So, I have a white mom and a black dad. And obviously my mom was - anything that came to getting dressed in the morning to doing my hair - she would help with that. But she wasn’t very well versed in the curls. And on my dad’s side everyone has really thick, coily, kinky hair so they also weren’t really sure what to do with mine because it was a mix and unfamiliar to eveyone. So when I was younger I would mostly have it in braids with the cute little elastics with the balls on the end. A lot of that, a lot of braids. My aunts would help me. And it never really was a thing until I got to middle school. At that point I still wasn’t sure how to deal with it - it was kind of a frizzy mess. I was looking back at pictures the other day and I would do a side ponytail but the ponytail was huge, the size of my head, at the side of my head. *laughs* So that was an interesting look, but that’s what I went for. In high school I started to think about my appearance more as I think most people do as you get older and more aware of societal pressure. I’m from Rhode Island - a super white, super small town. I had moved there from Providence, which is a little more city like and diverse, for the schooling system. I loved my friends. They were always really supportive of me and never really brought up my skin color or the fact that I was different but I still started to just want to fit in more. So I started relaxing my hair. The first time I did it was for my 16th bday. I had been bugging my grandmother because she would set up all my appointments beforehand. I had been begging her like I need to get rid of this, I don’t know how to handle it, don’t want to take care of it anymore. I felt way too different from my friends and just uncomfortable with myself. But she said “Wait until you’re 16, you’re going to kill your hair and regret it. Wait to see if that’s actually what you want.” All of the typical things that people say you know, you always want what you don’t have. But I just couldn’t handle it anymore so she made an appointment with one of her friends and I got my hair relaxed. It was scary but I was obsessed with the way that it looked after. Pin straight, I could put it in a ponytail, I could wear it down, I could do half-up, half-down. I was just having fun with it. My friends loved it and I got a lot of feedback like “you’re hair is so pretty, you look beautiful” which were things that people wouldn’t say to me before. So I felt way better about myself. And that went on until college. I would get it done every three months and never have my roots come in fully. I never really saw curls again. Then I came to college and my first boyfriend my freshman year was a total earthy, crunchy dude and he had really curly hair. He had no idea that I had curly hair. Once we went back to my house for dinner with my family and my grandparents and my aunts came and he was like “I didn’t realize that a whole half of your family is Costa Rican” like he could tell from my skin that I was mixed but my hair. He started asking me about it. He said why don’t you try growing out your roots just so we can see! Like maybe your curl pattern as changed. I said I would try it. So after about 6 months I could finally start to visualize what it would look like if it were all curly. I stopped getting it relaxed and I kind of just went with the flow. It turned into this wavy kind of deal and I got highlights to spruce it up a bit. And I was really liking it then [my boyfriend] and I broke up. So obviously something had to change. *laughs* I decided to go for the Big Chop. I had been watching a lot of YouTube videos because I had no one to talk to about it. Even at Northeastern, we’re in the city and it’s a step up from where I grew up but still not something I felt comfortable talking to people about. It’s also not something that I though anyone else would understand. I started watching videos about getting ready for a Big Chop and what to expect so I could educate myself before I went for it. I went to a salon back home and it was like a DevaCurl, I got a DevaCut. I found that in my research *laughs* and decided that’s what I should get. It was such an emotional moment. My hair was on the floor. My hair was long at that point - lower than shoulder length. And for that much of it to be gone was huge. I felt like I was losing myself. The lady styled it and I let her do whatever. I ended up absolutely loving it. I was so shocked and happy - indescribable emotions really. It was ear length. Totally different. It was weird. It took me a while to get used to. Whenever people have a hair change I feel like they post it on Instagram and everywhere - I didn’t do any of that. I was really just embracing it, taking it all in, accepting it. I did it over Winter Break while I was back home so my family were really the only people who knew. So I went back to school and I had just joined a sorority before I went on break and didn’t really tell anyone that I was doing it. I came back and no one really recognized me. We had our first chapter meeting getting back and no one recognized me. And the girl who became my big, her name’s Dalia, she was on her hair journey too. During our sister dates she did this mask and I pointed it out like “You have stuff in your hair” and she was like “Yep, it’s a clay mask, I left it in too long, tried to get most of it out, it wasn’t working and I was going to be late.” *laughs* So she started telling me about her hair journey and that was my selling point. I was like “I love this girl, I look up to this girl, I want her to be my Big and if she can do it, I can do it.” So I did it. She was like “Oh my god Brianna - what?” Then everyone started to realize. That support was huge. I wasn’t expecting it - I was hoping for it. It was a really warm feeling. Since then it’s just been so good. I thought having my hair straight and fitting in with the people around me was what would allow me to love myself. Being comfortable. But I realized that it takes a big change and letting go to find out what can really make you happy. It’s been 3 years since I did the Big Chop and I haven’t used any heat on my hair in those three years. I’m so happy about it. My hair is the biggest part of my personality at this point. I just cut my bangs. I feel like I can do so much with it. Every time I’m out in public someone comments on it. Not in a bragging way but I’ve just never experienced so much acceptance and self acceptance. It’s been such an awesome experience getting to know myself. I never would pictured myself getting here. And now this is who I am and I’m so much more confident. I thought fitting in is what would make me feel confident but I love that I stand out. I love that people recognize me anywhere I am in a crowded room when they see my curls bouncing around in the building. That’s me. I’m continuing to learn more about myself.