44 Women Weigh In On The Meaning Of “Black Girl Magic”

illustrated by liz riccardi

from one sister to another

The term "black girl magic" began as a slogan printed on a T-shirt designed by CaShawn Thompson. Originally written as “black girls are magic,” the uplifting phrase morphed into an abbreviated hashtag that immediately caught fire across social media. #BlackGirlMagic was more than a trend, though—it ignited a movement and simultaneously became a safe haven where black women could connect via the Internet. As a result, it strengthened the bond that the black community has worked so hard to build—it empowered the sisterhood.

It was amazing to see so much positivity flooding on the web, but last month #BlackGirlMagic was swallowed in a controversial debate after a personal essay nearly derailed everything the term stood for. (Some women have argued that including the word "magic" to describe black women implied that they had supernatural qualities.) Instead of tripping on this misstep, black women united and continued to push each other forward. We kept on moving out of the shadows and we didn't look back.

Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but the whole purpose of the phrase was to celebrate the "beauty, intelligence, and power of black women everywhere." Thompson told the Los Angeles Times that she included the word because “sometimes our accomplishments might seem to come out of thin air, because a lot of times, the only people supporting us are other black women.” Surely, Black Girls Rock! has faced some backlash over its name too, as has #BlackLivesMatter and any other words of empowerment focusing on black people. (Somewhere online and offline, there are still debates about "Formation" going on...) At the end of the day,  this isn't about everybody else—this is about us standing tall and proud. 

Every day during Black History Month, NYLON featured phenomenal black women from various industries on our website to tell their stories for the Black Girl Power... The Future Is Bright series. Throughout this journey, we learned how they became who they are, what they have accomplished, and the steps they made along the path to their respective careers. In addition to asking many of these women what "blackness" means to them, we also asked them about "black girl magic" and what they think is the most magical thing about being a black woman. 

Peruse through the gallery to read all 44 of their responses, below. We guarantee it will inspire you to believe in the power of #BlackGirlMagic, if you didn't already.

“Show a people as one thing, only one thing, over and over again, and that is what they become.” ― Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Photographed by Gina Nero

"This is the premise of a joke I'm writing. Black women have this freedom to be beautiful unforgivably. I talk to my white girlfriends, and we often discuss the differences in growing up. Those anti-aging ads, weight-loss, and 'blonde is best' ads, are aimed at them. Not us. I can wear my hair however I want and be as thick as a brick—I'm not, and used to wish I was—and I'm cool. It helps our confidence early on. I remembered growing up seeing hip-hop videos; I saw such a slew of different women in them. All allowed to be beautiful. My interpretation of black girl magic: I see it as a little light in my heart, that helps balance and assure me, given to me by my mother and ancestors. I don't even think about it, but it's there if and when I need it."

—Quinta Brunson