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Meet Trailblazer Shayla Sandoval

Today we’d like to introduce you to Shayla Sandoval.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Shayla. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
After over eight years of chemically straightening my hair, I decided to grow out my naturally curly hair, also known as “transitioning” my hair. I created an online platform to follow my journey, which now spans my Instagram @back2curly and website back2curly.com.

As a woman of color, being Black/African American and Mexican, and having grown up in Hong Kong, I didn’t have much experience with understanding, taking care of, and appreciating natural hair. Even at my international school, there just wasn’t many (or if I’m honest, there wasn’t any, maybe 2 or 3 other people, and one of them was my sister) Black or Mexican people around. Because my hair had been straightened for the majority of my life, I had no idea it was even possible for me to even have and maintain curly hair.

In my senior year of high school, after coming across a few hair pages on Instagram, I began to realize that I could grow out my natural hair and teach myself how to take care of it. As I started my journey and began posting content of my own, I began to realize that embracing natural hair is not JUST about hair. It’s about self acceptance, redefining your standard of beauty, and celebrating your culture(s) unapologetically in a world where it is not always treated with equal respect.

Anyone can learn to style and take care of their natural hair with practice, but the change against the societal norm of what is “professional” or “acceptable” is something that requires confidence, strength, and support. Through posting about my journey, I have gained that confidence, and receive messages from other girls telling me they are inspired by my content and taking action on their own self-love. This feedback is so important to me, because it provides proof that representation, whether it be in our own lives or through media, is so important. Being uniquely myself has helped me grow my platform and given me the chance to work with brands like SheaMoisture through their SheaBassador program. I am continuously working toward bigger and better things, while remaining true to myself and my following and remembering why I began in the first place.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
It hasn’t always been easy, and continues to be a forever winding-road journey, in terms of both my hair journey and my experience blogging.

With regards to my hair journey, change was the biggest obstacle to face. My family initially wasn’t sure I would be able to transition my hair, because they remembered the difficulties they had trying to maintain my natural texture when I was a child. Long nights of washing, detangling, blowdrying, flat ironing, and braiding left us all drained and feeling like a chemical straightener or perm was the only answer. Deciding to go ahead and transition my hair on my own was difficult and at times frustrating, but looking back to a little over a year now, it was one of the best decisions for me to make, especially at the crossroads in my life, ending high school in Hong Kong and starting college in the United States. After committing to the process, I realized the mistakes we made with my hair back then, simply out of not knowing how to properly maintain natural curls.

Another challenge is definitely with regard to self-love and body image. Growing up, I certainly didn’t look like everyone else in my school, but my hair still seemed to try to mimic or conform to the sleek, straight strands of hair “look”. Once I gradually realized I didn’t need to conform to any specific look to feel beautiful, smart, professional, or poised, I became more and more okay with my curls, eventually growing to love them. My advice to girls my age and younger, and even older, is to remember that the process is just that: gradual. Some days you feel great about yourself, other days it’s hard not to compare yourself, but as long as you remember to make yourself proud and remember that beauty is not just defined by the way you look, you will be okay.

With regards to blogging, I still consider myself to be learning the ropes. The natural hair community on Instagram is so supportive and like a second family, and that has really aided my process and inspired my content. I have always loved to write, so launching my back2curly.com website to feature more in depth articles was a natural next step after reaching a milestone of followers on Instagram. My advice for people who would like to get into blogging is to not be held back by not knowing what you’re doing. There are so many free ways online to learn how to build a website, film and edit a video, build a platform, reach out to brands and more. My next piece of advice would be to stay true to yourself and the reasons why you began; just like in life, the more uniquely yourself you are, the more people will be interested in what you have to say.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about @back2curly – what should we know?
On Instagram, I post content about transitioning hair and natural/curly hair, as well as makeup, skincare, exercise, travel, lifestyle and more. I aim to inspire my followers just as other bloggers have inspired me. Recently, I have been working with brands like SheaMoisture through their SheaBassador program to honestly share and review products from their lines. In my content, I like to promote brands that operate under ethical production and promote conscious consumption, with regards to animal rights, human trafficking, and sustainable materials. This is a hot topic issue that greatly affects the beauty world, so I like to shed light on those issues when I can.

On my website, I share more in depth articles and reviews about hair, makeup & skincare, music, lifestyle, and cultural identity. As a writer and someone with a unique cultural background and upbringing, I love to share my thoughts on various issues and hopefully do my part in representing a positive example of a woman of color working toward her dreams.

What’s the most important piece of advice you could give to a young woman just starting her career?
It’s funny being asked a piece of advice to give to someone just starting their career, because in a sense I have not even begun my own yet. As an International Affairs and Economics combined major at Northeastern University, with minors in Chinese and Business, I am leaving my options open to explore what I would like to pursue in the future. My advice for now would be to not feel like you have to lock yourself in a box due to external pressures, but rather, pursue what you are interested in, and the rest will follow. For me, blogging is something I am passionate about and don’t see as a chore, and I would encourage others to find something they are passionate about and pursue it as best as they can in conjunction with other major goals such as earning a college degree. People often ask me how I have been able to steadily grow my following or be sent products to review from brands, and the answer is simply from being myself, posting honestly, and continuing to have fun with what I’m doing.

Contact Info:

  • Website: back2curly.com
  • Email: back2curly@gmail.com
  • Instagram: @back2curly
  • Twitter: @back2curly


Image Credit:

@back2curly Instagram https://www.instagram.com/back2curly

Getting in touch: BostonVoyager is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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