Yesterday was portrait day at the Olympic Training Center. Some people love it, some people hate it. But for me, it was an excuse to take the time to highlight a part of myself that I almost never get to show off: No, not that. I’m talking about my hair.
For better or for worse, and despite not infrequently being the butt of Twitter jokes, I love my naturally curly hair. I love making it huge–the bigger the better. If it’s taking up space and all over the place, I’ve pretty much had the best hair day of my life. But bringing out the big curls is something I rarely have the time or reason to do, since it’s in a bun or a braid most of the time I’m either in or on my way to/from practice. There isn’t really a place for a full lion’s mane in our sport.
But I didn’t always love my hair. For a long time as a younger person, I wished it was straight. And tried anything to make it that way. It made me sad, and insecure, and frustrated with a part of myself that I couldn’t change. So when I found this awesome video from Dove, I wanted to join the conversation. I know how frustrating it can be to feel like you don’t know what to do with your hair, or that you can’t be beautiful or normal if your hair isn’t “perfect” and straight.
After all of the stress leading up to and after London 2012, my hair actually changed quite a lot… and I was devastated when I thought my curls were gone for good (I wore it straight more often during this time because it wouldn’t curl–including in all the photos on my blog). It was such a part of my identity and something unique that I loved about my body, I hated the thought of letting it go. Fortunately, with more normal levels of stress and getting back in to a routine, my hair returned to its normal, crazy, bodacious self, and I couldn’t be happier.
So for team head shots: I wore it big. Really big. And so did some of my awesome teammates, who are also naturally curly. My curls don’t make me a better athlete. But they do make me who I am, and part of making yourself better or stronger, is to embrace who you are, and go confidently forward in whatever you do. Young women and young female athletes have enough crap to deal with, without being made to feel like their hair is a fault.
BIG LOUD AND PROUD,