"I'm so ugly."
Those were the heartbreaking words spoken by 4-year-old Ariyonna as she had her hair styled. Atlanta-based hairstylist Shabria, who goes by Lil Wave Daddy on Instagram, immediately turned Ariyonna around to embrace her and let her know just how beautiful she is.
On March 5, Shabria posted her exchange with Ariyonna, which has since gone viral. After Ariyonna calls herself ugly, Shabria immediately responds with "Don't say that! You are so pretty."
Ariyonna begins to cry after hearing Shabria let her know how pretty she is. "You have this beautiful chocolate skin," Shabria says. "You are just so gorgeous."
"We must uplift our queens," Shabria wrote in a caption.
"It broke my heart into pieces because she has the greatest energy and the most beautiful smile and heart," she continued. "She comes from a great home and loving mother. I just think when kids go to school they learn and pick up sooo much different things that they don’t know the definition but they know the feeling."
- 2March 10, 2020
Shabria concluded her post by asking viewers to keep Ariyonna in their prayers, and to keep lifting up our future.
The post quickly gained attention; it now has more than 406,000 views, with lots of people sending loving words to Ariyonna.
"Wow this hits hard. Amazing outcome," one person wrote in a comment. Another chimed in, saying, "I made my daughter watch this video because it was so important for me to have her hear you say what you said to this beautiful little girl. So important for all our beautiful black children to hear. I cannot thank you enough for sharing!"
Former first lady Michelle Obama also gave Ariyonna words of wisdom: "Ariyonna, 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" in an Instagram story.
Many other notables and celebrities also weighed in sending support to Ariyonna. Jada Pinkett Smith said, "This made me cry!" "Kudos to this beautiful woman for loving on this beautiful child! We gotta love on each other! This made my heart sing."
Viola Davis explained on Instagram how moments like this should be the motivating factor for black women to leave a legacy of worth and beauty.
"We are fighting hundreds of years of brutal conditioning of being considered less than," Davis said. "It is sprinkled in our language, behavior, laws, music...etc.. and trickles down to our youth," she continued. "I'm speaking life into Ariyonna. From a sista who looks a lot like you....you were born worthy therefore you were born beautiful!"
Laverne Cox echoed Davis, adding, "Inspired by her words I have said loving transness is a revolutionary act. My trans politics are rooted in intersectional feminist politics taught to me by black women like bell hooks through her books. Teaching stunningly beautiful brown girls like this one to see her profound beauty and worth is our work. Let's get busy."
A few days later, after Shabria's initial post, she posted another video in which Ariyonna is seen smiling and saying, "I'm black and beautiful. Thank you everyone."
Actress Cynthia Erivo left a comment on the adorable Insta-clip saying, "Tell her that she’s just like me, brown skin with a gap in her teeth and I KNOW she’s beautiful. Always."
To further keep Ariyonna's spirits high, Matthew Cherry, the director and co-producer of the Oscar-winning animated short film "Hair Love," called on artists to create artwork for Ariyonna, which has resulted in beautiful imagery.
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
Many people have been sharing their illustrations on Twitter along with continual support using the hashtag #ArtworkForAriyonna.
Ariyonna also now has her own Instagram page, which displays the outpouring of love from her all of her supporters in addition to lovely photos of her.