The viral video shows a tender exchange between an Atlanta-based hairdresser and a 4-year-old named Ariyonna who called herself ugly while getting her hair done.
Scrolling through social media, I couldn't help but feel slightly irked by some of the more patronizing Women's Day posts supposedly celebrating the strength, beauty and achievements of women in all walks of life. It felt a bit corporate gimmicky to me, when countless girls and women around the world are still struggling to free themselves from the grip of patriarchy. However, amid the at-times superficial show of support and empowerment, one video doing the rounds of the internet stood out like a shining beacon of hope. The now-viral video shows a tender exchange between an Atlanta-based hairdresser and a 4-year-old named Ariyonna, who called herself ugly while getting her hair done.
The video—that's all kinds of black girl magic by the way—shows the hairdresser Shabria doing little Ariyonna's hair during an Instagram Live with her followers. At one point, Ariyonna catches a glimpse of herself on the screen and nonchalantly says, "I'm so ugly." Taken aback by the young girl putting herself down like this, Shabria immediately reminds the child of all the reasons that she is pretty. "Don't say that! Don't say that. You are so pretty," the hairstylist tells the child. "When you look at yourself, you're supposed to say 'I'm so pretty.' Do you hear me?"
"You've got the prettiest little dimples. You are so cute," Shabria says as Ariyonna's eyes well up. The hairdresser then takes the little one in her arms, reassuring the child that she's got no reason to call herself ugly. Posting the emotional exchange between the two on social media, Shabria wrote: We Must UPLIFT Our Queens. While doing her hair she had all the energy in the world then out of nowhere she stares at herself and gets soooo discouraged. It broke my heart into pieces because she has the GREATEST energy and the most beautiful smile and heart! She comes from a great home & loving mother. I just think when kids go to school they learn and pick up sooo many different things that they don’t know the definition but they know the feeling! Keep her in your prayers and keep lifting up our future.
The video quickly went viral on social media and soon reached the eyes of a number of celebrities. Reposting the video to their social media pages, they showered the child with words of encouragement and love while also highlighting the need to fight years of colorism and oppression that leave many young girls like Ariyonna believing they're not beautiful. "THIS is the motivating factor for Black women to leave a legacy of WORTH of BEAUTY," wrote Viola Davis. "We are fighting hundreds of years of brutal conditioning of being considered less than. It is sprinkled in our language, behavior, laws, music... etc.. and trickles down to our youth. I'm speaking LIFE into Ariyonna. From a sista who looks a lot like you....you were born worthy therefore you were born beautiful!"
Not that I need another thing to do, but you know I couldn’t let this one go. Organizing a care package on behalf of #ProfessionalBlackGirl & all of Ariyonna’s virtual village. If you are interested in contributing, pls email me at firstname.lastname@example.org #WeAllWeGot pic.twitter.com/wHvJZQamUQ— Yaba Blay (@fiyawata) March 7, 2020
Shabria and Ariyonna’s story also reached the likes of Jada Pinkett Smith, Eva Marcille, celebrity hairstylist Vernon François and Matthew A. Cherry—the creator of the Oscar-winning short film Hair Love. The director rallied artists on Twitter to post drawings of little Ariyonna to show her just how pretty she is. Soon artists began posting their sketches of the adorable little one with the hashtag #ArtworkForAriyonna, and they're honestly the best thing to come out of this year's Women's Day.
Hey #ArtTwitter can we get a collection of drawings together of this sweet little girl who mistakenly called herself ugly like the one @LeislAdams did so we can get a collection of them to her and the hairdresser @LilWaveDaddy that encouraged her. Make sure to include the dimples https://t.co/PyG6wRpnrv— Matthew A. Cherry (@MatthewACherry) March 7, 2020
A small sample of books I plan on sending to little Ariyonna and @LilWaveDaddy through @fiyawata and #ProfessionalBlackGirls. Looking for some more. Hit me with suggestions. #BooksForAriyonna #ArtworkForAriyonna pic.twitter.com/ECYvLtQWGh— Matthew A. Cherry (@MatthewACherry) March 7, 2020
From my 12yo: “You ARE beautiful!” pic.twitter.com/TTdnYkyAX1— Leta McCollough Seletzky (@LaSeletzky) March 8, 2020
#ArtWorkForAriyonna 💖— jia (@by_10ia) March 7, 2020
i just want babygirl to know that a lot of us who look like her felt the same way at her age and she is ALWAYS PRETTY 💕 even on days when she doesn’t feel like she is 💕💕 pic.twitter.com/hY3vGRT4yv
Ariyonna is too beautiful to not love! She has my heart and I hope she sees how beautiful and how important she is to everyone. ❤️ pic.twitter.com/UU1vlcq3IN— Brittany Joyce Joann Brockett (@kawaiibrittanii) March 7, 2020
@MatthewACherry @LeislAdams @LilWaveDaddy I did this for a beautiful, brave little girl. I didn't see her gorgeous smile in the video but this is how I imagine it, with magic shining out of her special dimples :) pic.twitter.com/QKq90FNBNh— Graeme McGregor (@gmcgregoruk) March 8, 2020
A little illustration for the beautiful Ariyonna sending he so much love and light. I would love to send her some of my artwork celebrating #blackgirlmagic #ArtWorkForAriyonna pic.twitter.com/zXeZtVWWwJ— natty b (@banana_peppers) March 8, 2020
With the internet celebrating her chocolate skin, pearly white teeth and adorable dimples, by the end of the weekend Ariyonna was singing a whole different tune. "I'm black and beautiful. Thank you," the little one repeated over and over. Yes, you are, Ariyonna. You are all kinds of beautiful.