The Story Behind The ‘I Love My Hair’ Sesame Street Video

Man, when the people lead, the leaders do follow. Both NBC News and it appears, ABC News, had news about this lovely little Sesame Street video featuring a black Muppet girl singing about how she loves her hair that has gone viral. At this writing, there has been at least 450,000 hits on the two venues combined at You Tube. Some adventurous soul has also substituted the sound of “I Love My Hair” with Willow Smith’s “I Whip My Hair,” in what is called a mash-up. This has drawn at least 70,000 viewers.

The song was written by a white father, Joey Mazzarino, the head writer and a puppeteer at Sesame Street, who with his wife was increasingly disturbed at how his Ethiopian-born, adopted daughter Segi was undergoing that phase that all African American girls go through: why don’t I have good hair, that is, blonde, straight, acceptable-by-the-culture hair.

As Mazzarino and his wife watched their daughter grow, he noticed a change when she started playing with Barbies. Segi started saying negative things about herself and her own hair.

“She was going through this phase where she really wanted like the long, blonde hair. … She would look at Barbies and really want the hair.”


Mazzarino decided to help his daughter and other young girls appreciate their beauty.

“I just want kids to know their hair is beautiful,” Mazzarino said. “I just hope little kids, little girls see this and really feel positive and great about themselves.”

Mazzarino wrote the song and with the help of the “Sesame Street” designed the little girl Muppet dancing around, wearing different hairstyles like braids and cornrows, singing, “Don’t need a trip to the beauty shop because I love what I’ve got on top. … I want to make the world aware I love my hair.”

The video debuted on Sesame Street on October 4, and was placed on its Sesame Street You Tube page. Since then Mazzarino has been amazed at the groundswell of support from African, African American, Latina and biracial girls and women. Previously, he had no conception about how much this was an issue among girls of color growing up. He thought at first that it was just a phase that adopted black children went through.

When you read about sistas weeping as they write that they wish that their mothers or grandmothers had lived to see something like this–that someone finally, actually understood–it’s deep. Deep. I remember buttoning my Catholic school sweater up and fitting it over my head and running in the wind with a couple of girl classmates, because I wanted my hair to float out like a white girl’s. Whoopi Goldberg in The Spook Show had a black girl character who wore a white towel on her hair, claiming that it was her long, blonde hair. (Whoopi was also criticized for once wearing blue contact lenses; but I wasn’t hating. I saw it as the choice that Toni Morrison‘s doomed heroine Pecola in The Bluest Eye never experienced on her own.)

I can only hope Angelina Jolie is showing Zahara Jolie-Pitt this video and learning how to comb and oil her hair. Or getting someone who does know how to oil and comb her hair and teach her the black cultural basics of taking care of herself. Because there are times I (and a lot of other people) don’t think the child is getting the right hair care, and this could backfire into some ugly later. White parents with black children need to be cognizant of these things when they crop up, rather than sweeping them under the rug because they’re uncomfortable about being ill-equipped to deal with it. They need to encourage and affirm their kids as whole human beings, and that begins by simple things like taking care of as well as loving their hair as well as their skin (in other words, fight “ashy” legs.)

Joey Mazzarino reached out to his daughter, and because of his power in the media, he addressed a problem, and now it’s gone all over the world. No way that this is over for him and many others who are white and have black children. No way. Just imagine how it is for black parent(s) and black children everyday. There is nothing easy about raising children right.

~ by blksista on October 19, 2010.

%d bloggers like this: