Tina Turner Became The Woman I Desired to Be

Editor’s Note: On May 24, 2023, Tina Turner passed away on the age of 83 years old. The below article was originally published in 2021.

The moment you’re feeling seen is powerful. For a lot of Black women, that feeling is few and much between. For the State of Black Beauty, we asked 4 writers to recall the instance of their life they felt SEEN in media. From Janet Jackson to Eartha Kitt, listed here are love letters to our Black Beauty icons who made us feel a little bit less invisible.

When Tina Turner burst into my life, I used to be sitting cross-legged on my grandmother’s shaggy carpet flipping through a glossy coffee table book. I had been observing the book for months at this point, all the time eyeing the face on the duvet. On the time, it felt like a spectacle, something I had no business touching. Tina Turner was in motion on the duvet. And even when she’s not moving in photographic form, she’s moving.


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I finally picked it up, and these photographs became my first interaction with Turner’s physical form and wonder decisions. How she wore her hair, the colour of her lipstick, the dress hems that danced on her upper thighs. As much as these details are accessories in the large lifetime of Tina Turner, these were also players in defining her profession as a Black recording artist. I could tell her beauty decisions were an extension of what she had been through in her life, starting in Nutbush, Tennessee. She had a perspective of the world and on love. I so badly wanted that ability, too.

The Queen of Rock and Roll initially hopped onto the scene with The Ike & Tina Revue within the late Fifties, there was one thing she really had on the opposite girls. She danced wildly. And when her limbs shook, her dark hair followed.

When Turner emerged again because the comeback kid in 1984, free from Ike Turner and an abusive marriage, she debuted a sharper look. Her hair was cut right into a shoulder-length bob with blunt, tousled pieces and a number of volume. It was the style that went on to define the ‘80s. Her hair, as in her wigs, those she cut and shaped herself from the start of her profession. I watched a Youtube clip of her preparing for a show in Budapest: furiously putting brown eyeshadow on her lids. Tina was not moving slowly — on stage or off — so you could possibly see her. She wasn’t consumed with being for everybody. She was not aiming to be liked. She had already tried that. Now, she was aiming to be Tina. She was a lady who had found her place to be an extended time ago: on stage. And her beauty was not buttoned up.

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And although her signature shag has modified barely through the years, it’s all the time matched her attitude. I soon began to understand that Tina’s beauty was a mirrored image of what she wanted people to learn about her. I desired to know the way she had grow to be that way. So I looked to my grandmother, the owner of that coffee table book.

We called my grandmother Bum Bum. In some ways, she was my first Tina Turner. Born Blondine Harvin, she stood about 5”2 and wore a sandy blonde wig. She was the owner of Gigi’s Restaurant for 50 years, a spot that served as a community center and meeting point on the east side of town. That sandy blonde wig became her signature look through the a long time she served. Often, she’d switch it up and wear a more platinum blonde version. You might spot her weaving around tables with plates of grits with cheese (or no cheese.)

I remember watching my grandmother, who loved the jack table and a whiskey, fly to a Tina concert in Las Vegas, or Buffalo. My grandmother liked to step out for dinner, the casino, or a concert, and Turner was a part of her entertainment world. As my dad jogged my memory: my grandmother was a socialite of sorts. “She was a business owner known around town, and he or she owned a spot where people got here to be seen. Tina Turner was probably playing within the jukebox.”

“I believe she was someone from her era she could relate to,” my dad said. For my grandmother, Tina’s journey was as paramount as her music. She was my grandmother’s image of an independent Black woman thriving because the twentieth century got here to an in depth.” My grandmother passed in 2019, after living her entire life like Tina: completely herself.

As Tina aged, she never stopped showing off. Her dresses didn’t get longer. Her hair didn’t grow more tamed. It actually got greater, and he or she began to experiment with stronger streaks of blonde. Despite the makeup commitment it takes to be onstage, her foundation application still left a lot room to see the smile lines and texture of her skin. She was not hiding from you.

At the moment, I got blonde streaks in seemingly random parts of my hair. I used to be living in Latest York City and dealing in newsrooms on the time. Once I flipped my hair or styled it in a ponytail, different streaks of blonde framed my face. Yes, the highlights were blonde, however the deeper inspiration got here from Tina’s effortlessness: a mode I could run my fingers through. I used to be still trying to seek out ways to be myself in an environment where fashion and elegance weren’t the main focus off camera. The streaks helped me feel that way.

In 2013, I made a visit to Washington, D.C. to go to the National Museum of African American History and Culture. I picked up a Tina Turner postcard for my grandma; I figured she could put it on her refrigerator. It was in black and white, just like the coffee table book cover I saw growing up. Now, I see a bit of myself.

Still, in 2021, the identical sentiment or notion is confirmed: Images do matter, and growing up amidst the glory of Tina Turner shouldn’t be a foul option to live. This week, Tina received a nomination for solo induction to the 2021 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. But I don’t need to tie Tina’s significance to a single sweeping racial, moral, or cultural moment for her to be an icon. Watching her exist is beauty itself.

Headshot of Darian Symoné Harvin


Darian Symoné Harvin is a reporter and news curation editor covering beauty on the intersection of politics and popular culture. She writes the newsletter BEAUTY IRL, which is an extension of her work across various publications. Darian grew up in Buffalo, Latest York, and lives in Los Angeles. 

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