It’s a maximalist philosophy that Saweetie still carries with her today. “I’m from the Bay Area, so ever since we were kids, your hair, your clothes, our slang, the way we speak, the music — it’s all a form of expression,” she explains. “Hair, to me, is like putting art on your head.”
Born in the San Francisco Bay Area and raised in Sacramento, Calif., with younger twin sisters Maya and Milan, 11 years her junior, entertaining and beautiful is in Saweetie’s blood. You might recognize her mother, Trinidad Valentin, as one of the video vixens who danced alongside Nelly, LL Cool J and DMX in the 90s and 2000s. Meanwhile, her father, Johnny Harper, played American football for San Jose State, following in the footsteps of Saweetie’s grandfather, who played for the San Francisco 49ers. Saweetie was born when Trinidad was just 17, so her grandmother, Miss Black Nebraska winner Roxanne Glass, was instrumental in her upbringing. Saweetie is close to all of her family, but anyone who follows her will know that she has a particularly special relationship with her mother, Trinidad, who frequently makes appearances on her Insta and even presented her with the 2022 Game Changer Award at the Billboard Women in Ceremony. musical earlier this year. How’s that for a mother-daughter bonding moment?
But despite her family’s reputation and connections (did we mention Gabrielle Union is also family?), Saweetie insisted on making it in the music industry on her own — and not before earning a degree in communication from the University of Southern California. Instead of getting up, she started posting freestyles from the front seat of her car on Instagram. “I couldn’t afford to spend time in the studio, so it was my way of getting my music out into the world,” she explains. Saweetie began releasing her “Car Raps,” as they’re affectionately known, in 2012. Six years later, she landed a deal with Warner Records.
Saweetie’s racial heritage is as diverse as her cultural heritage: her father is African American, while her mother is Filipino and Chinese. She smiles as she recalls family karaoke nights (“Growing up in a Filipino family, karaoke night is a wholesale night”), when she sang Cyndi Lauper’s hour after hour. But while Saweetie has always been proud of her triracial roots, the same can’t be said for those on her head.
“I hated my hair,” she admits of her attitude towards her hair growing up. “He’s naturally very kinky and curly. It’s beautiful, but I was a tomboy and was like, ‘I don’t have time for this.’ »
Like so many other young girls, what she really wanted was to reflect the ideals of beauty fed to her by society. That meant long, thick, straight locks, just like his hair heroes: Saweetie’s mother (obviously) and Cher, who in early 2022 starred in a MAC campaign alongside the rapper. But her mother only let her use a hair straightener once in a while, on special occasions, like school photo days. “I loved a long silky straight West Coast press. It was my favorite, ”she says, miming caressing the hair she dreamed of as a child. But whether she knew it or not, that desire was born out of discriminatory ideals of beauty. “I remember when I complimented another girl with straight hair, she didn’t compliment me back. At a young age, I just felt like my hair was high maintenance and it wasn’t easy to do. I’ve always wanted to have straight hair.
“I actually got in trouble with my mom because I convinced my grandma to cut my hair in the kitchen,” she continues. “I was so tired of having to comb my hair. Every time I washed it, it took forever and my arms hurt. So I made him cut all my hair, like, here,” Saweetie gestures to the space just between her collarbone and her breasts.