This guest post was written by Annette Kemp, a model, actress, and fellow beauty blogger. Be sure to check out her blog!
“How do you get your curls to do that?!”, someone comments excitedly. “Mousse and a diffuser,” I reply and hit send. Oh, if only it was that easy! In fact, it took me YEARS and YEARS to get my curls to do that, Lady. And it’s a long and frustrating tale.
So here it is. What I actually want to say when people ask about my hair routine.
Growing up as a redhead is an, let’s say, interesting journey. From people in malls stopping your mom to gush over your hair, to starting your education and being the only redhead in the entire school, like a lone carrot in a field of wheat.
Luckily I had my redheaded mother to provide some comfort when I came home complaining about everyone telling me “tomatoes belong in the fridge!” And the facetious little Afrikaans rhyme: “Bring die water! Bring die sand! Annette se kop is aan die brand!” (Bring the water! Bring the sand! Annette’s head is on fire!)
Yes, I know, how original.
But yes, mom was there to remind me that I’m supposed to feel unique and special, when in reality I felt sort of singled out, and cursed to always attract attention with my “head on fire”.
As a little girl I didn’t so much mind my bedhead of curls, especially when it led to me joining a modeling and acting agency at the age of four, after a photographer saw mom and I strolling in the mall. (Us redheads all know malls can be the worst; why do people gawk like they’ve never seen red hair before?!)
But that’s another part of the story.
The thing about curls are, they require MANAGEMENT. Serious management! And unfortunately as a preteen I had NO IDEA that curl management does not mean brushing and just tying it back in an attempt to hide the fluff ball frizz!
So, armed with a ton of hair elastics and swooning over my friends’ sleek, straight locks, I grew up never knowing that curly hair can be tamed and embraced. I did dabble a little, in high school. But this frizzy with braces look on my first red carpet film event is one I’d sooner forget!I turned to my dear friend the straightening iron to tame the bird’s nest so I could look like the other cool girls at school. But I felt…bored. Restrained. No matter how much I picked up the iron I’d always wake up with wispy curls the next morning as the night’s humidity wreaked havoc on my perfectly tamed tresses.
So, I made a life changing decision. I was going to cut my hair off.
No, not just the tips. ALL OF IT. It had to go! I didn’t know how to make my curls look bouncy and carefree like in the commercials and I felt sick and tired of people only defining me by my hair color. Being called “Red” and “Rooikoppie” (Afrikaans for little redhead) and “Flame”, and even “Rooibos Tea” by guys made teenage me, wanting to be one of those “sexy girls”, a bit difficult. I didn’t like being made fun of, even with pure intentions and good humor. I didn’t want to feel like all I ever was was “that redheaded girl”.
So off it went, all of it.
I woke up the next morning with a strange cold breeze on my scalp, lifted my hand, and recoiled in shock. WHAT HAD I DONE?
I looked in the mirror and tears welled up in my eyes. I didn’t look…pretty. I looked like a boy. I felt the stubbly hairs and tried to compose myself. Right there, like those cartoon lightbulbs above character’s heads, I came to a realization, and made a decision that will always remain with me.
You don’t need hair to feel pretty. Your worth as a person isn’t defined by what’s on your head. Compliments and teasing aside, I wasn’t going to let my hair become my identity.
People’s reactions ranged from slightly disgusted at my change, to loving it and calling me “edgy” and “liberated”. Those words seemed a lot nicer than just “Carrot Top”.
I slowly learned to play up my features with makeup, instead of always being eclipsed by my hair. I realized that a woman with short hair is a strong woman. Who doesn’t conform to society’s ideas of beauty. Who doesn’t get catcalled as much because she looks FIERCE.Ladies, Coco Chanel said that “a woman who cuts her hair is about to change her life.” And that’s what I did. Never let your hair become a security blanket. You’re not your hair.
A princess, a queen, doesn’t need long hair. A Princess can be whatever she wants.
Of course, hair grows again. That’s the beauty of it. And as my hair grew so did my acceptance of myself and my self esteem.
And lo and behold, those pesky curls returned.
But this time I was ready for them!
It was ’round about this time that I discovered my Idol, Molly Ringwald. A girl who defined a generation’s fashion with her red bob. Mom copied her style when she was younger, and so did I.
The bob phase helped me redefine my hair and what I can make it do, finding a fusion between straight and curly. But I was ready: I would retire my straightener and finally embrace my God Given curls. The growing out process taught me how to shape and care for them with a clean slate.
I graduated from my BA Live Performance degree looking just like my nickname, Annie.
Only she wasn’t the little orphan anymore. I finally felt like myself.
And here’s mom at her graduation, sporting that 80s blowout.
I don’t mind when people call me Annie. I AM Annie. I’m a short, curly redhead and running from it helped me turn back and find myself.
Every redheaded woman starts her journey as a little redheaded girl. What people say about us, the stereotypes? It’s up to you whether you prove them wrong or embrace them. You, redheaded girl, woman, mother, sister, get to decide how people see you, and more importantly, how you see YOURSELF.