In recent years, natural hair has seen a surge in popularity among kinky-haired women wanting to ditch the creamy crack in exchange for chemical-free curls. While we're loving the newfound fame of natural hair, the truth is Black women have been rocking natural 'dos for decades. Some of the most iconic curls, kinks and waves were seen on stunning songstresses such as Diana Ross, Chaka Khan and Patti LaBelle way before the advent of natural hair gurus on YouTube.
These are some of the stars whose fierce, fearless and fabulous natural hair has left a lasting impression on Black hair history.
Political activist Angela Davis popularized larger-than-life hair when she proudly rocked her afro in the ’60s. Her iconic ’fro inspired Black women everywhere to ditch their hair straighteners and go natural, sparking a revolution in Black beauty and style.
In the late ‘60s, few afros were as powerfully majestic as Marsha Hunt’s. The singer, actress and model lit up the stage in skintight buckskin pants, belly-baring halters and that awe-inspiring cloud of hair.
In the ’70s, Pam Grier made a name for herself not only for her iconic roles in Blaxploitation flicks like Foxy Brown, but also for her super-big, sexy afro.
On her first solo tour of Britain, Diana Ross rocked a head full of voluminous kinks — a real departure from the structured Supremes bouffants of the ’60s.
Chaka Khan hit the stage in the late ’70s with Rufus rocking an enormous, fluffy ’fro. This would also be the year Rufus featuring Chaka Khan earned their first platinum album, which catapulted Chaka — and her big, fearless hair — into the spotlight.
With her micro-braids, multi-colored beads and hair accessory flourishes like chopsticks and feathers, “Forget Me Nots” singer Patrice Rushen was one of the top tress trendsetters in the early ’80’s.
Janet Jackson showed up to the 1993 MTV VMAs rocking an iconic set of box-braids which would soon be imitated by star-struck girls all over the world. This was also the year that Jackson wore her braids in the film “Poetic Justice,” which further solidified the style as a trend.
With the box-braid trend still going strong in the ‘90s, Brandy hit the scene as a smiley-faced teen. It didn’t take long for her signature braids to become the style every teenage girl coveted. Here, the 16-year-old star smiles from the front row of Ebony magazine’s Celebrate the Dream event.
When Lauryn Hill parted ways with The Fugees and stepped into superstardom after the release of The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, the talented singer’s chunky locs became one of the most memorable natural hairstyles in the history of Black music.
Alicia Keys made her Songs in A Minor debut at the turn of the century and immediately became a style star for her intricately designed cornrows, which she often decorated with beads.
Solange famously cut off all her hair in 2009 and proudly sported her newly cropped coif. “I just wanted to be free from the bondage that Black women sometimes put on themselves with hair,” Solange tweeted shortly after her “Big Chop.”
Tracee Ellis Ross
When we saw Ross in New York City at the “ESSENCE and BET Honors Tracee Ellis Ross” event, there was no way to describe her natural curls other than perfect. Ross is a big fan of wearing her hair naturally curly, and so are we.
We don’t know what’s more impressive — Esperanza Spalding’s amazing Grammy-winning music… or her perfectly shaped, lustrous afro! “It certainly makes me ‘identifiable’ when I show up with my Afro, but, to me, that’s the most obvious way to wear my hair,” Spalding said in an interview with CurlyNikki. “I think of myself as an artist, as a musician, and I’m happy that my hair is just one more way that I can express myself.”
Janelle Monaé’s instantly became a naturalista hair crush when she began sporting her trademark pompadour. Her style staple is elegant and timeless and she always finds ways to spice it up with haute accessories or a bright, bold lip.