugs when she shares and helps others.   She gets tons of accolades from me, but she very rarely hears “pretty” come out of my mouth.

The harsh reality is that pretty little black girls and gorgeous black women are a dime a dozen.  But a smart woman is a powerful woman.  And a caring woman has the ability to change the world.  So I let the strangers call my baby pretty, and drool over her hair.  My job is to focus on raising the smartest, kindest girl this world has ever seen.

Moms, how much emphasis do you place on your child’s physical appearance?

Yolanda Darville is a mom, writer, communications strategist and blogger focusing on philanthropy and empowering women.  Learn more about her on her blog www.bahamamommyinc.com .

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Comments

  • MissTeeBR

    I have to deal with this issue with my twins. One of the girls has large, very long (down her back) spiral curls while the other has shorter (shoulder length), tighter spirals. Their hair texture is practically similar…fine but extremely thick. In addition to the hair, there is a big difference in skin complexion between the two. I have noticed people tend to gravitate more to the fairer long haired twin. So I politely interject a thank you , say her twin thinks so too, and they both have amazing wits to match. I try to shift the focus off the looks or hair and focus on their individual unique personalities. I don’t want either girl to have any self-doubt. At their early ages, which is 2, I am instilling in my girls that they are most beautiful when they are kind & respectful to every one. When people focus on their hair, I make sure the girls hear me say “thank you and acknowledge that all girls/women have beautiful hair as long as we take care of what God has blessed us with.” I don’t want my children growing up with self-esteem issues due to hair or skin complexion issues nor do I want them to define other people’s “beauty” by hair or shin complexion. It’s way too many other important things to worry about. Hair and skin complexion should be the least of their worries.

    • Yolanda D.

      It sounds like you are doing a great job as a mother. Issues with self-esteem start early. I believe that it is up to us as parents to let our childen know how amazing they are.

      • MissTeeBR

        I am trying my best. Thank you!

    • queenbee9

      What you are doing sounds great but there will still be issues–you cannot police or redirect the world. One twin will note that her sister’s hair is longer (if you do not cut it to match her sister) and the one with darker skin will notice-if they don’t other kids will make it a point to comment on that asking “how can they be twins when the don’t look alike or why is one so dark or how come the hair is different. I was very lucky in that both my girls had the same type hair though one is a bit lighter than the other. Had there been a difference, then I might have ended up with the same situation I grew up with–and frankly, that all has to sort itself out. You can only protect and redirect so much (kids will KNOW what you are doing and will figure there is something wrong with them or else you would not be trying so hard to compensate). My momma did this with my sister–buying her the best clothes and getting her hair done, and guess what? she spent years wishing she was me. She actually told me that she wished she was me and had my life, my shape, my face but especially my hair. Know when she grew out of that? When she was in her 40s. She finally came to terms with her hair then and to celebrate, she got it all cut off…..then she had a daughter and began to compare her daughter and her daughter’s hair to my daughters–and here we go again…

  • 3hunnaStunna

    great article keep up the good work

    • Yolanda D.

      Thank you for reading!

  • PhotoGeek16

    Wow! Loved this article!! Very glad to have stumbled upon it Yolanda ;) I have to say that for me, being the mother of a bi-racial daughter. Her hair is everything that most girls hair just simply is not. It’s crazy, thick, big, and filled with nothing but micro curls deep inside of more micro curls!! For all that I love about her unique hair, she is often frustrated and in tears over not having beautiful straight ‘perfect’ hair. The kind that is so often promoted in magazines, t.v. and just about everywhere else!! Just makes me wonder, what is soo ‘wrong’ with hair that is natural?! I always have felt that as long as one is happy on the inside, that’s what really matters. The heart & soul….along with the mind are much more beautiful (and lasting) than just looks. It’s more than refreshing to see from yoů, that I’m not the only one trying to combat this ever so vain world :-) Thank yoů, Angela

    • Yolanda D.

      Angela — Thank you so much for reading and commenting. We’re blessed to have beautiful daughters. Hopefully we’ll be successful in letting our girls know that their beauty doesn’t come from their hair or looks but from their hearts and brains. Stay strong, mama! -Yolanda

    • Miss Truth Hurts

      Stop post you kids photos on the net! Some pedo is going save it too their hard drive & post on some f’d up website *smh*……Oh and dont get mad when some one has an opinion about her looks either. Yeah because she is NOT a cute girl. WTH is wrong with her eyes?. Like the queen “Jone Rivers” said “No wants to see pictures of your ugly kids!” LMAO!

      • Miss Truth Hurts

        stop posting your kid’s*

      • Truth Hurts

        Wow, hate much?! Don’t worry about your name changing from “Miss” either with that ignorant attitude!

