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Super Natural: Afrobella On Identifying Your Hair Idols

How Diana Ross, Chaka Khan and Susan from Sesame Street shaped the natural hair blogger. 

Who were your first hair idols? For many of us, it might be your mom or a fly auntie or hip young cousin. I grew up around women who all wore their hair stick straight, as straight as relaxer could get it. But in my heart I always yearned for BIG hair. Hair with movement and bounce and drama. It all began when we gathered around the TV as a family to watch the Diana Ross concert, Live in Central Park 1983. Listen. Watching Diana Ross in those sparkling costumes with that gorgeous hair just whipping in the wind and rain made an indelible impression on me. That very week, I remember sashaying down the stairs with a towel on my head singing “Muscles,” swinging that towel behind me like it was a resplendent mane of my own.

Another major hair idol moment for me came in the video for “I Feel For You.” Chaka Khan made me want ginormous, oversized, unapologetic hair. She also helped me realize that a woman with curves and big hair could be a showstopper.

I was a tiny little thing in those days, but I wanted that sense of understanding. So I looked to Susan on Sesame Street. Not Olivia, because she had braids. Susan wore her hair in a short cropped curly fro in the early 80’s and I was able to look to her as a reflection of self, as she taught Grover and Big Bird about life and put Oscar in his grouchy place.

All of this ages me and lets you know exactly when my formative years were. I grew up in a time when you had to really pick, choose and seek out your hair icons! Now, today’s generations have so many beautiful natural hair role models to look to. I sometimes wonder who this current generation’s hair idols are. On the musical tip, there are women like Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, Solange, Janelle Monae, Chrisette Michele, India Arie, Ledisi…all known for wearing natural hairstyles, or rocking natural textures in their hair. On TV and the big screen, there are women like Tracee Ellis Ross, Viola Davis, Teyonah Parris, and the list goes on. We’re in a beautiful time of abundance, but still I find myself looking to my original idols, the ones who made an impact on my impressionable mind.

Who would you consider to be your hair idol?

Afrobella was the natural hair blogger at AOL’s Black Voices and a writer for Vogue Italia’s Vogue Black website. She has also presented keynotes at several major media expos and seminars.