Jade Jackson was just three years old when she stood on the toilet and declared, “I hate my hair!,” while frantically trying to pull it straight. It was the first sign that she and her hair were going to have issues.
Fast forward a few years and Jade was obsessed with the typically straight hair worn by her favorite Disney princesses. She went from wearing a combination of bangs and afropuffs, to wanting her mane straightened all the time. By age six, her mom gave her a kiddie perm to achieve the look she desired, and Jade was happy.
“I really wanted straight hair to help me fit in and give me confidence,” she explains.
Low self esteem was an area in which Jade had struggled since preschool. As the only black child in class, other kids would call her names like ‘poop.’ Sadly, straight hair did little to garner the acceptance she was looking for. In fact, things only grew worse as she got older.
According to her mom Crystal, “Though she was in the second grade, everyday was like the first day of school all over again because I had to give her a pep talk.”
When Crystal couldn’t get any support from the other moms, some tried to blame Jade for their own kids’ negative behavior. Finally, Crystal did something that had been on her mind for a few years. She began homeschooling her and it was a move that paid off because her confidence blossomed. To make sure that she would get the socialization she needed, Crystal also enrolled Jade in Dance Theater Of Harlem.
“Being around so many beautiful black girls and women who love dance really helped me feel super proud to be me,” says Jade. “But, I still felt a strong connection to straight hair.”
Ironically, her newfound confidence was due to the compliments she received because of her straight bob hairstyle. So, when it started breaking off, Jade was devastated.
“I couldn’t believe it,” she recalls, “I felt my self-esteem going down all over again.”
When her mom suggested she cut it and go natural, she resisted. She couldn’t imagine life without her straight hair. But as the weeks passed and her hair kept breaking off, Jade reached a breaking point, too.
“I started thinking that maybe Mom was right. Maybe I’d be doing myself a favor. I always thought that straight hair was going to bring me up, but it never really gave me anything.”
On the day of the big chop, Jade was a basket of nerves. Her mom did the cutting- it helped that she was a hairdresser back in the day- and when she finished, Jade loved it.
Now 10 years old, and with the cutest little fro ever, she says, “I’ll never go back to straight hair!”
Crystal says her confidence shot to a level 10 after the chop and every day people compliment her. Her dad loves it, and so do the girls at Dance Theater of Harlem!
If Jade could give a message to other African American girls she’d say, “I want them to know that they have power and they are beautiful.”
This article first appeared on Essence.com on Jan. 3, 2017