Interview: Imelda Araujo

May 30, 2017

 

"I was sixteen when I immigrated with my family to the U.S. from Malawi. When I arrived I quickly realized life in America was more than Hollywood and movie stars. Reality began to set in and the challenges to assimilate became real.

 

I dealt with many emotions as a developing teen in a new country. It was hard because I didn’t know who I was in the new world. Sure I had titles that made up 'me'--sixth child in the family, a daughter, an auntie, a friend, and a sister. But I really didn’t know who I was because my identity was lost in the new labels I was surrounded by. When I moved to America I didn’t know what race box I belonged to. Was I African-American? Was I Caucasian?  In Malawi I was considered 'colored'...

 

I remember asking myself what was I supposed to look like to be accepted. Where I came from I didn’t have to try to fit in because my friends looked like me and shared the same experiences as me. When I moved, people were the opposite of that. I remember having an identity crisis because I didn't know if I was supposed to have straight hair to fit in with Caucasians or have curly hair to fit in with African Americans and Latinos.

 

It wasn't until I decided to embrace the challenges I faced that things began to shift. Something as small as getting a haircut was a challenge for me and furthered my identify crisis because salons didn’t know how to handle my natural hair. I would have to straighten my hair just to get a haircut!

 

When I discovered a salon that was familiar with my hair texture I started appreciating who I was because I was able to identify with others like me.  It truly was the pinnacle moment in my journey. My confidence grew and my own definition of beauty was renewed. I didn’t have to look like the celebrities I admired and I didn’t have to have straight hair to be accepted. I simply had to be me. When God was creating you and I, he made us exactly how he wanted us to be. He said the world needs an {insert your name here}; isn’t that a powerful thought?"

 

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