Over the past few years, the Natural Hair Movement has gained plenty of traction, with a slew of celebrities joining in and encouraging others to embrace and celebrate their natural locks.
The movement motivates individuals to love themselves just the way they are, which is extremely important, especially considering the politics of black women's hair. During the era of slavery, afro-textured or "nappy" hair was seen as unkempt and ugly, as it didn't fit in with European ideals of beauty. And while we've definitely made progress toward inclusivity when it comes to beauty, those European standards continue to linger (as is evidenced by many a major fashion magazine... ahem, Vogue) in 2017. But with more and more people choosing to embrace their natural hair, we're getting closer to kicking those stale beauty norms to the curb.
Below are just a few of our favorite stars who've become champions of the Natural Hair Movement. Check out what they've had to say about learning to love their locks:
Tracee Ellis Ross
Earlier this year, Tracee Ellis Ross appeared on "Sunday Today," where host Willie Geist asked her about her hair and why she continues to talk about it.
"In the culture of beauty in this country, there are certain aesthetics that have not made space for everyone -- what is considered beautiful, what is considered sexy -- has not always included darker skin, different shapes of features and different textures of hair," she said. "So, although it can seem like a very shallow and aesthetics conversation, it is truly more of an activist conversation that has to do with making space for the self that I am -- my legacy, my history, my identity and my racial legacy -- that comes through in the story of my hair."
Viola Davis has long been a champion for natural hair, and we love her for it. In a 2013 interview with Essence, the Academy Award winner admitted that teaching her daughter to embrace her natural hair is one of her top priorities.
"There's not one woman in America who does not care about her hair," she said. "But we give it way too much value. We deprive ourselves of things, we use it to destroy each other, we'll look at a child and judge a mother and her sense of motherhood by the way the child's hair looks. I am not going to traumatize my child about her hair. I want her to love her hair."
Amandla Stenberg opened up about her hair journey in an interview with Glamour magazine in 2016. She told the mag about feeling pressure to wear her hair straight, especially when she went through puberty. But then, she said, “I came to the realization that I ― because of the internet honestly, because of seeing people on the internet post pictures with their natural hair, I realized like, ‘Oh, wait, this is actually so cool. Why have I been fighting this component of myself for so long?’”
Zendaya got candid about her natural hair in an interview with People last year, admitting she wasn't very confident in her curls when she was growing up.
"It wasn’t like the hair that girls around me had," she said. "And nobody really knew what to do with my hair. My mom is white and my dad is black — they have two very different hair types. So we learned how to manage my hair together, and I also watched YouTube videos to find easy styles to do.”
“When I was younger, I was afraid to experiment with my look because I was worried about what people thought,” she continued. “But as I’ve gotten older and become more confident in myself, I just don’t care.”
Earlier this year, Gabrielle Union launched her very own haircare brand, Flawless, specifically formulated for textured hair. She spoke about her own experience going natural while promoting the line in January.
“I want women with textured hair to have great hair days," she told WWD. “I went through a phase where I would leave my relaxer on so long, thinking the longer I leave this relaxer on, the straighter it’s going to be. Cut to lesions, like open wounds in my scalp, trying to chase something that was unrealistic, and eventually probably in my mid- to late-20s I decided to give up my relaxer, and I went natural. By natural I mean underneath the weaves, extensions, clips and the hair color was my natural hair — thriving.”
Taraji P. Henson
In 2015, Taraji P. Henson appeared in a shoot for CR Fashion Book with her natural hair styled in cornrows. The actress described the experience of posing without a wig or extensions, admitting she was hesitant at first.
"Part of me was like, No, no, no, NO! This is the hair no one is supposed to see. This is like behind-closed-doors hair. I feel naked. I feel like a plucked chicken...or a wet one. A baby chicken! But Bruce [Weber] says to me, 'It’s not about the hair, it’s your face.' So I just decided to trust the artist’s vision," she said. "As an actress that’s what we do. We are vulnerable every time we put our art out there. Underneath that hair is my soul, and it’s me, it’s mine."
Willow Smith pretty much became a household name thanks to a song about -- what else? -- hair. And while she's experimented with plenty of different hairstyles over the years, these days, she's trying to keep things natural.
Sanaa Lathan has tried various hairstyles, admitting that she loves both the versatility of her tresses.
“I’ve been wearing my hair natural a lot lately. For me, it’s all about changing it up. In terms of my real life, I’ll put it in cornrows and put some conditioner in it and then take it out and it’s really big and wild. I’ve been loving that lately,” she told Hype Hair in 2015. The following summer, she decided to go au natural, meaning she took out her weave and went makeup free.
Jazz musician and singer Esperanza Spalding has been been open abot her natural hair for years. In 2010, she told Curly Nikki, "I've never had a relaxer, and I never will." Then, in 2016, she spoke about her natural locks with Glamour, telling the magazine her mother didn't let her relax her hair when she was younger. As a teen she experimented, but in college, decided to get a buzz cut, which left her with about a quarter inch of hair. She's been letting it grow ever since.
"I like to let it be completely wild; it forces me to face people not knowing how I’m being seen," she told the mag. "I don’t know what it’s doing and I just have to be cool with that — especially if I’m around somebody new. I’m like, All right, let’s go. This is it, unfiltered.”