She hopes to inspire other women
Akilah Davis, a news reporter for ABC 11-affiliate station WTVD in North Carolina, celebrated Juneteenth in a remarkable way. For the first time ever on air, she embraced her natural hair and shared her journey to “hair freedom” with her viewers.
Previously, Davis, 34, had been wearing wigs or weaves for about 10 years during her television appearances, concealing her natural hair, including the locs she had been cultivating since December 2021, as she reveals exclusively to PEOPLE.
In a personal video package that aired on Monday, Davis shared her story, including interviews with her parents, Terry and Debra Davis, and her own reflections. She spoke about the challenges she faced in accepting and embracing her natural hair throughout her life.
“My hair texture was misunderstood as I was growing up. My tight curls were difficult for my mom to manage,” Davis expressed in the video. “Unknowingly, I internalized the idea that straight hair was considered good hair, while Afro hair like mine was not.”
Davis acknowledged that the racial reckoning following the murder of George Floyd in 2020 ignited a “quiet movement among Black women” who found freedom and self-expression by starting locs. However, her decision to reveal her natural hair on television was not one she took lightly or made hastily.
“There is emotional exhaustion in waking up every day, braiding your hair and wearing a wig to appear presentable for others,” Davis confided to PEOPLE. “I grew tired of it. I began my locs with the anticipation of this day arriving.”
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Juneteenth held significant weight for Davis as the perfect occasion to embrace her authentic self and experience “hair liberation.” She emphasized that this decision had been years in the making, marked by a mental shift that had been occurring over the past couple of years. “Why not embrace who I am? It’s me,” Davis asserted.
During her on-air announcement, Davis stated, “Moving forward, this is how you’ll see me on TV, and I hope to inspire women and young girls who struggle to embrace their roots. I see you, sis, and I’m with you.”
The response to her segment, initially intended for the local audience, has been overwhelmingly positive and far-reaching, as she shares with PEOPLE. While she is grateful for empowering countless Black women to embrace their natural hair, her primary focus is reaching the hearts of young Black girls.
“As they watch me on TV, I see a reflection of my own past self,” Davis explains. “So, if I can connect with a young girl of color, whether she has braids or locs, and let her know that her hair is beautiful and professional, and that society is making space for her, then I consider my job fulfilled.”
At the beginning of her segment, Davis appeared wearing a light-colored wig in her signature straight hairstyle. However, by the end, she proudly stood on screen with her natural shoulder-length locs. She conveyed to her audience that she had finally achieved the “hair freedom” she had been seeking.
“I feel liberated. I feel inspired. I feel powerful,” Davis expresses with heartfelt excitement and joy in her voice. “Being true to oneself brings about a sense of empowerment. I feel like I can conquer anything.”