Her curly, fiery red locks dripped Cantu, an ethnic hair product, onto the common room floor as three pairs of hands ran through her tangles. My roommate, Julia Robbins, had never tried to style her hair — until cherubs. Looking at her knots, it was easy to see why she had tamed it with braids. Every night, she dipped out of our room to get her hair plaited by Annie Rubinson, who tightened her coils to the point where they were barely visible.
Those tamed tresses brought back memories of how my mom tied back my hair in a messy ponytail. My parents — a Chinese mother with straight strands and a black father with no hair — had no experience with my type of curls. As a result, my childhood was full of painful tangles and many nights of brushing out dry split ends. Once I taught myself how to use Cantu (thank you, YouTube), I started wearing my hair down, proudly displaying my curls. When I found out that Robbins had never learned how to manage her mane, I was determined to teach my roommate how to deal with her wildfire.
After proposing this idea to two other black cherubs, Jordan Murray and Erin Burnett, we decided to use my products on Robbins.
The night started out with a sense of uncertainty. At 10:20 p.m., Robbins stood in the common room, hair rinsed out and ready for the Cantu.
I never played with dolls as a child, so at first I was uncomfortable touching and messing with her head. My hands, used to pulling my own hair, felt alien in somebody else’s curls. Robbins reassured me that it was OK.
Burnett, armed with a spray bottle and years of experience, tackled the parts that were drying too quickly. Murray spread out the product while moving back and forth between different areas of her hair. I was on damage control, dipping in and out to cover the spots my partners had missed.
Girls who were sitting in the common room looked on in awe. The wet tangles had transformed into a gleaming mass, thick with Cantu. Once it started to dry, her curls became more defined and voluminous.
Going to bed, I reminded her that the most important part was to sleep with a scrunchie loose enough that it would not dent her tangles. We went to bed with fingers crossed, hoping that it would work.
When Robbins woke up, we had a big reveal in the bathroom. Ava Seccuro and Camila Trimberger filmed her taking out her hair and captured the shock on her face as she saw it released from the bun. It cascaded down her back and drew compliments.