“I remember a concept during this transition time that really helped and spoke to me when I saw more people sporting their curly locks.”

Rocking it Naturally

Growing up with Afro Hair

by Saffron Francis

As far back as I can remember, my hair has always had an impact on my life. So many struggles and obstacles, it was like having a complex relationship with my own hair. Even as I entered my early adult years I still didn’t know the natural state of my hair. To say I was confused would be an understatement. As a young girl, I always feared the times when I had to wash my hair. It was always a big ordeal. The pain of combing out my curly hair was too much. Although my mom tried her best to be gentle, and even put on my favorite Disney movie to distract me, I still remember that each tug made me cringe; it actually gives me goosebumps just thinking about it to this day.

It didn’t take long before I thought I was cursed with bad hair. I never understood why it always had to be put up or pulled back. I could never just let it be, and I began to think my hair was ugly and questioned why I even had all this hair. This was a very frustrating time in my hair life. My frustration with my hair grew more when I turned 13 and had my hair relaxed for the first time. The confusion came because I wanted to love my natural hair, but now I also loved how my hair looked when it was smooth and straight, and better yet… I finally fit in with everybody else. It was so noticeable that one of my 8th-grade teachers stopped during her lecture and complimented me on my new and improved look. This newfound acceptance pushed me to straighten my hair more frequently. I even bought a hair straightener and started experimenting with my own hair, which I would later find out was not a good idea!

I started using hair weaves and hair extensions but eventually, that stopped because they became too expensive. It was probably for the best because I also felt like I was doing more damage to my hair than actually fixing any real hair issues that I had. I remember foreseeing all my important future life events and how I would have my hair straight for each one, as it became an obsession and insecurity for me. To be honest, I don’t remember when I started wearing my hair naturally. It definitely was not an overnight transition because I do remember wild hairstyles of half my hair being tied up and the other half down. I also remember a lot of ‘hat days’ just so I could hide the disaster off the top of my head! Over time I discovered shampoos for women with curls and curling creams, and the more I used them the more I liked the results, which gave me more confidence to wear my hair in its natural curly state.

“My hair had a huge effect on how I felt growing up and allowed me to explore and discover myself.”

Oddly enough during this period of my life, I had friends who were not so supportive when it came to my hair struggles. No one ever thinks that one’s hair can cause so much anxiety and stress, but for many people including myself, my hair became my identity. Some people couldn’t see past my hair, and because they didn’t think my natural hair was acceptable, neither was I in their opinion. As I got older I did find new friends who were super supportive, and I also got exposed to more people expressing themselves by rocking their natural curls! I figured if they could do it, so could I. I remember a concept during this transition time that really helped and spoke to me when I saw more people sporting their curly locks: “Each one, teach one”

This is why it’s so important for all ages to understand that we are all beautiful and unique in our own way. Growing up in the 90s and early 2000’s almost all the role models who looked like me, didn’t wear their hair like me. That really shaped what the ideal beauty standard was at that time… for them, not me.

Even as I attended university I still heard comments like: “Now you’re ready to go out” because I had straightened my hair that day. But what hurt the most was those comments were coming from someone who is of the same ethnicity as me. My hair had a huge effect on how I felt growing up and allowed me to explore and discover myself. I often look back and think what a blessing it is to finally love and accept my hair. If I could have any positive impact on people of any age through my art; then I’ve done my job. 


Saffron Francis is a contemporary illustrator. She was born and raised in Toronto, Ontario, and is of Trinidadian and Canadian heritage. As a child, she frequently searched for low-cost ways to create art. The ballpoint pen was inexpensive and always accessible. 

During her teens, while battling anxiety and utilizing talk therapy, Saffron turned to illustrating city creatures to release her anxiety and face her issues. Her work attempts to bring attention to urban wildlife, which has managed to co-exist with us, and reinterpret the wildlife’s forms to allow us to visualize the pressures put on those species’ natural habitat as well as ours. The angst and stress that she feels are no different from the fear her subjects face living amongst us. 

Saffron received a BFA Degree from OCAD University in Toronto Canada and actively is commissioned for brands such as Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, David Yurman, Velour Lashes, and Tridel developers. Her signature work utilizes bold black ink on white canvas, with deeply textured layers. Saffron is a participant in Daniels Spectrum’s Arts Mentorship Program.

Website:  www.saffronfrancis.com

Instagram:  @saffron_francis