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These headlines capture some of the Grammy winner’s boldest hair transformations of late — a routine fans have grown to expect from the beauty chameleon who rose to national prominence in 2019 with her sleeper hit, “Truth Hurts.”

But hair confidence didn’t always come easy for Lizzo. On Thursday, she opened up about her journey during a surprise virtual appearance at the Boys & Girls Club of Harlem for the Dove Self-Esteem Project.

“I grew up in a family where they had long hair. … Their hair grew down and curly and mine grew up and kinky,” said Lizzo, a brand ambassador for Dove. “I used to think that their hair was beautiful and that mine wasn’t.”

Stereotypes and hair-based discrimination have long persisted for Black women, with many feeling pressure to conform to White ideals of beauty, such as long straight hair. Last month, natural hair swim caps were banned from the Olympics, sending a message to Black athletes that they don’t belong. In other instances, hair-based discrimination has led to denied employment or job loss, resulting in many states moving to enact new workplace protections for employees who want to wear natural hairstyles. In recent months, the Army and U.S. Air Force also took action, releasing new grooming standards that allow more flexibility for service members who wear locs, twists, braids and ponytails.

For many Black women, including Lizzo, stereotypes were ingrained at a young age. One of the wildest she was taught? “You need to have big hair, because you’re a big girl,” Lizzo said, adding that she was told it would make her body look “snatched.” “And I believed that for a long time,” she added.

Now, Lizzo said, things are different: “I’m like, ‘What if I don’t want to look snatched? What if I want to show off my big body?’ So I’ve been combating that stereotype by wearing short pixie cuts. … I’ve been doing the short pink hair or short green hair, and that’s to show you that my hair and my body look good no matter what.”

It’s only been two or three years since Lizzo began her hair love journey, she said. “That was my final frontier in loving myself, was loving my hair,” she said, crediting influencers on social media who help spread awareness and acceptance for all hair types.

“It’s not just 3A and 3B,” she said of natural hair, referring to a hair classification system for identifying curl patterns and textures. “It’s 4C. And I’ve got a 4B, 4A, so we’re all included now and so I feel like I’m a part of the movement.”

Donning an Afro, crowned with monarch butterflies, Lizzo’s appearance was part of a workshop event to celebrate the launch of “My Hair, My CROWN,” Dove’s new educational tool kit for groups and classrooms designed to boost self-esteem and hair confidence in kids with coils, curls, waves and protective styles.

Before parting, Lizzo shared her own advice for the group of 15 girls.

“Put love into your hair,” she said. “Listen to your hair; be intuitive. We listen to our bodies all the time when we’re hungry, when we’re sleepy. So listen to your hair when your hair needs love.”

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