I grew up in a sad a little community where everyone had the same description of being beautiful. Where the perfect shade of colour was not of our own, where natural kinky hair was rather seen as unruly, where being big boned was rather disgusting. Where having a flat bum was a disgrace. I wish I was exaggerating but I am not.
This sad community of EtiNkonjaneni rather depressed me because I was never part of any of the beauty standards they had set. I grew up a sad child, well until I came to Jozi.
I lived in EtiNkonjaneni from the age of two until I was five, but my mom decided it was best I lived with her in Johannesburg. So having been depressed from such a young age must have given me a certain mind-set since I never had friends. I only played with the dolls I had, so you must understand how learning such negativity at a young age influenced my decisions at sixteen years old.
So when I came to Johannesburg, I thought I’d make a lot of friends who would accept me as I was, and I am so glad that I did, but it didn’t last long. I met Mbali, a Zimbabwean girl who lived across the street from where I stayed. She was my first and best friend, I loved her with all my heart, and I still do. Mbali’s features and character were like mine and we had a similar background. She was dripping in gorgeous dark chocolate melanin, her kinky coils were black and thick, big boned she was with a flat behind. I knew I had met my twin soul!
So, together we faced challenges; went to school and other learners used to laugh at how dark we were. They laughed at how short our hair was, mind you, our hair was very curly and the other girls had their hair straightened with chemicals. They laughed that at the age of six we wore 7-8 year old clothing. They laughed at our deep accents and said we spoke like boys. It was rather a tough journey but we made it!
So in our growth as young children, I also wanted to look like other children, but no matter if I covered all parts of my body, my complexion never changed and I gave up. The best thing we could do was to straighten our hair, and successfully we did, but exercise was a dread, never did it until today!
We were so convinced we were more acceptable especially when we came into our teen years, we forgot about ourselves. It was in mid-2017 when I looked at pictures of my younger self where I realised I had lost who I truly was. I realised I was not truly happy with who I had become. I remember looking at the mirror crying to myself and I took a pair of scissors and cut my hair — the best feeling I ever had.
I looked like a train smash after that and went to the salon to get a haircut. Surprisingly, Mbali was also there to do the same, we were tired of living inside other people’s bodies and accepted ourselves for who we truly were. Finally, I was no longer ashamed of my pigmentation, my kinky locks, full figured-ness and beautiful accent. I found who I was!
Basically what I’m trying to say is that, you are never truly free until you stop living following someone else’s rules, standards, expectations. Love who you are, the way you are. You are the only you that’s around, you are limited edition. Embrace your own definition of beauty.
Tell us: Have you ever felt like you didn’t meet society’s standards?