Discover more from India’s Notebook
"Black girl, with the Black girl hair"
an emotional response to Halle Bailey's song Angel, Queen Charlotte, and the Disney show "Saturdays"
As a Black woman, my hair is a statement. It’s my crown, a form of expression. It can be seen as political, it can reflect my mood or stage of life. Enslaved Black women would weave escape maps into the designs of cornrows or hide rice seeds in between each strand. It’s never “just hair.”
I love wearing my hair naturally now, and for a long time as a child, I was indifferent about it (unless it involved me actually getting it washed and styled - I was, and still am, very tender headed!) But there was a long middle of my childhood and teenager-hood where my hair felt cumbersome. I was fighting against it to do what my peers were doing. To me, my “afro-puffs” felt childish next to my friends long and straightened tresses. So when I discovered these three pieces of art, I had emotional reactions to all of them:
Halle Bailey’s debut solo single Angel:
I have been a fan of the Bailey sisters for about a decade now. Halle’s melodies, range, lyricism, and pure tone have always evoked emotion in me. When she was cast as Ariel in the live-action version of The Little Mermaid, I felt so excited for everyone to see and hear what I’ve always heard in her voice. The director himself, Rob Marshall, said she set the bar so high, that no one else could reach it. Halle was met with lots of backlash at this casting choice. She wasn’t picked to be Ariel because she is Black, but the received backlash because of this. Halle says her debut song is a culmination of her thoughts during that time and affirmations she tells herself as she figures life out. This is truly a song I wish I had growing up, and I’m glad I have it now. As she sings about sun-kissed skin, being a masterpiece, being a ‘Black girl with the Black girl hair’, I think this song will resonate with Black girls who may be reaching a point in their life when they feel uncomfortable in their skin and hair. Even if you aren’t Black, this is still a song to enjoy from the beauty and positivity alone - she is filling a much needed gap of empowering, uplifting, heartfelt ballads. Give it a listen!
Executive Produced my Marsai Martin and Norman Vance Jr., this is a show that I enjoy watching as a 31-year-old women that I wish I had 20 years ago. It’s about three best friends who spend their Saturdays at a skating rink with the same name. It’s a cute, family show, beautifully nostalgic for me, the animated scenes reminiscent of Lizzie McGuire, and the parents, Golden Brooks and Omar Gooding, icons in their own right from 90/00s sitcoms. The main characters played by Daria Johns, Danielle Jalade, and Peyton Basnight, wear their hair in locs, braids with heart-sculpted baby hairs, and beautiful, fluffy afros. I can specifically remember the days when my friends and I would head out to the skating rink on Saturdays. I would try to get my own afro-puffs gelled down to look sleek and, in my eyes, sophisticated. I would feel self-conscious when the hair ties inevitably popped and bobby pins would snap open, my hair too thick for it all. Had I had a show like this when I was younger, I would’ve felt proud to wear my afro in all of thickness, without feeling like I needed to chemically straighten my hair or sleek it down to feel beautiful.
Obviously, this one is not for kids and I probably wouldn’t have been allowed to watch it as one, but seeing it as an adult healed the way I saw my hair as a child. For a brief period of time, I danced ballet. My mom would brush my hair down and I would wear a headscarf the entire time in the car until we arrived at the ballet studio downtown, only taking it off before getting out of the car, setting my hair into the sleekest bun possible. At the end of each rehearsal, the studio would be steamy and hot, our cheeks red, and you guessed it, my hair would be back “frizzy.” I would hate to look in the mirror and see how frizzy my hair and eyebrows were against everyone else’s still sleek and tight buns.
Enter Queen Charlotte. Seeing India (!!!) Amarteifio’s loosely wore bun or intricately braided hairstyles in her ball gowns made me realize that this hairstyle, this hair, can be just as formal as a sleek, straighter style. I didn’t even realize I was carrying that emotional baggage until she appeared on the screen. It inspired me to buy some formal hair jewelry for my own hair and afro-textured bun.
I know the word “representation” gets thrown around a lot. Most of the time it is genuine, or at the very least, done with good intentions, but maybe some people feel like it’s pointless or inauthentic, but it can really make a difference in how a child sees themselves and others. I write middle grade and young adult stories to give teens and pre-teens the stories I wish I had when I was younger. This is how, hearing an anthem celebrating Black hair, a show about a Black girl preteen best friend group, and a Netflix show about Black royalty, made me feel about my 12-year-old self, as a 31-year-old woman.