Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue model Ebonee Davis on why she embraced her natural hair

Ebonee Davis in Sports Illustrated
(Sports Illustrated)

Sports Illustrated launched their annual swimsuit edition with a little #BlackGirlMagic!

First, there was African-American model Danielle Herrington gracing the cover—making her only the third black model to ever land the coveted spot!

Following the announcement she made her first appearance on “Good Morning America” where she shared how she was “in tears” when she got the news. “I put in so much work,” she shared. “I reached my dream.”

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Not surprisingly, she was also heavily inspired by Tyra Banks who was the first black woman to grace the cover in 1997, followed by Beyonce in 2007.

“She’s how I found out about Sports Illustrated,” she told GMA co-anchor Michael Strahan. “I remember watching on ‘The Tyra Banks Show,’ she said, she was the first black woman to cover Sports Illustrated. I just always aspired to be like her and follow in her footsteps.”

And model Ebonee Davis, who also graces the inside portfolio, is also breaking barriers.

Ebonee Davis once believed that she had to wear relaxed hair with weaves and extensions to make it as a model. But the minute she embraced her natural hair, she discovered her authentic self and her career really took off.

A model transformation

Ebonee Davis explained to Elle Magazine, “I went natural right after a model competition search at the beginning of 2016, and before that, I was getting relaxers and wearing weaves and extensions as I began modeling. I was getting relaxers ever since I was a kid. There was a point when I had to chop my hair off because I did a fashion show and they straightened it again from its curly state. It just ruined my hair completely and I had to go short.”

She also told Elle that she had issues with her self esteem, “There were a lot of times when I really didn’t feel pretty. It’s not like you just cut your hair and you’re like ‘Oh my god, I’m this bold brave new person.’ It’s like undoing years of trauma, of being told that I’m not good enough with the hair I was born with. I’m undoing years of programming and conditioning to believe that natural isn’t good enough, so a lot of days I would wake up and just feel ugly.”

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Eventually she was able to embrace her natural beauty telling Elle, “[My] job is to give beauty and give sexy and have that confidence, and lot of times I didn’t. Now, I definitely have that confidence. I’m really, really proud to rock my natural hair.”

Paying it forward

Ebonee Davis also knows showcasing her natural hair with confidence can impact young girls in our community. “On social media, I get a lot of people who reach out to me and they’re very thankful. It’s usually black girls who are going through the same thing. In every industry, so many work places, and at school we’re told how we are [naturally] isn’t good enough.”  

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She also told Elle that for her nude photo shoot, she chose the words that were painted on her body. “The most important of those words for me is love. It’s because of love that I’m here. It’s because of love that I chose to be my real, authentic self. I see myself now as worthy just as I am. So if there’s one word that I could choose to say to the world it’d definitely be love. Self-love is so important.”

Davis believes her decision to wear her hair naturally and to speak out against racism in the fashion industry has allowed her to now feel more comfortable and confident in her own skin.