Updated: Jul 12, 2021
By: Caitlin Smith
My name is Caitlin, I'm 21 years old, and I’m the middle child of three. Growing up, I’ve always had a passion for two things: writing and kids. So, when I got older and learned I could merge the two together, I was thrilled and decided to write a children’s book called Natural Beauty.
I grew up having a lot of insecurities surrounding my hair, because although I grew up in a Black household and went to a predominantly Black and Hispanic school, I never really had enough representation of my hair to look at. All my cousins and aunts had perms and so did a lot of the girls I went to school with. To make matters worse, everything I saw on TV and in magazines was about straight hair. So, I felt like in order to be beautiful and fit in, I needed to have straight hair. I begged and pleaded with my mom until she permed it and I was only around 4 or 5 when she did it. For those who may not know a perm is (also known as a relaxer), it is a chemical treatment done to permanently straighten curly hair.
I didn’t start to regret my decision until my little sister was born. We’re seven years apart and seeing how long and full her hair was made me a little jealous. I also was obsessed with her curls and wanted so badly for my hair to be that way. I, still, however, wasn’t ready to do the big chop, nor did I want to. A big chop is when you cut the chemically straightened pieces of your hair out and allow your natural state of hair to grow. I felt like natural hair was way too time consuming and I didn’t have the time to style it. As my sister started to get older, she became less loving towards her natural hair and began wanting a perm. My parents refused because they knew they had already made that mistake with my hair. I didn’t understand how she couldn’t see the beauty in her hair when I did. I desperately wanted her to see how beautiful her hair was, but I knew I was the wrong person to tell her about the beauty of her hair since I didn’t even love my hair enough to keep it in its natural state. It took a while, but my little sister eventually began to see the beauty of her natural hair and now loves experimenting with it and doing new styles.
I met this little girl in highschool named Alex who had the most beautiful thick, long, natural hair.
On my graduation day, she wore all of her hair out and she FLAUNTED it like no other. I loved it so much and knew that, that was the confidence ALL Black people should have when it comes to their natural hair, young or old. That night, I sat down and began writing. I wanted to write something I knew young girls could read, relate to, and learn from. The writing process took all night, but the moment I started writing I didn’t stop until it was done. I took my situation and my sister's negative feelings towards having her hair natural and I gave it a happy ending. My sister was always upset that she wasn’t allowed to get a perm and sometimes dreaded having to wear her hair out. I gave the little girl Kayla the same love and appreciation for her hair that Alex had.
Once the book was done, I released it on youtube. However, something still didn’t feel right. I felt so wrong telling young girls to appreciate and love their natural hair when I was still getting perms. So, I finally did the big chop one night and started both my journeys. The first journey was learning to work with my natural hair and the second journey was learning to love it. “Kayla”, the character in this book, is not just a representation of loving your natural hair; she’s a representation of self love and embracing yourself no matter what the world and society deems beautiful.
**Check out Caitlin’s “Natural Beauty” Audiobook here: https://youtu.be/q1ioeOlt1PE
Natural Beauty's Cover Photo