Empowering Little Girls in the Age of Barbie

Sylvia Ferrell-Jones, YW Boston President & CEO

Earlier this month, Sesame Street took on the issue of young black girls’ self acceptance by producing and airing “I Love My Hair,” a music video where a Muppet representing an African American girl, sings about loving her hair as it is.

The idea for the Sesame Street production was prompted by the five-year old daughter of  the show’s head writer, Joey Mazzarino.   Mazzarino said that as his daughter began to watch TV and play with Barbies, she also began to complain to her parents that she didn’t have “good hair,” by which she meant straight and blonde. 

As many sociologists and historians know, the idea of “good hair” is deeply ingrained in America, and is rooted – no pun intended – in historic, racially-based concepts of beauty.

Realizing that the idea of “good hair” vs. “bad hair” was a tipping point for his daughter’s self-image and that of many little black girls, Mazzarino set out to create something to boost her self-acceptance.   The resulting 2-minute video has become a viral YouTube sensation, with more than a quarter of million views to date.

Having been a little African American girl myself, I can remember my feelings of envy when I saw white girls tossing their long, straight hair.  I wanted to be able to toss my hair, to run my fingers through it easily, and most of all, for it to be much longer than it was.  These were the days before wearing one’s hair natural in an afro style was socially acceptable.  Like many of her peers, my mother plaited my hair into thick braids each morning.  On special occasions, she took out the hot comb to straighten some hair in the front to form curly bangs.  My hair was long, but not straight like good hair.

ABC News reported yesterday that the You Tube video has generated hundreds of positive internet comments from women of varying ethnicities and races. Almost all wished that there was a song and video like this when they were children, remarking how liberating it would have been.

As we continue to move forward with our mission of eliminating racism and empowering women, YWCA Boston applauds Sesame Street for its effort to empower little girls and let them know that they are wonderful just the way they are.