It all started with three heartbreaking words from a little girl.
Four-year-old Ariyonna was having her hair styled by Shabria Redmond, an Atlanta-based hairdresser and rapper, when she glanced at her own reflection and said quietly to herself, “I’m so ugly.”
Redmond, who goes by the name LilWaveDaddy, stopped everything to shower Ariyonna in love and reassurance. She shared a video of the heartwarming moment on Instagram.
“Don’t say that! Don’t say that. Don’t say that. You are so pretty,” the hairdresser said. “When you look at yourself, you’re supposed to say, I’m so pretty. You are so pretty, do you hear me? You’ve got the prettiest little dimples. You are too cute.”
Ariyonna started to cry, and Redmond gave her a hug as she continued to comfort the little girl.
“You’re gonna make me cry. You’re not ugly!” she said. “You are so pretty. You have this beautiful chocolate-y skin … you are beautiful, black is beautiful, and if nobody ever tell you, I will tell you, you are gorgeous.”
“We Must UPLIFT Our Queens,” the hairstylist wrote in the caption. “While doing her hair she had alllll the energy in the world then out of nowhere she stares at herself and gets soooo discouraged 😢 it broke my heart into pieces because she has the GREATEST energy and the most beautiful smile and heart!
“She comes from a great home & loving mother," she continued. "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 ! Keep her in your prayers and keep lifting up our future !!!”
“Ariyonna, you are gorgeous,” Obama wrote on Instagram. “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.”
Viola Davis also weighed in on the touching video.
“THIS is the motivating factor for Black women to leave a legacy...of WORTH of BEAUTY!” she wrote on Instagram. “We are fighting hundreds of years of brutal conditioning of being considered less than. It is sprinkled in our language, behavior, laws, music...etc.. and trickles down to our youth. I'm speaking LIFE into Ariyonna. From a sista who looks a lot like you....you were born worthy therefore you were born beautiful!"
Jada Pinkett Smith sent her own message of support.
“THIS made me cry!” she wrote on Instagram. “Kudos to this beautiful woman for loving on this beautiful child! We gotta love on each other! This made my heart sing.”
Filmmaker Ava DuVernay said she was “in tears” over the moving video.
“Somebody told this child this and her heart broke and her confidence broke and she believed it,” she wrote on Twitter. “Thank God for this beautiful spirit in her life to tell her differently. This video shows how deeply we harm each other. And fully we can lift each other up.”
Actress Laverne Cox also chimed in with her own words of support and inspiration.
“Teaching stunningly beautiful brown girls like this one to see her profound beauty and worth is our work,” she wrote on Instagram. “Let's get busy.”
“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,” he tweeted. “Make sure to include the dimples.”
Artists responded in spades, sending drawings and paintings of Ariyonna.
One drawing celebrated the beautiful bond between Ariyonna and her hairdresser.
Another drawing portrayed Ariyonna as a princess wearing a shirt with the message, “Pretty girl.”
Another artist shared a lovely drawing of Ariyonna with the message, “Pretty inside and out.”
Ariyonna’s family has started an Instagram page for their little girl to share all the artists’ drawings, as well as cute photos of Ariyonna.
Her hairdresser also shared a heartwarming video of Ariyonna smiling and saying, “Black and beautiful."
She also sent a message of thanks to everyone who had responded to her video.
"Thank you all you guys are amazing ! Every color is beautiful," she wrote on Twitter. "Ariyonna loves all the love & and I genuinely appreciate what God is doing ! Be blessed."
Kudos to everyone involved for turning a heartbreaking moment into an outpouring of love and encouragement!