The Power of the “Black Girl Smile”
Canadian expat Alesha Bailey found solace in the unexpected camaraderie of the “Black girl smile” when she moved to Germany. This unique exchange between Black women, as described by writer Aley Arion, signifies a shared experience that transcends borders.
Arion’s TikTok video celebrating the Black girl smile went viral, emphasizing its significance in the lives of Black women. The smile serves as an affirmation, a recognition of beauty, style, and shared identity. Bailey, co-founder of eco-luxury marketplace Yard & Parish, echoes this sentiment, emphasizing how the smile reinforces a sense of belonging, especially in unfamiliar territories like Europe.
However, the conversation around the Black girl smile is not without its complexities. Arion turned off comments on her TikTok due to conflicting opinions, with some expressing grievances about the smile not being reciprocated. Arion emphasizes that it’s not an expectation but rather a genuine expression of joy.
Occupational psychologist Dr. Patricia Britto explains the psychological impact of the smile, describing it as a reflection of acceptance, joy, and love. The smile triggers positive hormones, fostering a sense of calm and belonging, particularly when shared with someone who looks similar to oneself.
As Black women navigate a world where they often oscillate between visibility and invisibility, the Black girl smile becomes a powerful tool. It goes beyond a simple gesture; it’s an acknowledgment, a confirmation of belonging, and a declaration of love and support for fellow Black women. In a world where small acts of kindness can alleviate stressors, the Black girl smile stands out as a meaningful and impactful exchange.
Repurposed article originally published in Refinery 29