Ilana Glazer says her “fluffy” hair was the object of ridicule when she was growing up. (Photo: Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images)
Ilana Glazer might seem like the confident creator of a successful TV comedy — because, well, she is — but that doesn’t mean she hasn’t struggled with her fair share of insecurity about her appearance. “People would make fun of my fluffy, cotton-candy curls,” the 29-year-old Broad City star tells Allure of her younger years, “because everyone I grew up with had silk curtains of hair.”
According to Glazer, residents of “white, upper-middle-class” Long Island projected certain zany characteristics onto her because of her curly mane. “Even now, people think curls represent a joke, like, ‘She’s the wacky one!’ — which I don’t believe is always true, at least not for most people,” she says.
Glazer says she’s sad that a haircut is often viewed as “a universal symbol of who someone might be inside.” The typical assumption is that short = edgy, while long = glam and curly = funny, or silly.
Karla Ivankovich, PhD, a therapist and adjunct professor of psychology at the University of Illinois at Springfield, says that both the media and society at large have tended to stereotype certain looks.
While men are more typically boxed into either short or long cuts, “Women have subclassifications, because nothing is easy for us,” Ivankovich says, only partly in jest. “Short can mean sporty or spunky. Long, curly hair can be flowy, and it can be sassy or strong.”
Ivankovich says that the media sets the standards for what we call beautiful. “We attach beauty to what we’re told is beautiful,” she says, pointing to the models at Fashion Week as examples. “You rarely see curly hair. You see more straight — which is actually quite calculated, and stems from designers not wanting anything to detract from their clothing.”
Straight hair is less distracting than statement curls, and therefore less competition for the spotlight — but this has also had the effect of making us think that straight, long hair is more beautiful or desirable. And women, even little girls, tend to notice what society deems “normal” and “pretty” — and are “very critical of their appearance” in any case, says Ivankovich.
Just add in comments from others, and you have the perfect storm for cracking self-confidence. “If women or girls are bullied for their hair, it’s especially personal,” says Ivankovich. “It is a trait you’re born with, and outside of your control.”
Some women spend hundreds or thousands of dollars to chemically straighten their hair, says Ivankovich, who also has natural curls like Glazer. But as they grow older, some women derive their confidence from whatever makes them different.
“I finally listened to a cosmetologist who said, ‘You know, millions of women would kill for your hair,” Ivankovich says. “I looked around at everyone processing their hair and realized I had the best of both worlds. I could leave it curly, I could use a straightener.” But to love what she had, she adds, “It took realizing that I could control my crazy curls no more than the woman next to me could control her stick-straight hair.”
Your hair is an extension of your personality, and only you get to define that and what makes you feel most beautiful, she says. “People are so afraid to try new things, for fear of rejection,” she explains, emphasizing again what a personal choice this is. “But no one is tied to one hairstyle.”
Pixie, long, curly, straight, wavy, neon, or asymmetrical, your hair can emphasize how you feel and become “the best accessory you put on every day,” says Ivankovich.
Glazer certainly thinks her curls qualify, and says she’s learned to “ignore” the haters since her Long Island youth. “Love. It’s all love now,” she insists in her interview. “I think my curls are dope, and I want to nourish them, not change them into something else.” Count on us as fans, too.