Jayden Foster Contributing Writer
“Wear what makes you happy. Don’t care about what other people are going to think about you. Make your style unique to you.”
Samford student Zoe Portis not only shares this advice with Samford students but with her more than 130,000 followers as well.
Portis, who is wrapping up her final JMC major requirements, has had more than just her senior year to manage — she has recently endeavored to share her life experiences on social media. Little did she know that her TikTok account (@mycurlsrock) would skyrocket to success in a matter of months.
At first, Portis said the social media app seemed like a childish thing, something her younger siblings enjoyed. She never thought it would become a platform with which to support and encourage a large following.
“I’m like an older sister to girls who are struggling to love their natural hair,” Portis said about social media presence.
Portis first downloaded the app in 2020 when much of the world was locked away in quarantine because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Initially, she posted videos with her friends and family. Eventually, these turned into videos of Portis using her own experiences to cover everything from her adoption story to her natural hair journey.
“Growing up, with me being adopted, I have a white mom and a white dad,” Portis said. “My mom tried her best, but she really didn’t know how to take care of an African American child’s hair.”
When businesses across America shut down due to COVID-19, Portis said she realized she would need to style her natural hair. This started a long process that would eventually help Portis inspire her female African American followers.
“I got a little bit of a following,” she said. “Girls started commenting, asking what products I liked using, what were good hairstyle recommendations, and ‘what’s this, what’s that?’ I thought, ‘I’m going to use this opportunity to encourage these younger girls to love their natural hair.’”
This became a part of Portis’s mission to teach young African American girls that their natural hair “rocks.”
Since then, Zoe has launched her brand, My Curls Rock, created a logo, and worked with various hair and clothing companies.
One amazing opportunity was her appearance on “Game of Games,” a TV show hosted by Ellen Degeneres, with her siblings.
Portis has also used her social media presence to broadcast her family.
Many of her family members join Portis when making her TikTok videos. Portis, to her amusement, has watched her engagement spark anytime her brother, Jon Cole Portis, is in a video with her. Though Jon Cole was not adopted, nine of Zoe’s 12 siblings were.
“Adoption is near and dear to my heart,” Portis said. “Any way that I can advocate for it on my TikTok account, I definitely will.”
Zoe was adopted from Ethiopia at the age of 8 by an American family. Though she didn’t speak English when she first arrived in the United States, Portis quickly picked up the language.
“Adoption isn’t talked about much in our community or even in society. I like to show my family… to advocate for adoption… I don’t go really deep into it because I am planning on writing a book,” she said.
Portis is an author in the making, eager to have the world listen to her story. Along with writing a book, Portis hopes to launch a YouTube account, start a website and a blog, and even become a full-time content creator.
She quotes Jeremiah 29:11, stating that, while her story has had many ups and downs, the Lord has always had a plan for her life.
Over the years, Portis sought to connect with her culture and other Ethiopians in any way she could. She said she has met with many people who share similar stories and backgrounds through social media but initially found it challenging to find the same opportunity on Samford’s campus.
However, she quickly gained a group of friends through Greek Life and other campus events.
“I have loved every single minute of Samford,” Portis said. “It’s the only school I applied to, I didn’t look anywhere else… I really have loved every single minute.”
Portis is leaving her mark on the Samford community and on the world one follower at a time.