Hey baby girl. Yes, you. You, with the hair that you hate. You, with the hair that everyone else hates. I have something to say to you that may seem unbelievable, but every word of it is true.

You are beautiful.

You are beautiful. You and your nappy, nappy hair.

Your hair is robust and voluminous. It is a riot of tiny spirals can stretch and spring beyond the imagination. It is a deep, lustrous ebony that glows a warm auburn in the mid-afternoon sun; it is beauty incarnate.

Your hair is flexible and versatile. Those same tight, black curls can be coaxed into two-strand twists that unravel into envy-inspiring corkscrews. It can be braided flat against your brilliant head or teased out into a cloud, a halo, that adorns your lovely face. It can be locked into textural cords that can be as long or short as your heart desires.

Your hair is black, like glittering volcanic glass, like jet and onyx. It’s deep as the midnight sky between stars. It is black like our ancestors in West African nations, with shining deep brown skin and hair like yours: braided and twisted, adorned and celebrated, to dizzying heights. Your hair is black like your legacy on foreign shores, proud and defiant and unapologetic. Your hair is black.

People, many of whom share your hair, hate it for this.

They’ll try to beat down your hair with heat, drown it under chemicals, hide it under synthetics and guilt you out of finding it beautiful. They’ll call your hair “beady” and “nasty”; they’ll send you home from school or, in your future, turn you away from jobs. It will seem for a long time that the only way to fit in is to bow to their demands, but baby girl, you are a queen. You wear that hair as your crown, and you bow to no one.

You take your nappiest of nappy hair and pile it on top of your head in bombastic puffs and intricate braids. Let it fly free in thick twist-outs, and let it shake loose as those dreads that everyone fears. Make those people uncomfortable, and let them stew in their misconceptions of your natural beauty. Let your lack of apology for who and how you are gnaw at them until they’re forced to confront the ugliness hiding in their minds and hearts.

I don’t want to deceive you: it will be hard. To live outside the bounds of what’s considered respectable often is. People will judge you, and you will stick out; it will be nigh impossible to find other people with your beautiful hair on television and in magazines, and you will feel lost in a sea of silken, straight tresses and question yourself. People will be mean to you, and you will cry. It’s ok to cry.

You may even, with time, decide to try straightening your hair. This, too, is ok.

But always remember, as you pick up the synthetic hair, as you sit on the kitchen stool on Sunday morning to have your hair pressed, the hot comb biting at ears and nape; when you’re lolling to sleep in the hair shop with pungent relaxers on your scalp-

Remember that you are beautiful, naturally. Use this truth as your wings, and you will soar about others’ ignorant simplicity.

You are beautiful.


This post originally appeared on XOJane. Republished with permission. Click here for more
Lauren Walker on XOJane!


  • Guest1234

    Interesting perspective. It IS a pejorative. And for that reason I don’t use it. I suppose I don’t like when somebody uses that word to describe my hair, but it’s usually by the most ignorant sort that I could never really get angry at. I guess I kind of agree w/ you that it is an ugly word.

    The word nappy infuses “bad” and “ugly” and “nasty” into kinky/coily/etc.. That’s true. I understand people who choose not to see that, instead choosing to consider the word a synonym for kinky/coily/etc… But I’m not really buying that. Somebody else may think my kinky hair is ugly, but I’m not interested in ingesting that and wearing the label “nappy” for them. Not even to “turn it around” or whatever. It’s just not worth anything to me. I just leave ugly words alone. I’m not in the business of trying to reform them or reclaim them or any of that stuff.

    All that said, I’m not really sure how to feel about other people who don’t mind being described that way. It’s not a descriptor: like “black” or “kinky” it’s a descriptor + shame and negativity. Folks can try to wear that if they want to, but I won’t wear somebody else’s hate or try to work with it. But that’s just me.

  • http://gravatar.com/gparson vintage3000

    ITA with you Guest1234. I have seen quite a few natural haired ladies with blogs or youtube channels who use some version of the word “nap” in the title: “still happy to be nappy” etc. To each her own but I find it bizarre. When you say you’re not interested in wearing this label for other folks, I totally get what you’re saying. Why do our hair textures need to be described in such a manner, by a word that originally meant nasty, filthy and ugly-no way.

  • http://gravatar.com/gparson vintage3000

    Thank you mochachick10. And re: Tiana’s dad, like you I’m very glad he has taken the initiative to remove her from that toxic environment.

    And the funny thing about the word nappy, hair texture is so relative. One person’s “nappy” hair in a family of straight hairs is another person’s “good” hair because it’s more curly than kinky. Like you noted, let’s just not use it altogether.

  • Lauren

    This piece wasn’t only for Tiana.

  • [email protected]

    Yeeah! Curly hair for life! <3

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