Hannah Connaughton, 21, said she's always been insecure about her curly locks, because she was bullied at school and is "visually white" but "has an afro”
After years of straightening her hair, she had grown so insecure of her heat-damaged tresses she would get upset and struggled not to "feel ugly".
She recorded a video diary on TikTok bravely opening up about her insecurities and asking for advice, hoping to get a few tips on good products.
But the video stuck a chord with people globally who were struggling with insecurities, particularly black and mixed race women.
Soon a staggering six million people had watched the video - and she was inundated with support, tips, free products and encouragement.
Despite initially vowing not to cut it, within a couple of weeks - all documented on a video diary - she plucked up the courage to cut off the majority of her locks.
Her new short 100% curly hairstyle - and confident Hannah - is a far cry from her first video, when she struggled to even wear her hair down.
Her collective video diaries of her transformation have clocked up more than eight million views.
‘People would ask to touch it’
Film and media student Hannah, from Stockport, Greater Manchester, said: “I have been straightening and bleaching my natural hair or wearing extensions since I was around 14 when I first became self-conscious about it.
“Because I look white, my hair was one of the only things about my appearance that made me look visually mixed race, so it stood out - people at school would call me a poodle or ask to touch it.
“When I asked for advice on TikTok because my hair was so damaged, I was overwhelmed by people’s responses and support - and I realised I’m not alone, and so many other people relate to my story.
“I even had Amber Gill send me a haircare package because she understood my experience - which made me realise, celebrity or not, every mixed and black woman has experiences like mine.
“So many people were telling me to cut my hair short to let my curls grow naturally, and eventually I finally plucked up the courage to book an appointment and started to get really excited to see my hair grow long and curly, like it used to be.
“I got the chop and I was so nervous, but it was such an exciting and liberating experience and I’ve had nothing but support and people telling me they’re proud I finally did it.
“Over the past weeks, I’ve grown so much more confident and realised I should embrace who I am - there is a huge community out there of people like me, and I feel like I fit in and belong for the first time.
"I want any girl that feels the same way I felt to see they're not alone and their natural hair is beautiful - self love is the most empowering thing you can do, so try to embrace it.
“It’s taken 21 years but now I’ve learnt to love that side of myself - and I see that black is beautiful."
Hannah, whose mum’s family originated from St Kitts in the West Indies, started her hair confessional videos on April 12, and had her hair cut on April 27.
She said years of bleaching and straightening her hair as well as wearing extensions had left her natural curls damaged.
She was inundated with supportive messages and advice from fellow TikTok users - and even celebrities such as actress Skai Jackson, singer Mahalia and Love Island winner Amber Gill.
As her original video went viral after April 12, many people encouraged her to cut it short - and after initially being hesitant, she finally got the chop.
She described the experience as “exciting and liberating” and says she has since received “nothing but support” after sharing her news with her TikTok followers.
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