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mater mea looks at seven women who have embraced their natural hair and helped inspire the rest of us.

After E!’s Fashion Police co-host Giuliana Rancic said that actress Zendaya’s hair—worn in faux dreadlocks on the Oscar’s red carpet—looked like it “smells like patchouli oil and weed,” many have called Rancic out for her ignorance, including the 18-year-old celebrity.

In a message on Instagram, the singer and actress wrote that she decided to wear locs to this year’s Oscars because she “wanted to showcase them in a positive light, to remind people of color that our hair is good enough.”

Zendaya’s thoughtful and elegant response reminded us of some of the other natural beauties who have embraced their hair, ignoring any pushback the decision brought. In no particular order, here are some of the women who have proudly rocked their fros, curls, and locks no matter what anyone said.

Angela Davis

Angela-Davis-Mar-28-2006” by Nick WiebeOwn work. Licensed under CC BY 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons.

Angela Davis

During the Civil Rights Movement, activist Angela Davis wore her hair in an afro, which became one of the symbols of the era. Prior to that, straight hair or pressed hair was the norm as black hair was seen as less attractive than white, straight hair. Jesse Jackson, Pam Grier, and Diana Ross all rocked afros and thus showed the political solidarity of the time: that black was beautiful in its natural state.

Flickr user  Jeremy Chan
Flickr user Jeremy Chan

Cicely Tyson

In preparation for her first live television role, Cicely Tyson made the decision to cut off her straightened shoulder length bob into a short natural. In an interview on Oprah’s Master Class, Tyson said she made the decision because she knew the character she was playing wouldn’t have had processed hair. Not only did the director love the cut, but Miss Cicely sparked a natural hair movement.

Flickr user  SC Cunningham
Flickr user SC Cunningham

Erykah Badu

When Erykah Badu’s “On and On” video first debuted, we were mesmerized not just with her voice but also with her hair, which was wrapped in a bevy of scarves. Throughout her career, Erykah has worn her hair in braids, curly, straight, and combed out into a fro.

“My hair is an aesthetic choice,” she has said, “and I don’t feel I have an obligation to wear it one way or the other but to health for myself. And to me it’s healthier to, I guess, be as natural as you can in your most natural state.  At the same time, how you wear your hair is a political statement as well. Pretty much everything you do as a black woman is a political statement.”


Lisa Bonet

Always staying true to herself, Lisa Bonet has walked the red carpet with her locs shaved on one-side and her grey hair proudly showing through. During her time on both The Cosby Show and A Different World, Bonet was never afraid to showcase her natural hair in pixie cuts, locs, or braids.


India Arie

In her debut single, “Video,” India Arie proclaimed that she wasn’t “the average girl from your video / And I ain’t built like a supermodel / But I learned to love myself unconditionally / Because I am a queen.” With her locs wrapped and a single flower in her hair, India declared she was beautiful in her own skin and that what the creator gave her was “just fine.”


Cree Summer

Cree Summer stole our hearts as the quirky, lovesick Freddie on A Different World. Summer’s bouncy curls inspired many young fans, myself included, to love their hair. The actress has said that she hasn’t always liked her own hair. “Believe it or not, on A Different World, I was very unhappy with my hair,” she says. “ That was not a happy hair time for me, but I’m happy that people were inspired by it though.”

Flickr user  scannerFM
Flickr user scannerFM


A few years ago, when Solange was papped with a low fade, the reaction was monumental. The popular website The Daily Mail declared she was doing “a Britney” and “might finally have flipped.” Solange took to Twitter and pointed out that:

“i. have. done. this. twice. in. my. life. i. was 16. i was 18. did. not care about your opinion. then. dont. care. now.

dont. need. your. attention. or. your. co-sign. i am #3. trending topic. before. IRAN. &. some of you cant even locate it on a map. its sad.

dont. want. a. edge. up. or a perm. because. im not trying. to make this ‘a style’ or a statement.

i. just. wanted. to. be. free. from. the. bondage. that. black. women sometimes. put. on. themselves. with. hair.”

Since then, Solange has become a natural hair icon whose style and presence continue to inspire.

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