As a Cambodian-American, Rosie Chuong grew up seeing discrimination thrust upon those with darker skin, broader features, and curly hair textures within the Cambodian community. This experience mixed with the lack of representation she saw in the media pushed her to create API Curls, an online community for Asian and Pacific Islander people from across the globe to share tips and discuss the ups and downs of caring for and embracing their naturally curly hair. “We deserve so much more than to be an afterthought in demographics on other platforms,” says Choung. “I just had to be brave enough to take the lead in building it.”
Choung describes API Curls as a “multicultural hair movement” aimed at dispelling negative notations of curly hair in the Asian and Pacific Islander community. This message is clear as you scroll through API Curls’ Instagram page, which is filled with stories of hair journeys, curly hair tutorials, and even discussions of topics like anti-Blackness in the Asian community as it pertains to textured hair.
Choung’s journey to embrace her curly hair took over 10 years: She says her hair texture became curly after she began her freshman year of college. During that time she would receive conflicting messages surrounding her sudden hair texture change.
“Everybody around me who wasn’t Asian was telling me how much they loved my hair and how much more exotic it made me look,” she says. “Yet within the Asian community, the conversation around my curls was that it was an anomaly, a strange occurrence, and something that needed to be fixed by straightening out.”
But through her own journey, she has since come to see that there is power in the community. “What I’ve uncovered since starting my curly hair journey is that I’m not an anomaly and there’s a growing community. Social media is changing this conversation tremendously.”
With API Curls reaching its two-year mark, Choung hopes her platform can expand to partner with beauty brands to help broaden access to curly hair products globally, along with helping to diversify the ambassadors chosen to promote their products.
“I envision API Curls [growing to become] a go-to for our community members, especially those who are just starting on their own hair journeys, where people can organically connect with each other simply because there’s finally a place that makes this possible.”