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Model Solange van Doorn pens a personal love letter to her hair

Along with images shot at Coney Island, the New York-based model reflects on her mixed-race heritage and grappling with it while growing up

Welcome to Rooted, a campaign celebrating the power of black hair and the launch of ‘Tallawah’ – an exhibition by photographer Nadine Ijewere and hairstylist Jawara Wauchope. Here, we explore what the beauty of black hair is all over the globe, from Jamaica to London and New York to the screens of Nollywood films. 

Solange van Doorn is a New York-based model who has penned a personal piece exploring her struggles with her hair growing up. Here, she appears in a film and photo series – shot by Patrick Phillips and Alex Cruz respectively. 

Looking back at my earliest memories as a child, the trials of dealing with my hair are some of the most dominant memories. I remember hours being spent by my family members detangling my neglected knots and I fought them so hard.

It was always such a learning process though, and my Oma made it her mission to learn all she could for me. The effort she put in and the time she set aside to try and figure out what my hair needed made me quickly respect my curls. If my Oma was putting time into it, it was worth loving and tending to. 

That being said, for any child growing up, there are always moments of wanting what you don’t have. I dreamed of having long, beautiful, straight hair that the other girls could wear any way they wanted, and when it was out it would flow so beautifully and look so cute tucked behind their ears. Meanwhile, I just saw myself as a big walking poof ball of frizz. 

As much as I admired the other girls’ hair, I never asked to play with it or touch it – mostly because I had no desire to stick my hands all up in someone else’s head. I couldn’t say the same for my peers though, countless sleepovers and pre-ballet classes I got asked if they could braid it or play with it. I would always reply: ‘No, it’s not as easy to braid as yours,’ or ‘you can try but it’s just going to turn into a knot’. They always insisted anyway for reasons I now realise were nothing more than being completely unaware. 

The most upsetting moment for me was when I was in elementary school. I had spent what felt like hours upon hours at the hair salon getting my hair straightened for the school week and I felt beautiful and held my head high all day at school; I was receiving compliments left, right, and centre. Until lunch, when one of my classmates decided to pour water all over my head. A massive no-no if you just got your hair done. My hair started to curl back up and like a chia pet, it didn’t take long for my perfectly straight hairdo to be reverted back to a half frizz. I cried all the way home that day, sad and scared because I know my mum had spent her time and money getting me what I wanted and it was ruined

Even as a young adult today, I still see this ignorance daily and there’s a really simple fix. Expose yourself and the people around you to all kinds of people and treat everyone the same regardless of the tiny or large differences. What people need to understand more than anything is that we are all undeniably human beings and should be treated as such; not tools for others’ curiosity.

Now that I’m older, I’m in love with my hair, and I’ve come to realise that I too can have straight or wavy hairstyles once in a while, but can always revert back to my natural curls with ease. The best of both worlds! I wish I knew then what I know now, so I wouldn’t have stressed a second more. 

Photography Alex Cruz, hair Sidnee Omphroy, model Solange van Doorn, film Patrick Phillips – courtesy of IMG Originals