Textured Dreams

Illustration of a black woman with waist length braided hair, over a pink background with a red silhouette and navy blue wavy lines.

Textured Dreams

TEXTURED DREAMS is a vector illustration that portrays the personal journey of accepting natural textured, curly hair.

Sending Love to people of color struggling to accept their hair

An illustrative memoir, TEXTURED DREAMS is a reminder of the dreams had by countless youth of color in their journey to love their hair and other features of their physical appearance, while in turn, learning to love themselves.

I spent my younger years neglecting my long, unruly Dominican and Puerto Rican curls. I felt different, I felt unkept, I felt wrong. The white boys in my schools had straight, blonde, and easy-flowing hair. They looked like the white or lightly tanned men with “normal” hairstyles in movies and shows, while I looked like none of them. Even in animated features geared towards children, my classmates could easily emulate all of Disney’s princes, and cartoon characters like Fred Jones, Superman, Ben Tennyson, Jonny Bravo, Danny Phantom, Timmy Turner, and the list goes on.

For years I wanted to look like Marlon Brando with a slick back style, or at least one of Danny Zuko’s combed-over greasers wearing cool jeans, leather jackets, and GREAT gelled hair. But that was not possible for me without the use of harsh chemicals, and expensive repetitive treatments to maintain the facade.

If you want to be liked or be perceived as cool, you have to assimilate and look like people as they are portrayed in common media, and pop culture. Translation, you need to get rid of, or calm down your curls and look like a white person.

“Calm your curls Rivas, calm your curls Rivas, calm your curls Rivas.”

⸺ Christopher Rivas [“I’m An Actor of Color. My Curls Aren’t Wanted.” The New York Times, July 13, 2020]

In this piece, we are no longer fitting in. We are breaking the molds that we as people of color have been told we needed to fit into in order to be accepted. In this piece, an African American woman dreams of having long, breezy, straight hair. Though gorgeous and braided, she fantasizes about a less textured dream. In this same dream, she realizes her NATURAL TEXTURED CURLY hair is beautiful and has been this entire time.

Inspiration

When I was around nine years of age I thought a little about how my beloved step-grandfather Mr. Eddy would always refer to me as “Prince”. All those years I simply assumed he was calling me a prince, like royalty. It wasn’t until my mother had me watch Purple Rain that I realized he was comparing my curls to that of the prolific multi-instrumentalist, singer-songwriter, and one of the greatest musicians of his generation Prince Rogers Nelson. Only then did I begin to find comfort in my naturally occurring curly hair.

Prince Rogers Nelson

Reference

I wanted to represent the beauty and versatility of protective hairstyles that originate from African culture. Women and sometimes men expressed themselves through amazing braids, twists, locks, and sometimes included jewelry adornments. These hairstyles protect textured hair from manipulation that leads to breakage, or damage that is caused from the elements.

While being raised in Camden County New Jersey, I was welcomed by women with textured hair. I witnessed many of my friends struggle with their own physical appearance, from their skin to their weight, body type, and especially their hair. Therefore, I chose to represent them visually through this model as my blueprint.

Photo by Alex Sorto, via Unsplash.

Design Process

Emotion Motion

My reference image provided a strong foundation for me to work on. But I needed to convey the dream aspect of the piece. I also wanted to represent the internal pain of self-rejection. The feeling woman is dreaming of free-flowing hair while discovering the beauty of her natural hair.

Once I was satisfied with the design, I decided to animate the piece to further represent the dream aspect of the piece.

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