Haven't we come far enough to not have to ask the question...is my natural hair professional?
I recently attended a women's empowerment event where there were some amazing entrepreneurs and professionals sharing tips and advice on how to advocate for yourself in your business and in life, in general. During the Q&A portion, a young woman stood up and asked the panel for advice on how she can come across to her co-workers as more professional. She talked about deciding to wear larger sized clothes to hide her curves and she also felt as if her hair was too big and curly and that it could come off as a distraction in the workplace. All I could think to myself was...really? Are we still asking this question in 2018? I remember when I stopped relaxing my hair in 1999 and how worried I was about how I was going to be received...at my job, by my family and by my boyfriend at the time. I cut my hair very, very short and it worried me because I had a belief that long hair equated to beauty. Although it took me a while to get used to seeing myself with short natural hair, after using relaxers since childhood into college, I eventually got over the anxiety and finally accepted my hair. Fast forward a few years later, I interviewed for a job as a bank teller and I came to the interview with the biggest puff known to man! I actually thought that wearing my hair in that style would help make a good first impression so I made it as big as I could to show it off in all its glory. It never occurred to me that I should straighten it or 'tame' it, or that my natural hair was something that would make people feel uncomfortable and not want to hire me. I didn't think having natural hair in the workplace was unprofessional therefore I wore my natural hair to every job interview and job since I've transitioned.
I understand that there has been many instances of women and men over the years...even up until just recently, who have been fired or have lost job offers for wearing their natural hair. The attack on our beauty is real. However, we cannot allow the disdain towards natural hair to seep into our own psyches. Many of us have internalized the idea that natural hair isn't good enough, or pretty enough or professional enough (or, you can fill in the blanks). It's time to break that cycle and it starts with how we individually see ourselves no matter what the larger society may think or say. The current standard of beauty deems long straight hair to be the most desirable and for a long time I bought into that idea too. It wasn't until I let go of that belief and changed my mindset that I was free enough to accept my hair at any length and feel good about myself. Despite what I saw in society, in the media and what I was taught about natural hair being less than, I had to create a new belief.
Although there are more models and actresses in Hollywood who are wearing their natural hair, we have a long way to go. There isn't enough representation in media of natural hair being celebrated and this is exactly why we create our content for Mane Moves Media. We are creating a new normal and a new standard that includes our beauty in all of its textures.
To the sister who questioned whether her big and curly hair is professional...it doesn't matter what your hair looks like or what your hair texture may be. Your hair doesn't define your level of professionalism...how you carry yourself on the job does. It is my hope that you know that you can walk into any room and be your full self...always!
Let us know your thoughts on how we can move the conversation forward about getting women to embrace their natural hair in professional settings.
Photo Credit: Blogger Nikisha Riley