Man Repeller Has A Confession To Make

Photo: Gregory Pace/BEImages.
Earlier today, Leandra Medine (a.k.a. Man Repeller) posted a thoughtful essay on her website dubbed "Confession: I Hate My Hair," in which she discusses the tumultuous relationship she's had with her strands. You see, she's naturally curly, and has been ironing that mane into submission for over a decade.

Medine recounts how straight hair was the seemingly unattainable ideal that she never knew she wanted — until her mother blowdried her hair for the first time: "I didn't know I could manipulate my primordial features to better align with the adolescent-girl-wanted features of my fancies and when it became clear that I could, all bets were off." She started straightening around 14, and never looked back. 

As a fellow wavy, frizzy gal, my ears immediately perked up. For one, her story spoke exactly to my experiences, but also to the experiences of women I've met during my career. For special occasions, my mother would blowdry my hair straight. All through high school, I woke up an hour early in order to singe my thick, unruly strands into a long, sleek style with a flat iron. I thought my obsession was validated, because everyone "pretty" at school had silky, straight hair. In the summer, when I'd let my strands dry naturally, I'd always feel as if I needed to work a brush through them. But, the second I did, they'd turn into a frizzy, poufy mess — my mane became a traitor. Even once I embraced my curls, I still worked a wand through them in one way or another — they've almost never been in their natural state. 

Medine's experience was similar. Her mother would tell her that "hair matters. It can change how you feel about yourself." She grew up feeling that curly hair wasn't cool, so she beat it into submission. This, she admits, is an idea that is in direct conflict with the entire ethos of Man Repeller.

It's a tricky situation that Medine, and all of us with hair we can't stand, find ourselves in. On one hand, we want to embrace our natural beauty. But, isn't beauty about making yourself feel good? So, how do you make peace with the hair you were born with? And, how do you reconcile it with the hair that makes you feel your best? Whenever my mane gets a little unruly, I feel unkempt — but does that mean I should iron out my curls instead of, say, learning how to perfect them?

I've come to a place of appreciation (albeit, not quite adoration) of my strands. I'm air-drying more, but have learned to manipulate my curls to dry nicer with the help of some products. No longer do I dry straight and then curl almost every morning. Medine is also adopting a different approach — and I'm not quite at her level. "I'll wear my curls out, I'll fake pride until it almost feels real, and every time I catch my reflection, I'll smile at it," she writes. This is a major moment for her, and it's super-inspiring — something as simple as wearing your hair differently can be symbolic of larger, more meaningful self-acceptance. 

I don't believe there is a right or wrong answer in this discussion, and I suspect Medine doesn't either. The best we can do is whatever makes us feel our most beautiful. For Medine, it's about being true to herself, even if that means sporting a style she hasn't always been comfortable with. And, in my mind, that's brave. (If she needs advice on where to get a good cut or which products to use, we hope she knows she's got a friend in us.) 
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