There is no question that hair is more than just hair. You change it when life feels too routine, style it according to your outfit and manage (or try to at least) it during the hot, sweaty, summer months.
But to many black women, hair can also make a statement. They were told it did not fit the beauty standard, not seen on TV and changed to adhere to the expectations set in professional environments.
But in its natural state, it is something black woman have grown (and are growing) to love.
That love brought tens of thousands of people together in Brooklyn's Prospect Park for Curlfest, the world’s largest natural hair festival.
Throughout the day, Prospect Park blossomed into a garden of curls, braids, locs and afros by attendees from all over the country. From California to North Carolina, they proudly celebrated their natural hair.
"We're going to do whatever we can to ensure that this experience is bigger and better every year," said Tracey Coleman, one of the founders of Curlfest.
Meet eight women (and men!) who opened up to "Good Morning America" about why they celebrate their natural hair and how they define black beauty.
DJ C Devone
DJ, New York City
What does natural hair mean to you? To me, natural hair means power. It means freedom.
Was there ever a time you didn't embrace your natural hair? There was definitely a time where I didn’t embrace my natural hair. I almost always had to wear weaves and relaxers. The difference now is whether I want to do it or not is my choice. That’s what that freedom and power means to me.
Tell us what you love about Curlfest: Well, being a DJ at Curlfest is a true honor. There are so many events and gigs to DJ, but this one is different. It’s special. I’ve DJed one of their first events, and now we’re here, with over 20,000 people expected to come.
Brand ambassador, Detroit
Why are you at Curlfest 2018? I love black women and I wanted to see all of the styles and looks. I walk around the world like this every day and I couldn't wait to be in good company with people who had afros and locs and twist outs and more.
What does your natural hair mean to you? For me, it’s an act of rebellion. I feel like it’s my way of pushing back against all the micro-aggressions people with my intersections face every single day. People always ask me, "How do you get so confident?" I’m not necessarily confident; I am understanding of the fact that this world is trying to tear me down, and I’m choosing me over it.
Tell us about how your hair makes you feel. I feel so free. I comb it once a week, my mom and grandma still wash it for me in the sink, and I just feel so good. I don’t feel like I am conforming to anything. I feel free.
Tell us about your natural hair journey. I have not always been confident with my natural hair. I started going natural about 10 or 11 years ago. When I started modeling, my hair started to become damaged from photo shoots. It was time to transition into something healthier for me, and to really embrace my natural texture.
Why are you at Curlfest 2018? I’m here supporting all of my curly girls: black women, women of color, all of us that have luxurious, textured hair. I’m here to celebrate us.
Tell us about how your hair makes you feel: My hair makes me feel confident. It’s a crown that sits on top of my head. It frames my face, and it frames me so well.
Medical student, Atlanta
Why are you here at Curlfest 2018? I just love to support natural hair. It’s great to see people who have hair similar to you, or even slightly different. It feels good to see everyone proud of their hair.
Tell us about your natural hair journey: I remember going through the process when I applied to medical school. I was stressed about whether I should cut my hair for interviews. I didn’t end up cutting it, and I got in, so I've kept it ever since. I don't know how long I’ll keep it, but hopefully as long as I can.
How does your hair make you feel? I like my hair. I never really knew what my hair was like until I grew it out. When I played basketball in high school, my coach would say, "You can’t play if your hair touches your ears." So I never grew my hair too long. Once I was done with high school, I wanted to see what it was like -- and I like it.
9 years old, New York City
This is your first Curlfest. How has it been so far? It’s amazing. There are so many things to do, and it’s so nice seeing a bunch of people around me that look so much like me, and, well ... This is the most hair that I’ve ever seen in my life!
What does your natural hair mean to you? My hair is a part of me so I try to take care of it. My favorite style is when I have my hair out.
Tell us about how your hair makes you feel: It makes me feel great. It makes me feel free.
Why are you here at Curlfest 2018? I think Curlfest is great. It’s a space to celebrate black womanhood and sisterhood, and to see so many black women with natural hair is empowering.
What does your natural hair mean to you? Natural hair is a liberation symbol. To be able to go out with twist outs, a bantu knot, braids that don’t go all the way down to your butt, and actually showing and being proud of your hair feels like a liberating step.
How does your hair make you feel? It allows me to embrace my blackness. Kinky hair isn’t really seen as beautiful. When I went natural, I felt like I wasn’t letting mainstream beauty standards impose on me anymore.
Michaela Angela Davis
Image activist, New York City
Tell us a little bit about your natural hair journey: When I was younger, my hair was blonde, but it was nappy blonde hair. It felt like a contradiction, because blonde was viewed as straight and white, and nappy was viewed as dark and black in the general collective imagination. I remember being a little girl and people really responding to my hair, which made me realize that my hair had power and presence. When my daughter was born, and I saw what her natural hair looked like, we called it freedom hair. And I wanted freedom hair, too.
How does your hair make you feel? Happy! It’s my happy hair. It’s dynamic. You can’t relax on natural hair. When it’s cloudy, your curls are gonna do one thing; when it rains, it does another. I like that I have to pay attention to it, which makes me feel like I have a relationship with it. The magic of black hair is that it can shape shift.
Blogger, Raleigh, North Carolina
Why are you here at Curlfest 2018? I have a blog where I like to talk about events like Curlfest, and other events centering on people of color. I was here before in 2014, so I wanted to experience it once more.
What does your natural hair mean to you? It’s like a crown. I feel like it’s very expressive. When I was a child, we were used to getting relaxers to tone ourselves down. Being natural, you don’t have to tone yourselves down. You can express yourself however you want.
Tell us how your hair makes your feel: Right now, I feel very bold. I had the big chop, so I feel bold wearing short hair.