Darnelle Casimir

Close up portrait of African skincare models with perfect dark skin and curly hair. Beauty spa treatment concept.

“Growing up without my mom, and in a predominantly white area, I always felt different than other girls. My hair became one of my biggest insecurities. My dad would bring me to the African hair braiders in Brooklyn to get box braids as a protective style—that made me feel like such an individual. It was that one thing that no one else had. As a former ballerina, it is standard and expected to have your hair brushed back in a tight bun. One day before class, my babysitter put my tiny individual braids in a bun and what happened next stayed with me forever. My ballet teacher, Ms. Sonya, questioned why my hair looked the way it did. She said I looked like Medusa, and I was barred from class until I took my braids out. I remember feeling embarrassed and sad that I was singled out for my hair being different despite it being in the parameters of a ballerina bun. I didn’t understand the extent of her insult until I looked up a photo on the family computer of Medusa. Medusa was a monster in Greek mythology and described as a winged woman with living venomous snakes in place of hair. I went home and told my dad what Ms. Sonya said, and he was livid. He immediately called the dance studio and schooled her on protective styles for Black girls. Despite my being 9-years-old, I was not going to let Ms. Sonya’s ignorance plague my view of box braids. Box braids are something I hold near and dear me. They represent originality, individuality, and Black culture across the diaspora. For any little girls reading this that are made fun of for braids or feel different because of them, your style of choice binds you to all of the beautiful women across the diaspora for generations preceding you, and there is power in that.” — Darnelle Casimir