Beauty chats in the French Concession
On our third day in Shanghai we grabbed lunch in the French Concession. The area has a strong international presence and like any other tourist hub, it was packed by noon. Ironically, we sat next to an American couple who moved to China last year from DC. When we saw each other there was an immediate connection through shared language and unexpectedly through a conversation about beauty. In general, my hair brought us a lot of attention while in China. There are not many black women living there, particularly black women with natural hair, so my hair prompted several interesting interactions and reactions. But on this particular day in the French Concession, I bonded with an American woman as we discussed beauty, hair, and her experience living in China. We talked about everything from the random strangers who ask her to take pictures while touching her hair, to how the pollution affects her delicate strands (having recently gone natural), to how she finds makeup products that match her skin. While she was grateful to be in China with her husband, the simplicity of not having a beauty arsenal at her disposal and the lack of people who looked like her, made some days more difficult than others.
What I found most fascinating about her story sharing is the freedom that moving to China gave her. The lack of options forced her to love her "new" self, the version of herself that didn't wear much makeup, looked different from everyone else, and whose hair wasn't straight or "perfectly" in place. In my view, the person she discovered has always been there and is no better or worse than the perfectly primped version. That's one of the things I love most about travel...we venture somewhere new in the world only to take a journey deeper into ourselves.