On Monday night (June 13), during Game 5 of the 2022 NBA Finals, the Golden State Warriors beat the Boston Celtics 104 to 94. But it appears many people’s attention was focused not on the players but on the spectators — specifically, a 10-year old Black girl. Blue Ivy Carter, the daughter of singer Beyoncé and rapper Jay-Z, sat courtside with her father, and her appearance at this game made the Internet go wild. Blue Ivy was sporting an all-black ensemble with her natural hair in voluminous, bouncy curls that framed her face. In a now viral clip posted by the NBA’s instagram account, Jay-Z and his daughter are seen on the Jumbotron and he wraps his arm around her, before she says, “Dad, my hair!”
Fans took to social media to comment on a multitude of things from the IG video: her funny response to her father hugging her, her uncanny resemblance to her mother, how much she has grown, and her hair. People flooded Twitter with comments on how gorgeous and long her hair is, how beautiful she has become, and how much it resembles her mother’s curls. Many expressed their happiness with how much her hair has changed. Blue Ivy’s hair is no stranger to Internet commentary; people have been commenting on her hair since she was a baby, though the response has usually never been positive.
There is a long history between social media and Blue Ivy’s hair, one where her hair was continuously disparaged because it didn’t look the way it does now. When she was younger, she had kinky textured hair, and her curls were tighter and not as defined as the loose ringlets she sported on Monday. In those years of kinky hair, Blue Ivy was compared to a monkey, called a "little boy", called ugly, and constantly mocked for having type 4 hair, which is the most common hair type amongst the majority of Black people.
In 2014, a Change.org petition that garnered over 2,100 signatures asked Beyonce to brush her daughter’s hair. Blue Ivy was only two years old at the time, and yet adults — including celebrities — were making disparaging comments about her hair. These adults included the likes of rising Black artist Saucy Santana, who called her “nappy-headed” in a now-deleted tweet and negatively compared her to North West, the child of Kanye West and Kim Kardashian, who has much looser curls. For years, there have been problematic critiques of Blue Ivy’s hair by grown Black folks, and while recent comments have been kinder, the critiques as a whole have deeper implications for the Black American community.
Blue Ivy has always been a beautiful child with beautiful hair, but her beauty wasn’t widely recognised by many Black folks until her hair became looser. This is because of the pervasive issue of texturism (or texture discrimination) that exists within so many Black communities. Texturism pushes the idea that certain types of natural hair patterns are more beautiful and desirable than others; hair that is tightly coiled and kinky is seen as less desirable than hair with looser curl patterns or straight or fine hair — a product of racism and Eurocentric beauty standards. With the constant politicisation of Black hair and the importance placed on hair as a result, it comes as no surprise that hair seems to be tied to personal beauty. Since texturism sets or influences the standard for hair, Black women and girls with kinky and type 4 hair are continuously considered less attractive and less feminine, and their womanhood is often invalidated for having those hair types.
Having our hair critiqued and ridiculed has almost become a rite of passage for Black women and girls with kinkier hair types. In the elementary school classrooms and on the playground, little Black girls are often teased for having kinky hair. I remember sitting between my mother’s legs as she braided my hair and then having to go to school and have my classmates call it ugly or try putting pencils in it. In high school, my Black counsellors constantly told me to wear a wig instead of my afro because it would look “better” and no one would take me seriously with an afro. When I would wear my hair in twists or braids, some of my male classmates would compare me to Quavo or Travis Scott and think it was funny to joke about. This behaviour continues into the adult years when men on Twitter get into arguments with Black women and say they look like men.
While Blue Ivy may never see the tweets about her, her older counterparts do. The Black women on Twitter with hair like hers, who used to be little girls, will see those tweets. And it begs a question: when did it become okay to criticise the looks of young Black girls in this way — or at all? Blue Ivy is only 10 years old, so the majority of the hate she received about her hair was before she even hit the double digits. This reveals an issue with society, in which Black girls are viewed as more mature than their age and as if they need less nurturing, protection and support. The adultification of Black girls is the phenomenon that allows adults to feel comfortable commenting on their appearances and speaking about them in this way. This shows the lack of care afforded to young Black girls, and raises a question of what we are trying to teach them if we indoctrinate them with the idea that their personal beauty only increases the closer they align to traits associated with whiteness.
In a world that continuously shuns and rejects Black women, we as a community should be supporting Black women and girls and not perpetuating that same harm onto them. We should love our Black girls in every state, not just when they have “societally presentable” hair. While the Blue Ivys in our lives may not be on Twitter, those little Black girls should know that they are beautiful and their hair is beautiful. The next time Blue Ivy or any little Black girl goes to a basketball game, I hope the focus is on the Golden State Warriors mopping the floor with the opposing team, and not on whether or not that little girl’s hair is beautiful. Twitter commentators can have a seat.