Beautiful hair blogger Meechy Monroe has passed away after a long battle with cancer.
After an unflattering but fateful haircut in 2009 led Meechy Monroe to chop off her chemically treated hair in favor of a short Afro, women on the street would walk up to her and ask how they could get their look to resemble hers.
“People would come up to me and ask what I did to my hair,” Monroe told the Tribune in 2014. “They’d ask to touch it and I’d let them. I understood that so many black women didn’t know their natural hair. They wanted to learn. I’d stop and have a 20-minute conversation in the train station.”
Monroe combined marketing skills she learned at Southern Illinois University with a desire to help people and launched a YouTube channel with videos that chronicled her life and shared tips on how to achieve different beauty techniques.
That included Monroe’s signature look, known to fans as “the Meechy twistout,” where she’d section her hair in bunches, twist it at night, and let it fluff into a vibrant Afro by morning.
Over time, Monroe’s YouTube channel collected millions of page views and more than 43,000 people followed her Instagram. Her beauty blog and natural hair advocacy inspired black women around the world.
In 2014, she had a stroke, and doctors found a rare type of brain tumor. Her family later placed Monroe in hospice care and she died on Tuesday. She was 32.
Born Tameka Moore, she grew up on the South Side as one of four sisters.
“Meechy” was a high school nickname and “Monroe” was partly meant to evoke Marilyn Monroe, her sister Vaughn Moore said Thursday. Her father thought they should use a stage name to help protect their privacy.
“It was cute. It had a ring,” Vaughn Moore said.
Monroe spent hours creating videos, testing styles and blogging. Her mother, Patricia Moore, said Monroe was always popular in school and around the neighborhood, but Moore was surprised and excited by how much her daughter’s efforts took off.
“I had no idea that her popularity would grow to the level it grew to, and the thousands of people whose lives she touched, not only because of the tutorials and stuff like that, but people soon seemed to have fallen in love with her because of her personality,” Moore said. “She cared about people. She loved people.”
As her social media audience grew, Monroe began working with different beauty companies. Ken Burkeen, who runs Huetiful, a hair care company based in Atlanta, hired her and her sister Vaughn to essentially be cover girls for the company. When Huetiful launched in Europe, the sisters went along and were recognized in Paris, Burkeen said.
“A lady in the train station was running down the platform…yelling ‘Monroe Sisters! Monroe Sisters!'” Burkeen recalled. “I think at that moment they realized they were (not only) influencing and touching lives in Chicago and Atlanta but abroad.”
Vaughn Moore said her sister was “the light of everybody’s life that she touched.”
“People wanted to do more with themselves because of her. They wanted to be beautiful,” Vaughn said. “They wanted to go seek careers for themselves, travel, have pets, cook, and try new things because of her and the influence she had in that space.”
In 2014, the Tribune profiled Monroe and her struggle with a brain tumor that affects just 1 percent of U.S. cancer patients. Going through treatment changed her speech and ability to write, and took her hair.
Still, she shared a positive message for the world.
“It’s just a new journey for me,” she told the Tribune. “I’ve learned to be pretty confident in my skin. Chubby cheeks. Bald head. It’s beautiful. I have to show other women — no matter what, you’re still beautiful.”
Her neurosurgeon, Dr. Leslie Schaffer, told the Tribune at the time that Monroe was “a very exceptional young lady. She’s bright and very caring.”
“She’s as beautiful on the inside as she is on the outside, and it’s a privilege to care for her,” Schaffer said.
That’s a point made by other relatives and associates.
Monroe’s mother said that optimism was just who she was. She called Monroe “the glue” that held their family together. With four girls in the house, Moore said, there was a lot of chatter and “henpecking.”
“She was always speaking positive and she hated negativity,” Moore said, calling her a “peacemaker.”
Moore said her daughter was resilient up to the end of her battle with cancer. Even though she had become disabled on her right side, she still remained hopeful to the end. Monroe died in a hospice center as her sister, Vaughn, held her hand.
“She was strong-willed,” Moore said. “She was a fighter.”