Let’s get this out of the way: Blue Ivy Carter is the daughter of two music legends, Beyoncé and Jay-Z, and it’s inevitable and understandable that people are going to be fascinated by her. But from the moment she became visible to the public as a toddler, Blue Ivy’s natural hair has been the subject of national conversation—a constant pressure weighing down on a young Black child who did nothing to deserve the intense scrutiny.
There was the infamous petition on Change.org in 2014 (when Blue Ivy was just 2 years old!) titled “Comb Her Hair,” which acquired over 6,000 signatures publicly condemning Beyonce’s inability to groom her daughter’s hair to the public’s taste. The toddler’s hair became the subject of an entire Atlantic essay before she could even tie her shoes.
Blue Ivy is now a lovely 10-year-old girl, and the internet is still “losing it” over her curls as she strolls through Disneyland just trying to live her life. “The curly ringlets seem to be layered with the shortest pieces falling around her eyes and the longer pieces touching her upper back,” mused Allure magazine. This particular piece is complimentary and celebratory; but still! Having supporters doesn’t quite solve the problem. Imagine being 10 years old and having the whole world staring at and talking about your hair! The utter nightmare.
As a Black woman who was once a Black girl who had to endure the rough hands and snide remarks of impatient braiders back in Lagos, Nigeria, I can vividly recall the uncomfortable weekly sessions full of insults levied on my “coarse” and “stubborn” hair. And still, as a grown adult in the United States, I’ve weathered my fair share of nasty comments from family members and ex-friends who swore I would look so much better if my hair was straightened and sleek, as opposed to the Afro that supposedly made me look unemployable.
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And even when my natural hair manages to garner compliments, it still feels like it’s coming from a place of empathy for what it must take for me to groom my wild tresses into a neat Afro. Our hair is always a conversation piece because of all the efforts that come with it and how society judges our styling choices in relation to what’s deemed acceptable or normal.
No child should ever have to feel less worthy, or really the subject of national discussion at all, for their personal appearance—particularly an element of a Black girl’s appearance that’s so wrapped up in politics and racial stereotypes—for the pleasure of adult readers who should know better.
We don’t need to gawk over hair textures that don’t curl up after a shower or don’t respond to the heavy slathers of over-expensive hair creams that promise magic but deliver nothing. And more than that, we need to stop teaching Black girls to hate their hair. If Blue Ivy Carter was able to draw out the worst of humanity with her carefree Afro, imagine the harrowing reality her counterparts are facing.