In the week since Markeisha Simien posted the radically different before-and-after pictures of her 5-year-old daughter's hairstyle on the first day of school, she is still combing through all the responses from strangers.
That's because the Louisiana mom's good-natured lament over the damage little Charle-feigh did to the 'do that took so long to braid has touched a chord with people as far away as Hawaii, Jamaica and Australia.
"I'm so overwhelmed right now," Simien told TODAY. "I can say this: I picked my baby up from school at 3:30 p.m. and posted that picture by 4 p.m. at the latest. By 9 p.m. that night I had to take it down because it already had more than 40,000 likes and shares and it was scaring me."
The single mother of two continued: "I didn’t understand at the time that so many people were relating to that. Some people wrote that they were having horrible days and her picture turned their days around."
The viral moment started simply enough on Aug. 22. After spending 30 minutes that morning getting Charle-feigh's hair meticulously braided and punctuated with a perfect bow, Simien returned to the school in the afternoon to find a much less coiffed look.
"I was devastated at first," recalled Simien. "I was furious when she got in the car. I was like, 'What, when, how and who?' She was like, 'It was itching.'"
By the time she posted the photo on Facebook, she was able to laugh about it with her daughter. But the real shock was just starting as the likes and shares started multiplying almost immediately.
Simien believes the post resonated with other parents who also struggle with their own children's hair — and also with some people who are inspired by Charle-feigh's independent streak.
"In my eyes, I tell her every day, she’s a princess. She is self sufficient. She has asthma and knows how to take her nebulizer, put in the saline ... She has it down pat, and she’s only 5 years old. She’s an amazing kid," Simien said. "God really knew what he was doing when he made her for me."
Over the past few days, one response that particularly touched her was a message from an older woman in Covington, Louisiana, who used to take before-and-after school photos herself. "Her daughters are grown now, and for her to see my post on Facebook brought her so much joy," said Simien.
As for the most important audience?
"(Charle-feigh) kind of knows about the picture," said Simien. "But she’s not understanding that people that we will probably never meet in life are looking at it and supporting her. But one day, when she gets old enough, she will."