Printed on the side of Soft & Beautiful’s box
was, according to childhood me, the ‘picture-perfect’ Black girl: ‘lightly melanated’ with a pearly white smile and long shiny and flowing curls propped up with colourful hair bobbles. She was an African-American girl, but for a Black girl on the other side of the pond, I immediately connected with her. I trusted her when I read the words ‘Just Like Me’ on the box, and erroneously mistook the words ‘no-lye conditioner’ for meaning ‘no lie
’ conditioner. I’d grow up to learn that I was wrong on both counts. Yet, it was that growing familiarity with her
that got me through the burns to my scalp as layers of pungent-smelling cream and a heavy concoction of chemicals strong enough to unblock drains
were applied to my curls, permanently making them straight. Black girls like myself formed a parasocial relationship with these ‘relaxer girls’ every few weeks, months or years as we repeated the process — never mind that we did not know them. And like so many figurines of our bygone childhoods, ‘those girls’ went into obscurity, until this month.