I Am Not My Hair-Original Poem by Karla Alba


The poem was written as a result of negative reactions of the poet trying a new hairstyle: single braid aka poetic justice braids. The main complaint was that a Latina with “good” hair, should not and did not need to embrace this hairstyle. The topic of hair is very controversial and quite sensitive across cultures but specifically to women of African decent. Whether you recognize it or not, European ideals of beauty are deep rooted in the minds of people of color. Aside from skin color and prominent bodily features, hair is one of the most distinct features that sets people of color apart from European  standards of beauty. The society we live in is obsessed with the ideologies of “good” and “bad” hair. People of color, particularly women of color have been accustomed to trying to manipulate their hair texture into something that it naturally is not by frying, perming, and adding hair extensions that represents a completely different ethnicity than their own. The process is painful, costly and takes hours to upkeep our hair to look and feel exactly the opposite of what it naturally is. Growing up  we never questioned why our mothers would send us on what seemed like full day’s trip to the hair salon, all we knew is that we needed to “fix” the imperfections of our “bad” hair. I’ve met women that have recently embarked on their journey to embracing their natural hair and have confessed to me that they never actually knew what their hair really looked like.

As a Latina, with what would be considered “good” hair , I would often be criticized for questioning this oppressive system that our society has ingrained in our cultures that tells us that our natural beauty is inferior. My “good” curls doesn’t exclude me from ridicule of family members, co-workers and even some friends about my untamed, unprofessional and wild locks. The fact of the matter is whether it’s a Hispanic or African-American woman wearing their natural kinks and curls, the underlying perception is that something needs to be done to our hair so that it is “presentable” and that conforms to the beauty of White women who grace the covers of most of the magazines we read, advertisements of beauty products  we see and fashion editorials we praise.

In this poem, Karla recites one particular line that I feel resonates the most with this whole topic of beauty. She says,” Competing with each others ethnicities when in reality our moralities are constructed by someone who doesn’t even look us.” I wrote an essay  a few months ago declaring my self-identification as an Afro-Dominican. My struggle, as for many  in the situation that I found myself in was that I was neither Hispanic enough nor was I Black enough to find solace in either groups. I would have to say the issue of my hair was one of the main problems that arose while I was trying to figure out just exactly where I belonged. I will admit that it was not until my Freshman year in college that I felt completely comfortable around other Hispanic women. It was the first time that my refusing to straighten my hair as most women in the Dominican community are accustomed to doing, was not an issue. These ideas of what is acceptable and what is not in terms of beauty has made women of color extremely critical towards each other, not realizing that this influence comes from an a well-established system of oppression constructed by, like Karla stated, “someone who doesn’t even look like us.”


This project was filmed by Kassandra Brown of Kassh Productions and  the eclectic group, Black Plague,  which is composed of producers, rappers, R&B artists, designers, artists, & videographers creating a space which promotes all different kinds of art forms in Rhode Island to flourish. 

This video was edited, produced and directed by Ms. Kass Brown and myself. The poet, Karla Alba,  is currently a Junior at the University of Rhode Island studying Psychology and Gender Studies and also happens to be my younger sister.


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