UMaine alumna writes book celebrating curly hair

Published: Aug. 10, 2023 at 5:15 PM EDT
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ORONO, Maine (WABI) - During her time at UMaine, Bella Swan fit right in on the court with the Black Bears.

But growing up, she didn’t always feel that way.

“There was nobody around me that looked like me. And that was hard for me honestly,” said Swan.

Swan was adopted at a young age and grew up with her parents and siblings in Farmington, Utah.

“I think as a kid, when you stand out and you look different, it’s hard. As an adult I love to be different but as a kid, that was really hard for me. And a lot of it had to do with that I had this big, curly hair that nobody else had,” she said.

She says she loves her family, and loved her childhood, but it wasn’t until college that she was surrounded by more diversity.

Soon after graduation in 2016, her hair journey began.

“I started seeing YouTubers that were embracing and wearing their natural hair out. My hair was straight, and short, and damaged,” she said. “I loved how they looked and how confident they were wearing their hair out and natural... As soon as I graduated college, I cut off all of the dead bits of my hair, and I just started wearing it natural from there.”

She started documenting her story, as well as the stories of others.

First, in a blog. Then, she realized she had something more to say and set out to write a book.

“It’s a really simple book,” she said. “It’s a children’s book. I just wrote what I had been feeling throughout the years of my natural hair journey. And it just came together pretty quickly.”

She self-published “Do You Know Your Hair is Like Magic?” just last month.

“I was so over the moon,” she said. “It kind of healed my inner child in a way. Like, there were no books growing up that had characters that looked like me and now there are. There are lots. You see them in Barnes and Noble and in Target, but to have one that I created myself, with the help of my illustrator, but to have one that has characters that look like me, on the cover and all throughout, just felt really good.”

Swan, who studied child development and family relations in Orono, says being around kids and making them feel special is important to her.

She hopes her book will help each child grow up loving themselves.

“I want people to feel good about themselves to know that all hair is good hair and there’s not one hair texture that’s better or more desirable than the other. I think that you can be anything you want to be regardless of your skin color or the type of hair that you have,” she said “You can just be who you want to be and do whatever you want to do and you’re beautiful regardless and you should embrace your uniqueness.”

Bella is also an advocate of the CROWN Act, legislation that prohibits race-based hair discrimination.

Maine is one of 23 states where the CROWN Act is the law of the land. She says she hopes to see it enacted across the country.

Her book is only available on Amazon right now.