When I first decided to fully embrace my curly hair, I one of my largest concerns was how it would affect how other people would view me. It shouldn’t have been – but it was. Going into a professional/corporate environment, my hope was that all hair types would be accepted. It’s 2016, right?! To my pleasant surprise, no one has ever said anything to me with regards to my curly hair being viewed as unprofessional or whatnot. In fact, I’ve received many compliments on my hair and have even seen women in positions of power with natural, textured hair at the companies I’ve worked at.
Just as I started to think that society has come around to being open and accepting of different looks, my sister told me about an experience that her friend, Krystal, had recently with her supervisor at work. Hearing the story, I realized that not everyone is accepting as I would hope. So girls, we still have work to do! How do you think we can speed up this process of getting society to accept all types of beauty?
Here is Krystal’s story:
My last perm was in August of 2014, and I later big chopped on April 1st 2015. I believed I played “I Am Not My Hair” by India Arie three days straight so I could feel good about the drastic cut and not cry. At work, everyone seemed to love my new cut, though some didn’t even recognize me. Although I was not upset about the change, my father was not pleased. He told me that people would die to have hair like mine – the way it was when relaxed. But all I thought of my hair was that it was shoulder length but thin. I explained to him that I understood where he was coming from but I did my own research on the benefits of natural hair. My research included talking to and noting the state of the hair people in my own family. My maternal grandmother has always permed her hair for as long as I can remember, but for the last few years her hair has started to thin out and even fall out in certain places. Now, she has started to wear extensions to mask the problem. Whereas, my paternal grandmother has never received a perm and does her own hair. Her hair is so thick and beautiful and has always been down to the middle of her back. I decided to go natural because I saw the long-term benefits.
In March of this year, I was preparing for a big volunteer event that could possibly connect me to some major people in the industry that I was pursing. One day, my supervisor called me into her office. I am usually anxious when this happens because typically this means she would like to discuss something that no one else needs to hear. She asked how I was doing, if I was getting prepared for the event, and if I had gone shopping for some new outfits. Finally she got to the point. “I don’t want you to be offended by this but some people in the office don’t like how you wear your hair.” In my mind I was thinking, “Why wouldn’t anyone dislike my hair? A couple of months ago, everyone in the office loved it. What is the difference now?” My hair was at what I would consider an awkward stage, like a “Webbie fro,” but still… her comment wasn’t appropriate. She then went on to ask, “Are you ever going to get a perm?” My answer was “no,” to which she responded, “Do you ever plan on straightening it?” I responded by explaining that I did not have upcoming plans of straightening my hair until perhaps April 2016, as that will be my second year anniversary of my big chop. I was going to get extensions as a protective style shortly because I would be traveling, graduating with my Masters and taking pictures so I felt as though it was best – as I was still getting used to my TWA. My TWA actually made me look younger than I really am, plus I couldn’t do a lot of styles with my hair at the time. However, turns out I did end up missing my TWA during the time I wore my extensions.
My boss explained that she wanted me to positively represent her, the company, and myself because not everyone understands the natural movement and first impressions are everything. After the talk we had, I was really just speechless. She was someone I had respected and, after that day, I lost that respect for her. After speaking to some of my friends, roommates, and parents, the more I told the story, the more upset I became. As black women, we are suppose to lift each other up. The sad part is, I believe she thought she was helping me.
Many thanks to Krystal for writing this post and sharing her experience with us. Krystal is a world traveler and Founder of Student-Athletes Unite. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram @Krystalbeachum.