This past week, 4-year-old Ariyonna learned a lesson not just in her beauty, but the beauty in her community.
The young girl became the center of attention last week after a video of her saying “I’m so ugly,” as she was getting her hair done went viral. Shabria, the Atlanta-based hairstylist who filmed the interaction, immediately chastized and comforted the young girl.
“Don’t say that!” Shabria said, stopping to hug the little girl. “You got the prettiest little dimples. You are too cute!”
The video struck a nerve with black women around the world. In the last week, many rallied around Ariyonna to give her messages of affirmation.
Forever first lady Michelle Obama spoke to Ariyonna on her Instagram stories: “You are gorgeous. In a world that sometimes tries to say otherwise, I want to tell you—and every other beautiful, intelligent, brave black girl—just how precious you are.”
Jada Pinkett Smith also chimed in (h/t Good Morning America), “This made me cry!” the actress, producer, and Red Table Talk host wrote on her Instagram. “Kudos to this beautiful woman for loving on this beautiful child! We gotta love on each other! This made my heart sing.”
Actresses Viola Davis and Laverne Cox went even further, using the video to connect the dots between Ariyonna’s experience and black women and girls’ evaluations of their own beauty and worth.
“We are fighting hundreds of years of brutal conditioning of being considered less than,” Davis posted on her Instagram. “It is sprinkled in our language, behavior, laws, music...etc.. and trickles down to our youth.
“I’m speaking life into Ariyonna,” she continued.” From a sista who looks a lot like you....you were born worthy, therefore you were born beautiful!”
Cox, a trans rights activist, also drew parallels between her experiences and Ariyonna’s. “Inspired by her words I have said loving transness is a revolutionary act,” she said. “Teaching stunningly beautiful brown girls like this one to see her profound beauty and worth is our work. Let’s get busy.”
Oscar-winning director and co-producer of the crowdfunded animated short film Hair Love, Matthew Cherry also harnessed the power of community to make Ariyonna feel validated and beautiful, soliciting #ArtTwitter for depictions of the young girl. Hundreds heeded the call, posting their portraits on Twitter and Instagram.
Most importantly, the outpouring had an impact on Ariyonna. A few days after posting the first video of Ariyonna in tears, stylist Shabria posted another video of the gorgeous little girl. This time, she beamed as she looked into the camera and recited a new affirmation.
“I’m black and beautiful. Thank you,” Ariyonna said, punctuating the affirmation with two air-kisses.