Mirelle Tinker has used past personal experiences to create a space on the Internet where others can gather to share their stories and emotions regarding hair. The 21-year-old senior at Ithaca College has launched Our Hair Story, a space where women and non-binary readers can submit essays centered around their experiences with hair.
As Mirelle explained to Teen Vogue, the decision to create the website was a very personal one. In 2017, she had penned an essay titled "Heat" for Cecile's Writers' Magazine that delved into her childhood experience of feeling that her hair was "weird" because her classmates made fun of her. " I was the girl with frizzy hair, and this, the classroom snickers taught me, was a bad thing," she wrote.
During a conversation regarding the essay with her previous college roommates Amy Thomas and Sky Mattioli, the friends realized how intertwined their emotions regarding hair were. "The topic of hair came up and I discussed my personal experience with my hair and how it’s been a maker and connection to my biracial identity," Mirelle said. "Amy, who is also biracial, mentioned how she could also relate to this experience, noting how her hair has sometimes made her feel distanced from her family. Sky added how shaving her head when she was younger also caused a sort of alienation from her classmates, often labeling her as looking like a boy. "
As the conversation continued, Mirelle realized how similar their stories were. It spurred a desire in the student to create a place that would allow others to celebrate their hair and find friendships and connections through their shared stories. "That’s when I thought to create Our Hair Story," she said. "It's an online collection of stories from people of various backgrounds that operates to augment these voices, providing them an outlet to not only tell their truth, but to connect with others. I think it’s important to realize how hair is so entwined with our experiences. I think it’s important for people to know they’re not alone."
Launching this year, Our Hair Story has featured five stories, and began with a submission from Amy. Mirelle has continued to reach out to others for submissions and wants to particularly amplify the stories of women and non-binary readers. Mirelle hopes that those reading and submitting can find hope from the stories of others. "My hope is that Our Hair Story succeeds in being a space where a variety [of] women and non-binary folk can feel powerful and safe in writing and reading about their experiences with their hair," she said. "I want the casual visitor to find a story they can relate to and perhaps find a quiet, private moment where they realize that their story is not so different from the person states away. I also want people who read the stories of others to learn something new about how hair can affect how we navigate our lives, what’s possible and what's beautiful."
Ultimately, Mirelle created the site to provide encouragement to those who might be feeling as she once did. She wants readers and even writers to know that they aren't alone. "How people react to your difference is no fault of yours, but a result of disconnection, of their not seeing the wonder in your uniqueness," she said. "We are capable of learning though, learning about the pain and power in celebrating our expression of identity through hair. You’re not alone in your curiosity and loneliness. In giving voice to our stories and reaching out for connection, we can find that there are others who see the validity and beauty in being different. Our Hair Story was created for this purpose, to connect people, educate them, and bring them peace. "
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