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!


  • http://gravatar.com/jamesfrmphilly jamesfrmphilly


  • Anon

    What? Lord, we all know that this essay was not about that little girl, but whoever the original author is. That is a duym shame to take the humiliation of a child and write a bad essay about it, so other GROWN women can boo-hoo.

    This is basically exploiting that child even further. Folks need to quit with these “open letters”, using someone else’s name or tragedy to promote themselves.

  • http://thewrongdrum.wordpress.com planethalia

    Lauren is so amazing! Such pure poetry.

  • Kay

    Have a coke and a smile, and shut the hell up.

  • Jalesa Montez

    That after all is the point of XOJane…I really wish Clutch would stop posting their articles on the site.

  • Deb

    You’re a near sighted, pessimistic idiot.

  • Deb

    So maybe you heard nothing like this as a child, so some other black girl should not have the opportunity to do so.

    Self loathing and pain should be an inherent part of every black girl’s experience right? Just…damn anyone who tries to intervene in some way.

    Some people on here have issues. Maybe it’s because we are used to reading articles that are more negative than uplifting and are then encouraged to react that some can do nothing but criticize. Some of y’all can always find SOMETHING to criticize. Good luck with that!

  • V

    Lol this was a bit much but I read it out aloud. It was an enjoyable read. I snapped my fingers afterwards.

  • Dee

    Well received from a former little girl who was ashamed of her hair.

  • https://www.facebook.com/mmealey Margo Mealey

    So, you “calling this out” is somehow a better usage of time than what the author did?…

    Why is someone benefiting because they are uplifting others a bad thing? What, is she supposed to be anonymous so it’s more authentically noble or somesuch b.s.?

    If you’re doing it right, it’s supposed to feel good and be good for all involved when you help other people.

    That just part of being an actualized human being.

  • Anon

    XOJane is about as bad as exploiting black women as Jezebel is.

    Why a GROWN woman is using a CHILD as a crutch to tap out her issues is beyond me. Seriously. Like this woman has reached out personally to that child, the school, the teacher that admonished her, the administration… we all know the answer to that. Instead, it was, let me use this little girl’s name to write an essay about my personal pain.

  • Tina

    That little girl didn’t say that she hated her hair.

  • Anon

    Heading out, but it is VERY telling that black men can leave derogatory comments about black women on this site all day, errry day, and it only takes a few hours for a black woman’s HONEST (and the actual truth of a situation) comment is so quickly down-voted. A nerve, I hit it.


  • lynn

    I didn’t get the impression that little Tiana hated her hair; she was just sad because the people who ran her school did.

    Other than that, great piece. I tear up a little when I think of all the little black girls growing up being ashamed of their hair. When I see little girls like Tiana who are natural, it makes my heart soar and gives me hope for the next generation.

  • http://dailylifeandliving.blogspot.com Amor

    I like the fact that this letter is not judging anyone who chooses to wear their hair naturally but is reminding them that self-hate should not be their motivation behind not wearing their natural hair. Let’s be free sisters and rock our hair in anyway with tonnes of love without disrespecting those who choose to do otherwise. This message also needs to be highly heard in African countries. Yes African countries. I was raised in an African country for about 15 years and did not hear the most positive things about my natural hair. This is not the case in all African countries but it is a reality in SOME African countries just as SOME African American communities do not have anything positive to say about natural hair.

  • http://gravatar.com/gparson vintage3000

    Great piece, but imo “nappy” is the other n word. I don’t care if your hair is 4z; call our hair kinky, coily, curly, etc.

    Enough with trying to flip the script with these words created to degrade us. Aside from that, the author’s undo in this photo is the business, I wish she would post a tutorial somewhere and also show the other side of it-it’s very chic.

  • mochachick10

    I agree vintage 3000 (despite the negative reps that you have received). I am also one who does not agree with embracing the negative terms attributed to us. I am not defined by these terms and see no reason to attempt to “flip them” and trying to make them positive attributes. Yes, I definitely agree, both N words should be made obscure in our communities and instead positive words w/o any ambiguity associated with their usage should always be used, especially when it comes to our children.

    So yes,Tianna and every other Black child should absolutely revel in the kinky, curly, coily magnificence of their wonderfully made hair.

    Oh and BTW, I don’t think Tianna had any problems with her hair; however, the administrators at her school with their problems (emphasis on “their problem). As a result, Tianna could have very well developed an issue with her hair, so I’m am happy that her father had the forethought to think about his child’s psyche and pull her out of that school with their ignorant administration.

  • Anon

    THANK YOU. That’s what I’ve been saying all along.

    This piece is about the AUTHOR using a little girl’s horrific experience to broadcast her GROWN adult pains.

  • Anon

    Near sighted? To criticize an ADULT using a child’s humiliation to promote her writing? And finding that wrong?

    Um no. Why aren’t you upset that this little girl is being USED as an essay topic for you a GROWN WOMAN to feel better about herself? You don’t feel bad on cribbing on the humiliation of a child to feel “uplifted”? Is that what’s down in the streets?

    The number of people that down-voted me on a BLACK WOMANS site is beyond telling how many black women are willing to use black children to hammer out their own personal issues, instead of seeing the exploitation of a child and wanting to protect her name from being used as someone else’s publicity piece.

    Just because something has “negro spiritual” vocabulary doesn’t mean it is “uplifting” if it comes at the cost of using a CHILD’S NAME to get some shine.

  • http://gravatar.com/nolakiss16 binks

    This was a beautiful read. It is still a shame that other people and even some of us still have an issue/complex with the hair that grows out of our scalp.

  • 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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