Our readers show us a moment where they lived their truth or expressed authenticity despite the fears associated with this kind of bravery. CURATED BY ERIN MCDOWELL / ILLUSTRATION (LEFT) BY LAURA FILAS I have always wanted to cut my hair. Not just a trim or a few inches, but I wanted it gone. Yes, all gone. I could not stand to see the sad, flimsy strands of my relaxed hair on my head any longer. I was ready to start anew. Though even though I was ready, was everyone else ready? Cutting off my hair to some may seem a bit superficial, but hair to me holds a deeper meaning. The small, defined coils I began to see as the hairdresser started to chop off my relaxed ends brought a smile to my face. I could not help but feel giddy as I saw the damaged, relaxed hair fall to the ground and slowly die. This moment was me saying goodbye to my relaxed hair. Say goodbye to the girl who tried so hard to fit in with the blonde and brunette girls with the beautiful long and straight hair. Say goodbye to the girl who wanted to be like everyone else. As I looked into the mirror, I saw someone I did not recognize. This girl was a glowing beam of beauty and happiness. She was something I had not seen before. She looked nervous but ready to face the world with her curly afro. Her big, curly hair that tangles and coils into small springs bounced as she touched her hair in awe that it is all hers. All hers without anyone defining it, without anyone judging it, and without her caring if anyone did. This moment was me saying hello. Say hello to a girl who was ready to embark on this new hair journey. Say hello to a girl who did not care if the people around her was ready or not to come on this journey with her. Say hello to a girl who no longer felt disappointed and ashamed of herself and her hair and instead say hello to a girl who did not need the acceptance of others to accept herself. She was golden as the sun. She was ready as could be. She was me.. – ASANTEWAAH OFOSUHENE / NEWARK, NJ Vulnerability is the form of authenticity I've learned to show in the past two years. Although my hijab seems to everyone to be the hardest part of my life, starting hijab was truthfully a piece of cake next to this. Showing my true self on my Instagram page is really the hardest thing I've ever done. I couldn't tell you how many nights I've spent in anxiety after posting about mental health awareness or my seasonal depression or about the things I love or how hard my senior year has been on me or what it feels like for someone who gets so deeply attached as I do to people in the time span of less than one entire day to lose people. I couldn't tell you how often I shake at the thought of people knowing this much about the love notes usually tucked away in my heart, but I do it because it's me. All my problems and my sad moments covered in silver glitter and my pretty outfit pictures hiding cracked skin and bleeding irises are important. I despise cell phones and social media, but I find myself on Instagram time and time again, drawn in by the
fact that it's a platform for me to share all the love I have for reading and my city and lipstick and writing, but it's also a free pass to change the world. It is an outlet so easily available to be transformed into something good. It gives me power when I find like-minded girls who don't look like me but somehow still are me, but it makes me feel like the queen of a universe I just created to know that I can be one of those girls. I want to be a Pakistani-American Muslim teenager that allows all other people— either of my same skin color or not— know that my life is hardly ever peachy, too. That I often struggle to find myself, too. That I sink under oceans full of golden hues I can't identify but find my way back up to air, and by sharing how I do so no matter how many times I'm pulled back under the waves, I hope I teach you that you can, too. – AIMAN GHANI / CHICAGO, IL It was the summer before my junior year in high school when my mind began to first grasp the importance of identity. At this time in my life, confidence was just a tangential notion to me. Although a seemingly simple word, with a seemingly simple definition, confidence can make the world of a difference in your life. I had no desire before this point to “find myself” or discover what my identity was, I was the only black girl at an all-white private school in the conservative south, I had no aspiration to stick out more than I already did. So I blended in as much as I could: I wore what all the other girls wore, believed what all the other girls believed, and did what all the other girls did. But I began to feel a growing sense of emptiness; finding myself constantly asking, ‘Is this really who I am?’. I did some soul searching that year, finding out what it truly meant to discover yourself. That summer, I fell in love with writing, reading, politics, justice, and with myself. Being an outspoken, black, liberal feminist in a conservative, traditional environment proved to be difficult but in all, it was undeniably rewarding to finally be my true self. I wished that when I was younger, someone had told me that it was okay to be different and unique. Because even though I may be the “odd one out” or the “outsider", the feeling of being unapologetically me makes it all worth it. – SYDNI WYNTER / JACKSONVILLE, FL TO YOUR ROOTS / You look in the mirror every day and see the same thing. Nothing ever changes despite you attempts to change everything. If you could change your DNA you probably would. Every strand of hair on your hair curving like a never ending winding staircase to nowhere. You pick and pull, press and wrap, and still nothing every changes. You cannot change what is embedded in your roots deeper than the oldest oak tree and your Grandmother’s backyard. Every curl represents something deep within yourself you have yet to recognize as a powerful and beautiful force. You will learn to love every kink and coil on your head as much as your mother does. And in due time you will learn to love yourself as well. – MIA JENKINS / NEW YORK, NY
local wolves — 27
On the cover, Brandon Woelfel // Featuring: Cary Fagan, Kiele Twarowski, Lloyd Pursall, Parker Woods and loads more.