Joey Mazzarino and Sesame Street has always found ways to spread cultural enlightenment in all sorts of ways. Now there’s a new message, sent by a father to his daughter: to be proud of who you are and what you look like. This very valuable message comes via a little Muppet girl who has started a web sensation. She sings a song, a love song, to her hair.
The little Muppet girl is based on the adopted daughter of Joey Mazzarino, head writer of Sesame Street. He is Italian; she is from Ethiopia. He and his wife adopted their now five-year-old daughter, Segi, when she was just one year old. According to NPR, Mazzarino wrote the song after seeing his daughter playing with her dolls with straight, long blonde hair. She wanted her hair to be straight and long, just like her dolls. Mazzarino knew that this was a problem, and realized that this must be a problem for young African American girls everywhere.
“She wanted to have long blond hair and straight hair, and she wanted to be able to bounce it around,” he tells NPR’s Melissa Block.
“I Love My Hair” debuted on the Oct. 4 episode of Sesame Street; then it was posted to the Sesame Street YouTube page and people began sharing the video on their Facebook pages. The video depicts a brown Muppet sporting a curly afro and singing about how much she loves her hair and about the many ways she can make her hair—and herself—look pretty.
Hair type in the African American community has been an integral part of growing up. There are many distortions in how young kids perceive beauty. Just check out today’s television and magazine ads to see ads fed to kids about how to get the perfect hair, teeth, skin, and weight. The image of that “perfect” person is everwhere in our society and even in our virtual society. So it is not shocking to see that early on, children are programmed to think that anyone that does not fit that image is, well, not perfect. Yet again, Sesame Street is teaching adults the correct way to think and behave.
“Mazzarino says he began to get worried, but he thought it was only a problem that white parents of African-American children have. Then he realized the problem was much larger–he wanted to say in song what he says to his daughter: “Your hair is great. You can put it in ponytails. You can put it in cornrows. I wish I had hair like you.” (NPR, 2010).
African American bloggers commenting on the Sesame Street video thanked Mazzarino for noting the importance of individuality. Being who you are is what truly matters. The Sesame Street video sends an important message to young black girls—and young girls in general—everywhere.
The social psychology of beauty is this: being beautiful can result in superiority, merit, virtue, and privilege. If you are not beautiful, you will not achieve these. We need to change how we influence kids’ perceptions of what is beautiful. How about trying something new: let’s teach kids to be happy. Just to be happy being a kid.
Mazzarino says he is happy to report that Segi loves the song – and her hair.