Growing up my Father never allowed me to have long hair, whilst the other girls in my school had shiny heads ordained with all kinds of stylish braids of various patterns, I was always subjected to a boys cut. Making me look more like a Manqoba then a Nqobile and I must say I hated it. I would admire my friends but I knew as soon as my hair grew long enough for it to be plated my Dad had a haircut appointment looming nearby.
I remember always feeling ugly even though I was in Grade 3, I was aware of the fact that my hair was different, very different and once I was asked by another girl why I was using the girls bathroom and not the boys. This only added to my pain and for the longest time I thought if only my hair was different, if only I could style it,I would look like a girl and use the bathroom in peace. My favorite shows at this age consisted of Totally Spies, That’s so Raven and Kim Possible to name but a few (Shout Out to 90s kids who know what entertainment is about!!!)
Needless to say, I don’t have fond memories of my Primary school life in terms of hair and when I look back now there just weren’t any women, none that I knew of anyway that were rocking short hair and being called beautiful with it.
I remember this one time my Step-mother took me to the salon without my Dad and told me I could do anything I wanted, I styled my hair into what was called an “S-curl” and walked out feeling like my dream of beauty had finally come true. It was short lived because my Dad wanted no such thing as soon as the curls were gone I was ordered to return to the Barber and remove “all that nonsense” as he called it. My Step-mother risked her life for me that day, and I will love her forever for it.
It’s shocking that my obsession didn’t stop even in adulthood because at some point of my childhood I concluded that beauty was about hair the more you have of it the better, the girls with the silkiest, longest and most stylish hair in my opinion were the most beautiful. I was on the furthest side of what was seen to be beauty if this was the case.
What I didn’t understand at this tender age, is that long after I could afford the hair of my own choosing and achieve my standard of beauty I would still struggle to see myself as beautiful because what the young me was never told is that beauty has more to do with the inside than what you look like on the outside. That you can tick all the boxes in terms of external beauty and still struggle with low self-esteem and confidence.
I had a really low self-esteem even in my adult years and it took me a while before I could completely make peace with my appearance accepting my body with what I saw as flaws and being grateful I was able-bodied and capable of so much as well.
Now it would be absolutely indecent of me to speak of the current Miss SA without mention of our very own Ntandoyenkosi Kunene- Mthethwa, who is the formely elected Miss SA from Mkhondo I remember seeing news of her when she became Miss Mpumalanga thinking to myself that she’s truly is destined for greatness, you can come from humble beginnings and eventually share platforms and rub shoulders with the stars. When she won the Miss SA I just remember the entire town being abuzz and how so many young women set their eyes on her and celebrated as if her success had also become their very own, It had to some extent she opened a door for all those who could never imagine it possible. I think the most powerful message for me will always be that if you are meant for greatness it will search wild for you and even though she’s moved on well with her life after being crowned, started a family and has married the life of her life she will always be what makes Miss SA most memorable for us, because in that moment we all had grabbed hold of her victory and it still serves as a constant light beam reminding us that impossible is only as real a concept as what you perceive it to be.
Which brings me to my thoughts on the newly crowned Miss SA.
Zozibini who hails from Tsolo in Eastern Cape, a 25 year old and a Public relations graduate is also just so beautiful to me.
As a child I wonder if my perception of beauty would have been slightly better if Zozibini was elected then. I wonder if I would have changed my constant obsession with longer hair if I just saw that the length of my hair says nothing about the depths of my heart. I wonder if exposure to all forms of beauty as opposed to a certain kind would have freed me from all the shame. Now I am not in any way looking down on or disqualifying people with weaves or long hair, I own a few of my own weaves and I in no way think that hair is the only factor we need to consider when we explore our views on beauty. I am simply saying to some extent it does have an effect. Representation matters.
I have seen the beautiful growth of the natural hair market, from a time only a few items were designated to maintaining natural hair to know where you see multiple isles with options and the child in me rejoices. Zozibini is so striking to me because I honestly feel more younger women can benefit from seeing beauty in its most natural form, according to me anyway. And Women are beautiful not only because of their appearance as I feel I am not stating enough but also how they carry themselves, how they treat others and this cannot be reduced to a petty issue pertaining hair. Excuse my long rant.
I really wish the younger me could have experienced all that Zozibini represents, because honestly to her hair was unfortunately everything. I hope this beauty knows that what is in her heart is more beautiful than what the outside would ever portray. I hope somewhere a child out there feels more comfortable with the way she looks. I wish her all the possible success in her journey and I honestly find her strikingly beautiful.
Congratulations to her!