Black History Month: Iconic Natural Hairstyles

Black women have a rich history of making bold hair statements. As we celebrate Black History Month, we're paying homage to the most iconic naturalistas of all time.

Nicole Marie Melton Feb, 21, 2013

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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.

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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.

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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.

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On her first solo tour of Britain, Diana Ross rocked a head full of voluminous ringlets — a real departure from the structured Supremes bouffants of the ’60s.

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Chaka hits the stage 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.

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Actress Diahann Carroll is one of the great beauties of our time. Her luxurious halo of curls is simply stunning.

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Janet Jackson arrived at the MTV Video Music Awards rocking an iconic set of “dookie braids,” soon to be imitated by starstruck 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.

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With the braid trend still going strong, 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.

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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.

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Erykah Badu stayed true to her roots by rocking a striking, full afro. The neo-soul star has also sported locs, twists and braids throughout her career.

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Jill Scott channeled 70s glamazons with this oversized, multi-hued afro. Legions of fans have adored Scott's myriad of natural mane moments over the years, including her current braided updo.

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Never one to shy away from a show-stopping ’do, Erykah Badu hits the stage in an all-encompassing afro.

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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.”

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Janelle Monae's signature style—the expertly sculpted pompadour—has become a most-wanted look for naturalistas. She's been rocking her trademark ’do since she hit the scene in ’07.

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Stunning songstress Goapele is another legend when it comes to flaunting natural hairstyles. She’s sported the most intricate cornrows in the book and always looks elegant in a wide collection of decorative headpieces.

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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.”

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Ledisi’s signature style is her famous curly loc updo which she wears with a smile at 2011's VH1 Divas Live event. “I decided to loc because it felt natural going that way,” Ledisi told Black Girl with Long Hair. “I love the fans who appreciate what [my stylist] Michele and I have offered to the world of locs and natural hair.”

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Viola Davis made a big statement by going natural at the 2012 ESSENCE Black Women in Hollywood event. She later sported her chic coif at the Academy Awards, and it completely revamped her red carpet look for a bolder, fresher feel. "I feel very powerful, I really do," said Davis, about wearing her natural hair. "I feel more powerful every day, more secure in who I am, and I've waited so long for that... It feels so divine."

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