How I Ditched The Hair Dye And Learned To Embrace My Middle-Eastern Roots

As the only Middle Eastern girl in my (white) class in my (white) school in my (white) town, I so badly wanted to look like everyone else

How I Ditched The Hair Dye And Learned To Embrace My Middle-Eastern Roots

by Sirin Kale |

There’s this scene in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire where Hermione is getting ready for the Yule Ball and slathers her hair in copious amounts of Sleekeazy’s Hair Potion. And just like that, she goes from loser to sexpot, so much so that she ends up hooking up with a high-profile hottie and gets mentioned in a newspaper gossip column.

Essentially, a hair product transforms her into Hogwart’s version of Suki Waterhouse.

As an 11-year old nerd with Hermione-grade frizz, reading this was a lightbulb moment for me. If I sort out my mental hair, maybe I won’t have to hide in the loos every time the Titanic song comes on at school discos. Maybe that cute boy with curtains in the year above will want to slow dance with me!

Henceforth began a lifetime of struggle with my hair.

As the only Middle Eastern girl in my (white) class in my (white) school in my (white) town, I so badly wanted to look like everyone else. I wanted Melissa from The O.C. hair. And post 9/11, when the word ‘Muslim’ became associated with the word ‘terrorist’, looking Middle Eastern became a source of embarrassment, not pride.

I have coarse, curly, Middle Eastern hair. Dark hair that kinks at the roots, with baby wisps that curl at my forehead like Kim Kardashian’s used to before she got them lasered off so she looked less Armenian. And, so thick. I have twice as much hair as the average person, maybe more.

Before the ‘Oh, you’re so lucky, fam’ come out, let me say this. I know having fine hair can also feel shit.

But don’t tell me I’m so ‘lucky’ when I go to a hairdressers and they charge me double and it takes two people to dry my hair. Don’t tell me I’m lucky when douchebag bros laugh at me on the street because I’m on holiday in a high-humidity country and look like Diana Ross.

If you’re reading this and think you have thick hair but haven’t snapped a hairbrush in the last month: bitch, please.

Finally, aged 26, I’ve learned to control my crazy thick hair, and even to love it. But it’s been a process. And as part of that process, I learnt how to love my roots – literally.

Growing up, I wanted to look white. I have hazel eyes and pale skin, and with blonde highlights I passed for European-ish. My cultural reference point was Jennifer Aniston. She’s part-Greek, and if you look at old pictures of her, she looks it. Prominent nose, dark hair, pale skin.

All it took for her to become an all-American pin-up was a nose job, some fake tan and caramel highlights. If she could do it, I reasoned, so could I.


Aged 13, I began dyeing my hair blonde and torturing it with GHDs. It looked horrendous, kept snapping off and never grew past my shoulders. Everyone told me to stop, but I persisted for over a decade. Then, after a disastrous self-dye job, I finally had to confront the reality that I was never going to look like Jennifer Aniston.

I stopped dyeing my hair (luckily, around this time visible roots were in). I bought a wooden paddle brush (so much harder to snap). I stopped buying Class A-drugs and started buying premium shampoo instead (the Japanese know what’s up – try Shu Uemura Moisture Velvet, it’s so good I would drink it if I could).

I did weekly coconut oil treatments. And, most importantly, I hung up the GHDs. When my hair looked mental, I put it in a French plait. Never underestimate the power of a French plait.

If you have crazy hair, getting it into the best possible condition is the only way to make it manageable. I’d always wanted to get my hair chemically straightened (the Yuko system, not the Brazilian). But you can’t chemically straighten colour-treated hair. It just doesn’t work.

After a few years of not dyeing my hair, I got it chemically straightened. And it worked. My hair is now waist-length, shiny, and straight. Of course, chemically straightening your hair isn’t great for it, plus it’s crazy expensive. But if you compare it to attacking it with GHDs everyday, it’s a hell of a lot better.

I wish I could say that I learned to love my hair in all its crazy, messed-up glory, and didn’t need to spunk tons of money getting it straightened twice a year. But now that it’s straight, I’m happy. I know I look more Middle Eastern, and I’m proud of it.

Despite what this article might suggest, I actually don’t really think about my hair any more. I just wash it, and blast it with a hairdryer. It takes me half an hour to get ready for a night out, which means I have so much more time to waste on other pointless pursuits.

Learning how to love my roots set me free. And I really don’t care that I’ll never look anything like Marissa from The O.C. Because I like looking like (a slightly straighter version, but still Middle Eastern version of) me.

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Follow Sirin on Twitter @thedalstonyears

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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