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by Taylor Ford



I remember the time I learned what kinky meant to nonblack people. It was at school during a free period, and I was talking with my Guatemalan friend. I do not remember exactly how the topic of hair came up, but in the middle of the conversation, I remember saying, "The hair in the middle of my head is kinky."

My friend's face was so scrunched up and disgusted that you would have thought I said I farted on her pillow.

"Did you just say…" She leaned into whisper.


"Yeah, I did, and?" I said, allowing my face to react any way it wanted to; not caring how mean I looked.

She must could tell I was getting a little defensive. "Oh no, it is just that. . ." She leaned in again.

"Kinky is usually used when talking about a weird sexual kink."

She was immature so she chuckled  as soon as she said the word "sexual." Still annoyed but sure she would never try to offend me, I laughed with her.

The word kinky is an adjective that people (usually people of African descent (this includes mixed, Afro Latina, etc.)) use to describe our curly hair. Naturally curly hair consists of three textures of naturally curly hair: curly, coily, and kinky, and multiple different hair sub types: 3a,3b,3c,4a,4b, and 4c. Hair type is the pattern or texture of a person's hair, while hair subtypes are determined by the shape of a person's curl. For some context, white people can have curly 3a and sometimes 3b hair, but it is rare to see a white person with curly 3c hair. 3c is the end of curly hair, 4a is the start of coily, and 4c is kinky. However, it is important that you know that coily and kinky hair is still considered curly hair, they are just adjectives that describe different curl types.

A person's head can have different textures and subtypes. Take me for example: the middle of my head is kinky while the rest is 3c/4a. So, what is the difference between the textures I just listed? Well, curly hair is looser than kinky hair. What I mean by this is that when

strands are individually looked at, curly hair looks more like springy ringlets, S patterned, and kinky hair looks more like zigzags and are Z patterned. As you go up the list of subtypes, hair gets thicker and has more volume: curly hair is the loosest, coily is the second thickest, and kinky is the thickest. Different hair textures and subtypes require different practices and products because they need different needs met to ensure health. For example, the middle of head has a harder time retaining moisture because it is thicker, so I use thicker and oil-based products when dealing with the middle of my head.


I was defensive during the "kinky" conversation because the world has never viewed tightly curled hair (kinky hair) to be as beautiful as loosely curled hair. To many people, kinky hair is ugly, unprofessional, while loosely curled hair is "good hair": acceptable and manageable. Although not all of my hair is kinky, I know and love people whose hair is. I have seen the way the world's views and racism has affected their relationship with their hair. They do not believe it can grow as long as loosely curled hair so they perm it, straighten it, or have it put away all of the time because they believe it is ugly. I believe all-natural hair is beautiful because it makes us as Black people so unique. To put one texture against another is disrespectful to us as modern-day Black people and to our ancestors.

So much of my identity and confidence comes from my curls and kinks. It makes me feel beautiful, unique, and proud to be a Black woman. I have a relationship with my hair that some would say is stupid because I treat it like a person—I refer to my hair as "her," spend a lot of money on products when I feel like she needs it, and do not hesitate to research for hours when I feel that I need to treat her better. I take pride in my hair because it is how I make myself feel beautiful and how I relate to other Black girls.

When I was in middle school (a predominantly white middle school), I wore my natural hair as a statement. I felt like it was my duty to be proud of my hair in white spaces no matter how big it grew or how many weird looks I got. It was as if I was wearing my kinks not only for myself but for the Black community. Now, at Tuskegee I feel like I give myself permission to wear my hair for myself. I won't be looked at weirdly if I say the word kink, because they know what I mean. I don't have to prove anything anymore because I am surrounded by people who understand the beauty and history behind my kinks.


Taylor Ford is a freshman Nursing major from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She is part of Tuskegee University's Tennis Team and in her free time loves to travel, watch movies, and spend time with friends and family.

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