4 Major Things I Learned About The Naturally Curly Community in 2020

4 Major Things I Learned About The Naturally Curly Community in 2020

For 2 years in a row as part of my curly hair journey anniversary, I’ve recorded a video that encapsulates what I’ve learned about the curly community for the year.

I usually publish that video on my personal platform however I’m switching it up this year in honor of my 3 year anniversary AND to commemorate launching API Curls as its own platform!

And let me tell you, there are very interesting things I’ve learned throughout the year:

MY PERSPECTIVE ABOUT API REPRESENTATION IN THE CURLY COMMUNITY IS BASED ON AN AMERICAN LENS

I remember reading a random social media post asking why is it that the world revolves around American media, American pop culture, American politics and American influence?

Given that I’m not a Sociologist, Historian or part of any other profession that would grant me the breadth of knowledge to answer that question, what I can tell you from my observations is that my perspectives are centered around the, dare I say, privileged American lens.

Outside of America, there are things happening that I haven’t been exposed to.

  • I’m discovering pockets of fairly strong and large curly communities near certain parts of Asia including an Indonesian salon specializing in curly hair with more than 20K followers.
  • I’ve always been aware that the South Asian community has its own presence in the curly community, but now I’m starting to learn exactly what that entails through my conversations with people who identify as South Asian. I’ll bring this up again later in this video.
  • I’ve also been told there are a few Facebook groups specifically for the Philippines with a fairly significant amount of members.

The more I uncover these little gems, I lowkey get frustrated because I’m sitting here like why and how have I not come across any of this information in my Google searches or calls for help online?!

The thing is, search engines are doing exactly what they’re supposed to be doing and sometimes algorithms for search engines, social media and artificial intelligence isn’t always our best friend. Which brings me to my next point.

SEARCH ENGINES: FRIEND OR FOE FOR THE CURLY COMMUNITY?

In a Facebook group I’m part of, an individual asked the question we are constantly tasked with answering: do Asians have curly hair too?

From the thread, there were 172 varied comments. I was proud to see many individuals speak up and say “I AM ASIAN WITH NATURALLY CURLY HAIR” including a photo of themselves. And it was a very diverse set of individuals from different regions of Asia.

The person who originally created the thread, later in the comments did say that their understanding of what’s considered as Asian was limited and thanks to the thread, their perspective has broadened.

The people who demonstrated a visual answer to the question, and the individual who learned from the discussion, were the best parts about the thread.

However, there were many other commentors who suggested this individual do the work themselves by “Googling it.” This individual was criticized for tasking the BIPOC community with explaining ourselves and our experiences, and the solution that many critics gave was Google.

Suggesting that Google had the answer felt very alarming to me.

Look, I love Google. I use it multiple times a day and am not sure how I can function without it, but Google and other search engines haven’t been the best resource in answering this particular question (hence my first point).

I’ve talked about this countless times, even in my original video about why I decided to embrace my curls, and I’ve mentioned that my searches on Google did not and could not give me the answer I was looking for.

I could create another video based on this topic alone, but here are a few reasons why this is the case:

  • The algorithms of search engines, social media, and artificial intelligence are wired in a very specific framework. Arguably, that framework is based on a White or Eurocentric lens. Additionally, that framework is generally localized.
  • It’s 100% possible that when I tried to search for individuals who identify as API who had naturally curly hair, the algorithms had given me localized content, meaning content based in America, and had perhaps given me search results based on a Eurocentric agenda, essentially meaning I might’ve been given results that perpetuated Eurocentric beauty standards.
  • Lastly, it’s also possible that individuals in the curly community who identify as API haven’t been given the appropriate resources and support to ensure that they could exist and successfully be discovered in the realm of social media, search engines and AI.

Now, has any of this changed in recent years? Oh yeah, but we’ll talk more about that at a later time.

ACCESS TO PRODUCTS HAVE CHANGED

I brought this up in my one year anniversary video where I mentioned I couldn’t find a lot of resources linking curly hair products that were available in Asian and Pacific Island countries either sold directly there, or shipped there.

Again, going back to my first point, me trying to push past my American lens and my American access to information has helped me uncover resources that do exist!

  • I’ve been able to discover online shops that ship a wide range of products to certain parts of the world that was previously inaccessible.
  • I’ve discovered brands and companies that are specifically designed and catered to certain groups within our API community, that are based in other parts of Asia.
  • I can tell you right now that we’re in the process of speaking with brands and partners about options for making their products available in regions that matter to us.

I’d love to expand on this initiative, but for now, our giveaways are a perfect way to start. If not now, then when?

THE NEED TO RECOGNIZE MULTICULTURAL, MULTI-GEOGRAPHIC, MULTI-GENERATIONAL AND MULTIRACIAL EXPERIENCES IN THE REALM OF API CURLS

Earlier in this video I mentioned that the South Asian community has its own presence in the curly community, which is something to admire and celebrate.

It’s crucial that when we talk about API Curls, we acknowledge that no two ethnic and cultural groups within the API community are the same or have the same experiences in the context of curly hair.

We need to recognize and understand that there are multicultural, multi-geographic, multi-generational and multiracial experiences. There are nuances come with their own set of complexities.

  • For example, I had an individual who is of South Asian descent share with me that having curly hair is seen as being forward or provocative or attention seeking within the Indian community. This individual shared that they’ve been called “exotic” far too many times for being both Indian and having big curly hair.
  • I, as a Cambodian woman, have been told that Cambodians consider curly hair to be ugly.
  • I have observed multiple elderly East Asian women get curly perms.

These are all very different attitudes and approaches to curly hair. As we see more stories being shared, we can then begin to learn what these differences are about based on certain groups of people.

I hope some of the points I’ve made gives you things to think about when it comes to the curly community. Comment below and share which of the points I’ve made in this video is most intriguing to you and why.

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