Lila Joy Mark: “Learning to wear my afro crown at 15 years old” 

Growing up, I’ve come to realise that my hair is my identity, my heritage and my pride. Yet, when I was younger I entered a phase where I disliked being different: “why did all the pretty princesses have long straight hair but I just had this? And why could all my friends sleep normally but I had to wear a headscarf?” All these questions built up in my mind as I entered adolescence, increasing my desperation for assimilation. Until, realisation hit me – rather than my hair wearing me, I could wear my afro crown.  

The Eurocentric perspective definitely played a major role in my unreasonable rejection and neglection of my afro. My friends had long black hair, which could easily be put in a ponytail while I had myriads of steps. I remember when I was 11 years old and first got my hair braided with extensions, my best friend was amazed because she had never seen hair like it before so she touched it. She asked if I could feel when she lightly tugged at the ends of my hair, and I laughed it off; I assumed that everyone with long hair went through it. Obviously, looking back I have come to realise that this microaggression triggered my downfall with my self-confidence. As time passed, the length of my hair wasn’t enough, I wanted it to be straight and to comb like everyone else’s’. So, I would turn my nose at extensions, or having my afro out but would smile when I smelt the burning of the straightener.  

Straightening. Straightening. Straightening. 

Even that wasn’t enough, my hair was still “puffy”, so to make things “better” I became friends with texturiser and finally I was the same as everyone else – except I wasn’t. Simultaneously, my mental health was spiralling down as I damaged my hair, my soul and my pride. The day I heard Solange’s “Don’t Touch My Hair”, one phrase stuck in my head: “Because it’s the feelings I wear”. I had, and still have, anxiety. In correlation with extraneous factors, my hair contributed to my anxiety when I didn’t fit in. Black women experience high levels of stigma and bias because of their natural hair among white women.1 Furthermore, research from World Afro Day Hair Equality Report (2019) showed that 82.9% of young people, in the UK, had experienced having their hair touched without consent. This shocking revelation encouraged me to learn how to love myself by protecting my afro. 

Big trim. 

It was hard cutting my hair that once rested way past my shoulder. Nevertheless, I knew it had to be done if I was going to take another pathway in my trajectory to self-love. Subsequently, my relationship with texturiser ended and I started learning about my family’s history with their afro hair, as well as significant events such as: the Black Aesthetic and the Black Revolution. Consequently, my connection with my heritage and myself deepened. When I was 16, I had experimented with braids and twist extensions as well as moisturising my hair allowing it to grow healthily. It was also my first World Afro Day, 15th September founded by Michelle De Leon, “a global day of celebration and liberation for afro hair”.2 Which is a great way to recognise the universality of the Afro Kingdom and that you are not a misfit but a queen. 

Nonetheless, my journey has only just begun as it has barely been two years since I’ve learned to cherish and love my crown. Trying different styles, such as straightening or extensions is perfectly fine as it is your form of expressing yourself. As long as it is not due to the stigma surrounding your gorgeous afro hair. Everyone’s afro crown is different to fit them specifically, but we are all in the same kingdom. Therefore, we should help each other along our journeys.  

So, my final message to you, reader: wear your beautiful afro crown with pride! 


My name is Lila Joy Mark and I am currently a 17-year-old student who has a piqued interest in history. Born and raised in London, I have been fortunate enough to further my interest in super curricular activities such as creative writing and articles. This is a rare moment for me to discuss something extremely personal to me as most writing I do I either fictional or for college. On the other hand, I also enjoy playing piano, photography, reading and learning languages such as Korean in my free time.