Black History Month: Natural Hair Icons

From Angela Davis’ afro to Grace Jones’ TWA and back around to Alicia Keys’ braids, history has shown us that Black Women have been rocking their natural hair since the beginning of time. I guess some of us were just late to the party! We wanted to celebrate those who’ve been repping the natural hair community before is was cool to do so. Scroll through the slideshow above to see our picks.

Lola Falana – She made a name for herself in the 1970s as an actress, singer and dancer. In 1979 she became the highest-paid entertainer in Las Vegas thus earning the title, “First Lady of Las Vegas”. Her curls were to die for and added to her stage persona.

Nina Simone – Ms. Simone was a singer, songwriter, pianist, and civil rights activist widely known for her influential contribution to the jazz movement in the 50s and 60s. Her music fused Jazz, Blues, R&B, Folk and Gospel and hair/image was an extension of her musical expression.

Grace Jones – This Jamaican icon has been singing, acting and modeling since the 70s. Her role as the first Black Bond girl in the James Bond movie “A View to a Kill” secured her iconic status in pop culture.

Tracee Ellis Ross – The ground-breaking TV show Girlfriends was the first to really represent 30-something Black women in cosmopolitan America. Joan Clayton, played by Tracee, was the star and her energetic yet flawed character was the highlight of every episode. We miss Joan… and her fabulous hair.

Phylicia Rashaad & Debbie Allen – These sisters are the epitome of class. Phylicia Rashaad was (and may still be) everyone’s favorite TV mom as Claire Huxtable in The Cosby Show. Her sister Debbie Allen is a renowned choreographer and dancer best known for her role in Fame. Both sisters rocked their natural hair during the 80s and 90s when quite frankly it was rare to see images of women doing so.

Pam Grier – Pam rose to fame in the 70s as the fiery, no-nonsense diva in blaxploitation movies such as The Big Bird Cage, Coffy and Foxy Brown. Her fantastic afro was as fierce as her attitude. No one since has made the afro look so sexy.

Mariah Carey – When she hit the music scene in the early 90s Mariah’s voice was as big and dreamy as her golden curls. Twenty years later she’s still making waves in the music scene though we miss her wavy hair.

Angela Davis & Toni Morrison – Political activist and legend Anglea Davis and Pulitzer award-winning novelist Toni Morrison, were forces to be reckoned with in the 60s and 70s and quite frankly still are. We love this photo of them walking together with their glorious afros… we’d love to know what they were talking about.

Chaka Khan – What more is there left to say about Chaka Khan? Her career has spanned more than four decades and she has ten Grammys under her belt. We loved seeing Ms. Khan’s huge hair bounce around on stage as she belted out her classic tunes.

Alicia Keys – Alicia Keys is single-handedly responsible for inspiring braids and braid extensions across the globe in the early 2000s. Between the hit single “Fallin'” and her immaculately cornrowed hair, Alicia picked up the baton where Brandy left it.

Roberta Flack – Killing us softly with her gorgeous afro, Roberta Flack represented flawlessly naturals through the 70s and 80s. She’s responsible for hits such as “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face”, “Killing Me Softly with His Song” and “Where Is the Love”.

Serena & Venus Williams – Venus and Serena are the epitome of strength and hard work. They burst into the tennis scene in the early 2000s and haven’t left since. We love how their braids and beads combo were as natural to them on the courts as their determination. Tennis had never seen anything like these two… definitely natural icons.

Sade – Sade wore her beautiful curls straight most of the time but occasional she would let her curly mane free. This UK singing icon has been a true representation of class and elegance since the early 80s and continues to be today.

Whoopi Goldberg – Whoopi hasn’t always gotten the accolades she deserved. Yes she has the Oscar, but Whoopi was able to obtain big roles in major movies in the 80s and 90s when not many other Black women weren’t. Her locs have become as synonymous has her name.

Denise Nicholas – Actress and activist, Denise Nicholas is best known for her role as high school guidance counselor Liz McIntyre on Room 222. Her soft, natural curls graced our screens for 5 years between 1969 – 1974 making little girls everywhere envy her natural hair.

See more Icons at Curls Understood’s Pinterest page. Be sure to follow!

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