This Family Shows How Hair Can Bring People Together While Letting Individuals Stand Out

By RYOT Studio

Adolescence is a time ripe for letting children explore and express their creativity before the demands and responsibilities of the world start to matter. But this life stage also comes with its share of identity realization and discovering self-confidence, as ideas around how a child should present themselves, the pressure to conform and traditional gender roles start to become more and more of a reality as they carve out their own paths in society.

However, some children are using their creativity, heart and imagination to figure out ways to express themselves and the different parts of their personality. This is being done with the help of supportive parents who are affirming their self-expression and encouraging them to show up in the world the way they want to.

Parents Ashley and Ellie have created a beauty-loving household where hair is a family affair and a big part of self-expression. Their daughter Sawyer’s love for hair experimentation is becoming a big source of inspiration for everyone around her, but Sawyer is also finding it to be a source of self-identification and self-expression as well.

<strong>Nine year-old Sawyer brushing and styling her hair in her family bathroom.</strong><br>(Photograph: Courtesy of Pantene)
Nine year-old Sawyer brushing and styling her hair in her family bathroom.
(Photograph: Courtesy of Pantene)

“Sawyer has always been very gender creative,” Ashley says. “It was only this past year that she shared with us that she wanted to use a she/her pronoun, though she was expressing herself and her style in a way that didn’t conform to gender norms before that.” As one of the most visible forms of self-expression, beauty has been a haven of experimentation for Sawyer, especially when it comes to her hair and how she styles it.

Sawyer’s beauty confidence is proving to be an inspiration for her siblings as well, as they look at the fun she has with her hair. “I’ve done my hair blue and Daisy and Lillie dyed their hair blue, too,” she says. “And there was a time I got my head shaved and so did Lillie.”

“In the end, it’s the kids who need to walk around in their skin every day and be who they are.”
— Ashley

It all starts with how Sawyer feels inside and her taking some time to figure out how those feelings can manifest themselves on the outside. She says she gets inspired from pictures she sees and other visuals that come her way, and she then gets her parents’ points of view on how to best execute those styles. “Ashley is quick to get on it within the hour,” Ashley’s partner and Sawyer’s parent, Ellie says. “She’ll book the appointment if that’s needed, go to the store and get the hair dye, or she’ll start rummaging around our hair drawer.”

Though bringing some of these styles to life may be a challenge, it’s all about making sure Sawyer has agency over how she looks to ensure she’s navigating life with confidence and self-esteem. And when Ashley and Ellie reach the end of their hairstyling abilities, Sawyer’s aunt Leah can step in to help, as she’s a trained hairstylist. “We have our opinions as parents about what we think looks cute or nice, but in the end it’s the kids who need to walk around in their skin every day and be who they are,” Ashley says. “We let them choose, and hopefully that makes it positive for them.”

<strong>Parents Ellie and Ashley talking with their daughter Sawyer about hair care and self-expression.</strong><br>(Photograph: Courtesy of Pantene)
Parents Ellie and Ashley talking with their daughter Sawyer about hair care and self-expression.
(Photograph: Courtesy of Pantene)

This hair journey is so important for Sawyer in a world where young trans girls like herself face adversity. It can be frightening for any parent to send their children into the world, so Ashley and Ellie are also instilling self-worth and making sure Sawyer is vocal about the respect she deserves from other people.

Just letting yourself be who you want to be and not letting anyone tell you who you should be is the most important.
— Sawyer

“We know that trans youth and folks with trans experience don’t always get treated with dignity and respect,” Ashley says. “So for us, we’re raising a daughter who understands that it’s not only about how you show up in a space, but how you teach people to treat you, that we want to instill in her. And then hopefully she will instill that in people that she meets throughout her life and as she grows and becomes an adult.”

Sawyer’s confidence shines bright, and ultimately she hopes to give a little bit of it to young people who are having challenges in figuring out how to best present themselves in a world where the pressures of conformity can limit self-expression. “If they want to show themselves with a different hairstyle or a different outfit, they should pick up the look that makes their outside look like what they feel inside,” she says. “Just letting yourself be who you want to be and not letting anyone tell you who you should be is the most important.”



From Pantene:
For LGBTQ adoptive parents, every opportunity to connect matters. Caring for their children’s hair is one of them. Pantene wants every family to feel beautiful and knows hair care helps build unforgettable bonds. Visit www.familyequality.org/pantene to learn more.


This article was paid for by Pantene and co-created by RYOT Studio. HuffPost editorial staff did not participate in the creation of this content.