9 Reasons I Loved Growing Up as a Black Girl in the 90s

by Courtney McCreary

Growing up in the 1990s was awesome. Television was great, the toys were legendary, and the various theme songs and jingles were constantly embedded into my brain.

But one thing that stood out during that era was us: Black girls. During the 90s, Black girls were depicted in such a positive light. There was a sense of pride, happiness, and lightheartedness when we saw other Black girls on our TV sets. There were so many products, songs, and characters a young African-American girl could relate to.

It's been a while since we've seen so much Black Girl Excellence in mainstream pop culture, so let’s take a brief journey with me back down memory lane as I dig up all the gems that brought me so much joy as a kid. Maybe they did for you too!

1. Just for Me Relaxer Kit

"I want style, body and shine. A look that's totally all mine. Hair so soft, silky, and free. I want something just for me!

I know it's practically an abomination nowadays to even mention the word "perm" or "relaxer." I may be pro-natural today, but back in the 1990s, the jingle from the Just For Me commercial made me psyched to see the next six weeks to roll by, so I could get more relaxer slapped on my tender scalp. I loved seeing young Black girls like myself, skipping and dancing about with their gorgeous hair. To see them rockin' the big hair scrunchies, side ponytails, and bouncy curls that I longed for in my youthful glory!

2. Addy Walker from the American Girl Doll Series

Addy, who represented the Civil War Era, in 1864 was the first African-American character introduced to the American Girl doll collection in 1993. The Addy doll came with traditional outfits of that time—bonnets, dresses, baskets, and other accessories—that brought her story to life. One thing that especially stood out about her was her long kinky black hair, which I felt showed young Black girls how beautiful we truly are.

As an avid young reader, I collected all the books about Addy's bravery, adventures, challenges, and friendships. And I can't forget the little snippets of history facts at the end of each book. They made learning fun. When I read about Addy and her life, I felt like she was my friend, like I was going through her struggles and triumphs with her. Even to this day, I still think Addy is definitely a winner!

3. The Kenya Dolls

The most unique thing about the Kenya doll is that she came in a variety of skin tones. She also had a baby sister, Kiana. I never owned a Kiana doll, but I did have two Kenya's during my childhood. What really made so special in my eyes was the amazing Hair Kit that came with her—Conditioner that smelled like heaven, rollers, brush, beads, and jewels. I just knew I was a little hair stylist, giving her beaded braids. (Beads and braids were the thing in the 90s!) I even used some of the Kenya products on my own hair. 

4. Tia and Tamera on Sister, Sister 

Who doesn't remember Sister, Sister, a TV show about twins separated at birth who discover each other in a department store? Or their beautiful curly hair? Or that catchy theme song: "Sista, sista!" I was obsessed with these two (I still am). I identified with their quirkiness and I admired their uniqueness. During the 90s they represented the semi-nerdy, carefree, fun-loving black girl that is so prevalent now. When I saw them, I saw myself. (And who can forget that infamous saying?! "Go home Roger!")

5. "Iesha" by Another Bad Creation

C'mon, this song was made for a black girl! The catchy tune, rapping, and signing was an epic ode to us black girls. Who can forget the lollipops, video games, and the playground? These smooth boys were rockin' the gumby, box haircuts, overalls, and jerseys, as they spat game at Iesha, the girl of their dreams.

6. Lisa Turtle from Saved by the Bell

Witty, beautiful, confident, and fashionable—in my eyes, Lisa Turtle was Bayside High's princess! (Sorry, Kelly.) Her distinct sense of style made her a trendsetter in my book. No wonder she won a full scholarship to F.I.T. (Fashion Institute of Technology). She was full of spunk and personality. She rocked the funky earrings, studs, leopards, colorful tailored blazers, floral prints, and cowboy boots. Lisa Turtle's wardrobe continues to inspire some of my fashion choices even to this day.

7. Susie Carmichael from Rugrats

Watching TV and seeing an animated brown girl with pigtails and barrettes like me was something new, something necessary. Susie Carmichael was voiced by actress Cree Summer, and was the only main African-American character on Rugrats. She was introduced to the show, along with her family, in episode, "Meet the Carmichaels." Susie wasn't on the show as often as the other characters, but her sweet personality and constant rivalry with Angelica gave me so much life.

8. TLC

These women embodied originality, creativity, and attitude. Growing up during their heyday, I would always pretend I was Chili, mostly because both of our names began with C. At the time, their songs tackled subject matters that were taboo, embraced their tomboyish swag, and created hits that were timeless. T-Boz, Left-Eye, and Chili also graced us by singing the theme song to Nickelodeon's kid-themed variety show All That. Chili's smooth voice, T-Boz's deep smoky tone, and Left-Eye's vibrant flow was pure genius! Whenever I heard them, I would get a little carried away. TLC reminded us that it was okay to be unique, a girl can speak her mind, and you don't have to be what society expects of you.

9. Brandy

Of course, there were her hits: "I Wanna Be Down," "The Boy is Mine," "Baby," and "Have You Ever." Besides her smooth melodic voice, Brandy gave us hope and inspired us that we too could be Cinderella by starring in Disney's 1997 multicultural live-action version of the classic fairytale. (Hey, who wouldn't want Whitney Houston as their fairy godmother?) And then Brandy wowed us all, by starring in her sitcom Moesha, which explored teenage love, friendships, and heartbreaks. And, of course, we can't forget those trademark braids. (I definitely rocked them.) It's safe to say we all wanted to be down with Brandy.

Did you grow up a Black girl in the 90s? What do you miss? Let us know in the comments!

Courtney McCreary a 30-year-old Black girl from Niagara Falls, NY. She has B.A. in Communication Studies and a minor in Dance. She is a self-identified nerdy, creative free spirit who loves to dance, write, read, watch movies, and listen to various genres of music. 

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