Tamia Mahe

As a Pacific Islander, growing up having thick, curly hair made it difficult for me to be accepted into society. Throughout primary school I was bullied because my hair was different from the other kids, it was “too big” or “too much” Being surrounded by kids with straight hair, I felt like an outcast. I hated the way I looked and I would cry to my Mum wishing I had different hair – hair that was straight and acceptable.  She would always reassure me that I was beautiful and her favourite line to tell me was

“Your hair is unique and a lot of people pay a lot of money to have hair like you”

I didn’t understand at the time till now.

As I got older, I was introduced to straighteners (my worst enemy). I didn’t care if it took me an hour to straighten my hair, I didn’t care if it damaged my natural hair. This was because I was too busy being consumed by society’s beauty standards which resulted in me thinking I would be more accepted and beautiful with straight hair. Many times, I was told I should straighten my hair more often, and how I

“Look beautiful with straight hair.”

These comments were disguised as compliments, when in reality they were offensive and hurtful. Essentially, I had to have straight hair in order to be accepted within society which made me realise how toxic it was to change my appearance in order to fit in. 

However, I started to educate myself on my hair which connected me to my cultural heritage – having a Mum who is half Fijian and half British and a Dad who is half Tongan, half Samoan I was bound to have thick, curly – my hair held cultural history and it couldn’t be changed. Looking at family photos of the beautiful women from the islands has allowed me to embrace my hair more freely and to not be ashamed of my heritage. Each strand of my hair holds stories that have been passed down from my ancestors and for that I am thankful to be blessed with this hair.