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The Seoul Search’s Michelle Choi Reveals How ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ Inspired Her to Love Her Naturally Curly Hair

BY Alyssa Montemurro

If you were coming of age in the 2000s, you won’t need us to remind you that glossy, pin-straight hair was all the rage back then. Seemingly every pop star, Hollywood actress, and fashion model was rocking the look (whether their hair was naturally straight or not), inspiring women everywhere to bust out their flat irons or pay a visit to the salon in search of perfectly sleek, Paris Hilton-level straight hair. It’s a time that our team can personally relate to, not unlike San Franciso-based blogger Michelle Choi of The Seoul Search, who spent the majority of her high school years chemically straightening her naturally curly hair in hopes of achieving the same silky, straight strands as her fellow Asian-Americans. That is, until she started watching Grey’s Anatomy— a TV show that aside from being incredibly entertaining, would also inspire her to finally embrace her natural hair and accept it for the beautiful “curly, kinky mass” that it is. 

Interested to learn more about Michelle’s personal hair journey, we reached out to the fashion and beauty blogger to have her share more about her relationship with her curly hair and how she’s come to love and accept her strands today. Read on for more about Michelle’s personal hair story.

Can you tell us a little bit about your personal hair journey?

I was born with your typical pin-straight Asian hair. But then, puberty happened, and suddenly my hair transformed into this incredibly curly, kinky mass. I used to get my hair chemically straightened between the ages of 12-18 because I wanted so desperately to fit in with all of the other Asians who had straight hair. Generally, I feel like Asian culture prizes straight hair because it’s just common. When you look at Korean social media accounts today, you see all of these women with really long, thick, beautiful hair, so when your hair is curly like mine, it strays away from the norm. As an Asian-American, I also grew up in a form of Korean culture that was shifted and molded through immigration and peppered with American values. Still, when I am in Korea, people will ask me if I’m mixed because of my hair (it probably doesn’t help that I also speak with a bit of an accent).

Over time, I think the biggest thing I had to learn was that I ultimately needed to come to terms with my hair and accept that I am beautiful just the way I am. I couldn’t have societal standards tell me that I was pretty. I had to really, truly believe it myself.

One of the big turning points for me was when I started watching Grey’s Anatomy, and seeing Sandra Oh (a fellow Korean) rock her amazingly curly hair. It really changed my schema of what hair could look like on Asian women. I still do straighten my hair with a flat iron from time to time. However, my curly hair has become a huge part of my identity and something that people actually recognize me for, which is kinda funny.

What has your relationship with your hair been like over the years?

I absolutely used to hate my hair. For some reason, it was really difficult for me to register that my hair was curly, not straight, and once I learned to accept that this was my natural hair texture and started using products for textured hair, it absolutely changed my hair game forever.

I think the biggest reason why I hated my hair is that the culture I grew up in deemed it unattractive. Pin straight hair was all the rage when I was an adolescent (even Beyonce had straight hair then). Looking different from my caucasian peers was already a struggle growing up, and my hair refusing to fit into the Asian stereotype made me feel even more out of place. That’s why I started straightening my hair, which, first off, is definitely not cheap. It’s also SUPER damaging. I have a lot of hair, so it would take about three hours to get all of it done. The biggest impact of chemically straightening my hair was that I really thought that textured hair was ugly—not un-cute or unflattering, but just straight up ugly. I remember being in middle school being so jealous of all of my fellow Asian American friends with the soft, straight, silky perfect Asian Girl ™ hair that I so desperately wanted. High school came and went though, and I eventually stopped straightening my hair around the beginning of university. 

What led you to try Function of Beauty?

Those super appealing Instagram advertisements are what honestly reeled me in. But now that I have tried it, I can never go back. There’s no other shampoo/conditioner duo on the market that my hair and scalp respond to better than Function of Beauty. And this is someone who used the same shampoo and conditioner religiously since middle school.

I chose my formula to be deeply hydrating, to soothe my scalp (it’s so incredibly dry where I am that my entire body protests the dehydration), and define my curls. I chose the nude (p)each scent because I’m a peachy gal, and the pink and yellow colors for shampoo and conditioner respectively. Before using Function of Beauty, my curls were pretty sad and were frizzy by the middle of the day. However, after using Function of Beauty, I’ve achieved those super dreamy French girl curls (or that’s what I like to think of them as anyway). My scalp is also way less dry and itchy. Is that TMI?

What is your relationship like with your hair today?

I freaking love it! I chopped off about 12 inches during the summer (a total impulse decision) and I swear I’ll never go back. I also love to give myself impulse bangs at 2 a.m.

Now, I love the volume and texture of my hair! I’m a bit of a ~spicy~ personality, so it’s really fun that my hair reflects that. I also enjoy that because it’s curly, I’m able to straighten it if I’m feeling a little more narrow. Having options is great. I also stopped dying my hair or doing any sort of chemical treatment to it, and I love that my hair is now 100% in its natural state. It’s the healthiest it’s ever been. Split ends, who? Don’t know her!

Ready to switch up your own hair care routine? Start by taking the hair quiz here