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Women In Charge: Hair activist Amanda Carpede opens up about the journey of loving her natural hair

Amanda Carpede is the founder of Curly Q Africa - a platform that aims to cultivate a consciousness of natural hair, beauty, and identity, and connect women across the continent to share in this purpose. As a natural hair activist, Amanda wants women to feel beautiful in their most natural state - this includes embracing the texture of our hair, age, size, and everything about ourselves that we often wish to change.

However, our desire to change things is often the result of societal beauty standards imposed on us at a young age. Nowhere is this more evident than when it comes to the topic of women’s hair.

For years, women of colour have had their hair policed and politicised, making it difficult for women to love and embrace their natural hair in all its forms. For Amanda, this experience was a profound opportunity that allowed her to cultivate self-love, acceptance, and self-confidence.

Here, she opens up to Glamour SA about the journey of learning to love her natural, ethnic hair.

For some women, embracing their natural hair is a complex and emotional process. What does your hair mean to you today as a woman?

Growing up I always detested my hair because it wasn’t straight enough or the curls weren’t loose enough. I had to straighten my hair to fit in. Relaxed, straight hair equaled beauty. Because that’s exactly what every magazine article or television ad told you. Today I am thankful that I went through that because this journey taught me that my “roots” lies within the kink in my curl. My hair texture is the result of those who walked before me. I carry my hairstory with me constantly, and that makes me powerful!

What was your journey like in feeling confident with your hair/curls?

I started my journey for my daughter. It was at a time when the natural hair movement was just a whisper in South Africa. There were no bloggers or influencers documenting their journey in Cape Town, so chopping off my hair and writing about it was a foreign concept. I was always stopped by women who thought I was brave, or pointed at by those who tried to ridicule me. The more I wore my hair in it’s natural form, the more confident I became. It has been a rollercoaster of note, but I don’t regret it at all.

What was your mission with founding the CurlyQ Africa platform?

CurlyQ Africa was formed because there is a growing need on the continent to cultivate and celebrate our identity, natural hair and self-care. It’s a community of women who help guide each other in discovering who they truly are.

Growing up, were there any beliefs/ideologies imposed on you about natural hair, and how did it impact your confidence?

Every magazine, television ad and even fairytale told the story of how our hair wasn’t seen as beautiful. I grew up believing I wasn’t good enough. Sadly, some women and girls still lack confidence because of the image of what society /media deems beautiful. This is the reason why our work at CurlyQ Africa is so important.

Women of colour have had their hair policed and politicised for generations. Why is it important that we are now taking a stand?

We’re taking a stand for ourselves, but also for our younger sisters and our children. We are showing them that beauty lies within ourselves. This is such an important question because sadly, women of colour are still being policed and politicised because of their hair by women of colour - by taking a stand, we are also breaking generational trauma brought on by the past.

What does it mean to see natural hair represented in mainstream media?

Whenever I see prominent figures in mainstream media embrace their natural hair, it gives me hope for young girls who look up to them.

What do you love most about your hair?

Everything! My hair has a life of its own. It’s constantly telling me which products it prefers, whether it needs moisture (always) or when it needs to be clarified or treated. We have a great relationship.

Is there anything you dislike(d) about your hair?

My curl pattern - but then I started loving who I am wholeheartedly.

What does the statement “I am not my hair” mean to you? And do you agree with this statement?

The statement: “ I am not my hair” means Don’t judge me for the kink in my curl. I am more than my hair. Yes, I absolutely agree with it. I feel it’s extremely shallow to judge people on “looks”

What advice would you give to young girls who are still learning to love their hair?

My advice would actually be to all women of colour. Whether you have a daughter, niece, sister or neighbour, our girls need to be empowered to love their natural hair and beauty. Access to resources celebrating natural hair and beauty such as books, toys and even social media, are fortunately much more available than it ever was before. We need to continue showing our girls how beautiful and powerful they are, until they become empowered enough to love who they truly are.

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