      • queenbee9

        What an absolutely terrible thing to say to a mother! Too bad because you are right in writing about putting kids pics on the net–some pedos even track the kid down if they get obsessed enough. Parents please stop putting your kids pics on the internet.
        I do note that many bi racial children are often molested before the age of 18. This is because most have white mothers these days and these women often do not stay with the baby’s father. Often the women get passed among the black males in a neighborhood (the women see it as proof of their desireability but really it is a sign they are being used as sperm receptacles) but the women are too trusting and do not realize the temptation their child can be to a man that is not their dad and they often leave their sons and daughters with these men, trusting them. They do not understand that men may have loyalty and respect for their own seed but they owe NOTHING to another man’s off spring and often see the biracial child as an extension of the mother– ie there for sex.
        This is not to say all white women are careless or all black women with biracial kids are vigilant. I have just noticed that NONE of the biracial girls I know escaped childhood without being molested. That would be about 37 biracial people diddled with while their single moms were clueless Two of those girls who had black moms also were molested by their mom’s boyfriend.
        so PLEASE be careful and do not post pics of your child on the internet it is a meat market for pedos–also, this little girl is ADORABLE but overweight. Please modify her diet now or she will have weight problems and part of her self esteem will be undermined society will see to that.

  • http://twitter.com/MizTuriChic Jacqui O’Hersh

    That’s what I ALWAYS tell my daughter. I let her know that being a smart girl is VERY important. Everybody gushes over her and I remind her about her schoolwork.

  • OutstandingWorldCitizen

    Great article!!! It reverberates some of the message Jada P. touched on in her open letter about Willow’s hair. The hubris of youth (that we all have known) can not be sustained on a shaky foundation. Girls and young women should be taught the importance of being smart over focusing too much on physical beauty. You can be both but know one beauty fades. Then what’s left? Don’t objectify yourself. Don’t limit yourself.
    I commend you for your emotional intelligence on raising your child. Many people would ignore those subtle yet very powerful messages we send to pretty children who will someday become women.

  • Mrs.ChocolateStar

    Growing up my grandfather used to say to me “Baby it’s a lot of pretty girls out there”. Initially i was offended because i thought that he should think that i am the prettiest! But as an adult (and now the mother of a stunning little girl) I realize that he was trying to combat the constant barrage of comments about my looks and talent. He was teaching me to be more than just my looks. I kept that with me and always aimed to be “more than just a pretty face”.

  • TCKGirl

    My mother is a great woman — I’m not trying to say she’s a bad person in posting this. But she put way too much emphasis on looks. Led me to a ton of insecurities (then social anxiety, then depression that nearly took my life away). I think for her, coming from an extremely poor Gambian family, and finding herself with my wonderful father who is very fortunate to have gotten a good education and thus a large pay check is what her made this way. I think once she married my dad, she used materialistic things (weaves, makeup, jewelry, designer purses) to, “compensate” for what she never had before. And growing up she projected that on us. I never cared much for my looks — It just wasn’t important to me. But she is constantly bombarding us on what we are wearing, how are hair looks, or why we’re not wearing earrings. She never really understood what it did to us, or what it did to me at least. In middle school and high school I became so concerned about my looks, always so worried that I didn’t look good enough, falling into TEARS when I had a hair about of place. At one point, when the depression came, I just stopped. I mean I would go out looking like shit (pardon my French!). And then my relationship with my mom worsened (because we would argue over how I look — or more like, she would shout at me about how I looked) and my depression worsened and eventually my suicide attempt at age 17.

    Yah, that’s how bad putting an emphasis on looks can be for your child. Yes, your child shouldn’t go out of the house looking like a slave girl, but honestly looks are NOT what is important! Please, please teach your kids that. My dad would tell me, “You can have a cake that looks beautiful, covered in glitter and sparkles, but if the inside is cow poop, then none of that on the outside matters!”

  • Nenah

    This article blows my mind. The author lets us know that her daughter is multi-racial and has picture perfect curls and exotic looks. She describes her daughter as if she is also in awe of her looks. I’m not impressed. This article would be a whole lot better had it been written by an African-American woman with a beautiful African-American child. Children do not have to be multi racial to be beautiful.

    • queenbee9

      don’t hate. She was just describe the physical characteristics of HER child. It would not have changed anything if the child had been black. When I was young, people used to comment on my hair especially when my momma pressed it. Did my long hair matter? Why yes it did. it made me a lot of enemies and I had 2 sisters who were jealous because one had to braid my hair for school and people were always commenting about how long and thick my hair was. The oldest would take the comb and pull the rubber and off through my braid so that she took large combfuls of hair with the rubber band–then she would say in a snarl: I hate you, I hate your hair, you stole me and —‘ hair, I hate you–YANK, PULL…and occasionally a comb peck. People often don’t think of looks or how that will affect a child growing up. They just hook up with anything, then the poor child is left to navigate the combination. But love is a choiceI chose intelligence, but also considered what combo would look like–I did not go for cute, or light skinned or white–I went for job, education, temperament and did I get butterflies when he looked at me..

