My name is Rebecca Spraggins. I’m 22 years old and a senior at Syracuse University. I study Political Science. I’m from just outside of Washington D.C. - Arlington, VA. Both of my parents are from Ethiopia but my stepdad is is African-American from Virginia so I grew up with him most of my life. In elementary school I did a lot of braiding. My hair was always in braids so I really didn’t think much about my hair. It was just always out of my face and away. Growing up in Arlington, it’s not the most diverse place but I wasn’t really thinking about that as a kid. I was just thinking that this is just how I war my hair. My mom did it and I just didn’t touch my hair at all. As long as thy were in the braids. Then in middle school is when I started to be more aware of myself as compared to others because I started to wear my hair out of braids because I thought thy were too “kiddy” but there was still something about my curly hair that I didn’t like. and so when I wear my hair out I would have to like I would just put it in a ponytail - again like - away from my face. Just trying to get rid of the volume pretty much. Then I started to get used to straightening my hair. My hair was too long at the time to do it myself, so it would be like a special occasion to go to a salon to get my hair straightened. Then when I got to school my hair would be really long and everybody would be like “Wow, your hair is so long - that’s crazy! I really like it when you wear it like that” So I’m like getting this reinforcement that my hair straight makes me pretty. So I said like “Mom can we do this like all the time?” So it pretty much became like a Sunday ritual, like me and my mom, like I wash my hair, I sit down, I do my homework and she straightens my hair. And that was every week from like eighth grade all the way until my senior year of high school. When I say it now and put it in perspective I’m like “I was doing that for that long?!” Like there would be breaks here and there like in the summer you know maybe I'd let it breathe but there was really no breath in it- it was dead. I felt really dependent on straightening my hair. If it got wet - the next day we’re straightening it. I did not want to see it out. I felt like because I went to high school with my hair straightened very first year I felt like I had to continue that because if I let my hair out people would be like “Whoa!” It was struggle for me because I was like 18 years old like I'm going to school and I did not know how to take care of my hair properly but my mom was like “you're going to college soon. I’m not going to be the to straighten your hair very week. I know for sure you're not going to straighten your hair very wk so w need to figure this out” So at that point my hair was dad from flat ironing it and I had dyed it a bunch of times, I had highlights in it, so I had bleached it. And it was just above my shoulder when it was curly and so I was going to college with these limp curls basically and I was like I don’t really know what to do with this but I watched a lot of Youtube videos and a lot of natural hair Youtubers and that’s how I learned what products I needed to find for my hair bc my mom used to just use Olive Oil basically and that was it. So i was like “What is a leave-in conditioner, why do I need to use gel?” It was a whole new world. So senior year was a lot of learning and trying to implement it. But I still wouldn’t go to school with my hair out. I would wear it in buns a lot. But I wasn’t straightening. Then I went to college and the weather was something I really struggled with. And then I was rowing. In high school it wasn’t that bad because rowing was after school so I could go home right after and do whatever I needed to do with my hair. But here rowing is first thing in the morning so it’s the first thing I do. And I can’t have straight hair when I’m rowing bc it’s a water sport. That was another struggle - I couldn’t just throw my hair in a bun like the other girls. It’s not a very diverse sport. There’s very few women of color on my team. So I would just watch everyone put their hair in a quick braid or toss it back in a ponytail and I’m like “God” So I would put it in buns or in two braids sometimes. That was a little discouraging, but I kept trying to figure things out. But Eventually my hair was growing out and getting healthier and healthier. It felt like college was a clan salt because I cam to college with curly hair so that’s how people know m and that’s how i Introduce myself. I felt like I could start a new as corny as that sounds. So it was a lot easier to try new things and I kept trying different hair care lines and spending a lot of money had and then eventually I got into the swing of things by the end of my sophomore years. Junior year, I felt really good about my hair. I know exactly how to do it and it was in a good place. I know what I need to do when the winter cam. That was also the year I tried box braids. I really like it but when I took them out my hair got super tangled. I think I did the detangling process wrong because when I took them out my hair was in a knot. So after that I basically cut my hair. So that was like starting fresh again. Zinc than I've only straightened my hair a couple of times and I feel so much better about my hair. Ofc there are days that I’m like I'm literally going to shave my head because it is so much. And the longer it gets, sometimes the more difficult it is to deal with. It takes more product and more time. I haven't tried a lot of other protective or alternate styles bc I’m intimidated by things I don’t know how I would do myself and I don’t know anyone here at school that does hair. I think the next step is to try different things with my hair and not b scared. I don’t want to do it and it comes out looking crazy, you know? Bc I also don’t really have time necessarily to print a lot. Like I want to try a weave just to see if it would be a good protective style for me. That would be the next thing that would try.