In South Asian culture, hair holds a lot of currency. It’s the ultimate signifier of beauty. The hair of South Asian women is even sought after around the world for wigs and extensions: It’s long, it’s strong, it’s glossy black. Oh, and it’s very, very straight. Except when it’s not at all. We talked to three models of South Asian heritage about how they learned to appreciate, even love, their rich, sometimes raucous waves and curls.
“Growing up in New Jersey, I was surrounded by girls who looked a lot different than me — they all had straight, silky hair. I started to straighten my big, poofy curls because I wanted to be just like them,” explains Sri Lankan American model Deseni Fernando. “But after seeing more people in the media and in my South Asian community embrace their curls, I started to see the beauty in that. I thought, Wow, my hair is like that too.” So over the last year, Fernando stopped straightening for good. “Embracing my curls has made me a much more confident and proud South Asian woman,” she says.