    • michelle arias

      go breath somewhere.

    • Sandra Nicole

      i totally agree

  • Prissygirlflow

    I thought the article was good but I also understand what “Nenah”.. I actually clicked on the article just to take another peek at that adorable little girl. I had no clue what the article was going to entail. When I was growing up you didn’t see cute little mixed babies often so when you did it was deafeningly an awe moment.. I remember as a kid we would all crowd around and stare, wanting to take turns feeling her hair because it was long, soft and silky. My hair was long but it was think and kinky and it hurt like hell to get it combed. Now a days you see that exotic look on almost every corner and most of the rappers, actors and athletes want to date and marry the Halle Berry exotic look so more and more children are being born in today’s generation with straight curly long pretty hair. I totally get where the article is going and understand that women use their looks and their body to get what they want. I am a natural hair girl and my daughter is natural and I can show you pictures of natural hair girls with kinky hair that reach down to their butts. These are are natural beauties and get the same type of attention. I think you should teach all girls to value their body and not feel that they have to use their body to get what they want in life.. Not just curly haired mix chicks but all chicks of all race. As the article stated… Beauty is only skin deep and trust and believe it will fade in time so you better have something else going on to hold the attention of others.

  • Prissygirlflow

    excuse the typos s/b definitely

  • queenbee9

    I placed a premium on my children’s looks in that I was careful about who I made babies with because my momma said my looks could not counteract everything. My kids all got those kinds of compliments and my daughters are also multiracial but their hair is stick straight and silky–no curls at all, they have to braid with mousse to even get crimps. Yes they got the comments all their life but mostly the comments are from whites who want to know if that is “their real hair” and if they are in an interracial relationship they often would ask me how to get their daughters’ hair to look like my girls. Both my girls have hair below their butts. So what can I tell them? “Have my genetics?” The black people know the hair is not weave but many a white girl has insisted on running their hands through my oldest girls hair because it was so black, the other has an odd dark blonde color that is like the color of dull whisky. so what is the deal? They have been sought after to model–I won’t let them–we pushed grades in my home and character but I would be lying if I did not make sure I chose carefully when choosing my husband. Looks were not the thing I looked for in the man, I looked for education, job and finance. All my husbands were plain looking men. But I am pretty and together we made beautiful children. do I regret my choices? NO. Image is king in this country and we are lying if we say how people look or dress or what their name is, or how they carry themselves does not matter. It all matters and in many places, looks will determine the success and a person’s trajectory. Am I glad they have long silky hair? Yes–it made it easier to comb and I did not have to deal with issues concerning hair that many black women have. My own hair is just 4 inches above my wajst but it is frizzy bordering on nappy when it is wet (where it proceeds to hang in a large soaking ball just below my shoulder blades…. so how did their hair get to be bone straight? Simple, my great grandmother was half Cherokee and so was my great grandfather–3 of my kids were throwbacks. One of my sons also had waist length hair.I still get that “you have a very beautiful family spiel” it is nice to hear, but we do not let it mean anything–beauty is as beauty does

  • Yesidid

    This is a humble-brag

  • sirmichaelprince

    I have a twin cousin (if u will call it that) we pratically look the same, except he has hazel eyes and thick wavy hair. I have your pratical dark brown eyes, and very very coarse hair. MY whole life people have always gravitated towards my cousin in every situation possible even family would more likely be intrigued by him then me. Then we got older and iMorphed into the this African American/Native American Stallion and he turned into a fatboy. Point of story is that even though there was favortism him over me I stayed strong, and also this goes for boys as well as girls. Society need to focus on both genders, iFeel women are the focal point nowadays while boys are left to figure it out on there own

  • iHeartMarijuana

    It’s sad that black people have been bullied to the point where some black mothers don’t understand how to accept a normal compliment that many children receive. Had that child been white with curly, springy hair, people would still “ooh” and “aah” at it, because curly hair is cool. I’m not black or white – my sister has extremely curly hair just like the girl in the picture. When we were kids (and even as adults) she got so many compliments about it. Everyone wanted to tell her that her hair was pretty. She didn’t grow up with any weird complex about it – in fact, she flat ironed her hair like everyone else during the times straight hair trended. It’s not different just because a child may be black – and being black with curly hair hardly qualifies as exotic. People, in America at least, are used to seeing that, which sort of would make it the opposite of exotic.