Curly Hair Struggles (As Told By The Movies)
Ding! My mom sends me another haircut video on Instagram. After a whole semester away from home (and my beloved hairstylist), my hair is almost at my waist. At this rate, I’ll be dressing up as Rapunzel for Halloween. But since braiding the back of my head is a recipe for disaster, I open the video, hoping it will give me some inspiration for my “big chop” moment.
I watch it. It’s beautiful. It’s also useless. I text her back: “Love it, but it’s straight.”
In middle school, my hair decided to go from straight locks to frizz-filled curls, leaving me clueless on how to handle it. It was like someone told me to bake a cake but forgot to give me the recipe. Instead of how many eggs to add, I wondered how much conditioner I should put on. Instead of how long should I leave it in the oven, I asked how long should I blow dry it for. Instead of cake type (Chocolate? Lemon? Angel?), I scavenged through the Internet trying to find a curl like mine (2B? 2C? 3A?).
Learning how to work with your own unique hair is rough, complicated, and frustrating. Thankfully, we’ve all been there—even movie characters. Portrayals of hair on film can be rough: for recently frizzy-haired middle school me, makeover montages where a character’s hair went from frizz to sleek were particularly unforgiving. Was having curls really a problem that needed to be fixed?
The truth is that there is more to life than makeover montages and “perfect” portrayals, both in life and in film. There are good, bad, and even terrible hair days. From the discovery of my own hair’s weirdness to my current IDGAF “messy hair mood,” here are seven hair moments in movies that I’ve lived through.
The Discovery: Hermione Granger in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
You realize your hair isn’t like everyone else’s.
To me, it was during a musical choreography in eighth grade, when I discovered that I couldn’t toss my hair in a dance move without it turning into a bird’s nest.
Unlike Hermione, no one needs a Time-Turner to learn more about their hair (a mirror will do just fine). However, discovering your own hair’s peculiarities can be just as chaotic as time-traveling shenanigans. A shampoo that works for 99% of the population leaves your hair oily? Blow drying makes you look like you walked through a hurricane? Your usual haircut now makes your head look like a lamp? Welcome to the world of your hair.
The Daydream: Mia Thermopolis in The Princess Diaries
Ah yes, denial. You want a hair type that isn’t yours.
For most of my “life after curls,” I have wanted straight hair. I wanted a Mia Thermopolis makeover moment, where the “hot mess” that I am would transform into a straight-haired princess. I looked up hair salons in my area. I learned the different type of straightening techniques, from Brazilian blowouts to Japanese straightening. I cherished whenever I got my hair styled straight after a haircut, wishing it wouldn’t disappear at the first drop of water.
There’s nothing wrong with changing up your hair. If that will make you feel beautiful and confident, then go for it! However, you shouldn’t feel like you have to, even if it’s for royalty.
The Nightmare: Bridget Jones in Bridget Jones’s Diary
You have reached the point where you just can’t handle this ungrateful hair anymore.
Imagine this: 17-year-old frizzy-haired Me goes to the hair salon. I get my hair washed, cut, and blow dried. It’s not exactly the haircut I wanted—I was told having shorter hair on the front only worked for straight hair—but it was OK. Then the hairstylist picks up a comb and starts combing through my dried curls. I watch, in horror, as my OK Hair becomes like Bridget Jones’ after riding a convertible.
If you’ve ever almost cried in a hair salon after an appointment, trust me: I hear you, I’ve been there, and I’m so sorry for you. It’s gonna be OK—this isn’t the end (although it sure feels like it).
The Bad Decision: Kimberly Hart in Power Rangers
You have decided to take matters into your own hands. Or, in my case, your mom’s.
Six months after my meltdown at the hair salon, I’d decided to let my mom cut my hair at home as she followed a YouTube tutorial. She started cutting. Twenty minutes later, she told me she wasn’t sure what she was doing anymore.
Please don’t try this at home. But, if you do, please stop and call the hair salon while you still have some hair left to salvage.
The Savior: Merida in Brave
What’s this? You’re confident with your own hair?
After the YouTube haircut disaster, the universe must have decided I had suffered enough because the hairstylist who saved my half-botched-hair had curls too. She knew exactly what to do, and I left the salon more confident than Merida with my new haircut. My hair perfectly framed my face. My curls had just the right bounce.
And guess what? It was shorter in the front. Guess it wasn’t only for straight hair after all.
The Learning: Anna in Frozen
You have started to learn how to handle your hair.
It’s baby steps. Finding a styling cream that leaves your hair not too oily but not too frizzy. Discovering a washing and drying routine that suits you. Learning how to style your hair to a point where you can do it as quickly as Anna (if you manage to do this, please tell me your secret).
Personally, I love finding tutorials that actually work for my hair, especially ones based on fictional characters. My current favorites are:
Jackie Wyers on Emma Watson’s Belle from Beauty and the Beast
Kayley Melissa on Daenerys Targaryen from Game of Thrones
The IDGAF: MJ in Spiderman: Homecoming
Your journey was rough, but you did it: you have tamed your own hair. And now you will do whatever you want with it.
Can I do three different kinds of braids and put my hair up in a complex half up style? Sure. Do I also sometimes just roll out of bed, tie it up, and go to class? Honestly, yes.
Figuring out how to handle your own hair can be a wild ride, so, at the end of it, you should enjoy it. Use your newfound powers whenever you want to.
Everyone’s hair is different. However, wherever you are in your hair journey—whether you’re french braiding while reading this or discovering that your hair does look like that from the back—there are plenty of great (and relatable!) movies to cheer you up on your “bad hair days.”
Know that you aren’t alone: we’re all somewhere in this ongoing learning process. Speaking of which, does anyone know how to cut bangs for curly hair? Asking for a friend.