When Nina Simone first came on the scene in the late 1950’s, she wore her hair straight and neat and sang covers of popular jazz standards in addition to her own songs. In those early days, her songs were cool, cute and of obvious quality – but the fiery spirit that became her trademark wasn’t yet fully apparent. When the Civil Rights Movement began, Nina Simone found her voice and in doing so, gave us ours. Her songs spoke about the struggle, the pain and the beauty of blackness. She sang about the need for self-love and appreciation, despite the messages society was then sending to people of color. She wore her hair in beautiful, striking Afrocentric styles and represented our beauty just by her appearance.

When it comes to choosing favorites, there are too many of Nina Simone’s songs to name. But when it comes to finding glorious inspiration for natural hair, these are the songs that come to mind. Here are the Nina Simone songs that inspired me to love myself holistically – from my wooly hair to my brown skin.