Natural Hair in the Workplace: Uh, Bloggers, Consultants, Marketers, Strategist and Artist…all in one!!

August 28, 2011 Oyibo Princess

Finally!!! This is the next edition of my blog series Natural Hair in the Workplace. It’s been a while, but please understand, I’m in school. On my way to become a medical doctor and public health professional, baby!

I had the pleasure of interviewing two wonderful ladies: Antoinette Henry and Imade. One is music performer. One is a music enthusiast. Both are multi-talented and art-oriented, both have their own blogs, and work as consultants.   Wow. Talk about renaissance women. I also encourage you to check out their blogs: http://www.acurlsbf.com/ and http://imadeintruth.com/.

And do not be fooled by Imade’s lack of pics. Her hair is beautiful  and I touch it whenever I can and I generally do not even like dreadlocks, but hers are soooooo nice, thick, clean, healthy, and they never look thirsty.  (Moisturize peeps.)  Get excited.

So…On your mark, get ready, get set…Here we go!!!

Antoinette Henry

Name: Antoinette Henry

Education (Degress and Schools): BA in Theater Arts with a minor in Musical Theater from Marymount Manhattan College
What is the company/organization/agency for which you work? I am a performer and  natural hair blogger. My hustles at serving at Wynton Marsalas’s Jazz Club, Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola and consulting for Philadelphia Freedom Schools.
Where are you located? Brooklyn New York
How long have you been natural? I have been natural for 9 beautiful years.
How did you wear your hair for the interview for this position? I pretty much always wear my hair natural. I, once in a blue moon, straighten it. I am very confident about my hair. I don’t even think twice about it for interviews. I figure if the company doesn’t want to work with me based off of my hair, I’m better off without them. I have gone to auditions where the casting director has asked me if I would straighten my hair and I always answer “Yes. But not permanently.” In cases where the time line, setting and feel of the show require my hair to look different, I don’t mind. As long as it is necessary and true to the story, it’s fine. But if I am doing a singing gig where there is no plot or story I wear my hair natural. I used to sing classical music and just about every performance, I made it my business to pick my hair out as big as I could. Because most people consider that genre classy, I wanted to make sure my natural hair and frizzy fro would be associated with it.
That is cool!!
Have you ever worn your hair in a natural style for any job interview? If so, for what position of what company and what where the results of the interview? I have always worn my hair natural for interviews with jobs ranging from a jazz club server to a Logistical Coordinator and Site Coordinator of non profit organizations. I am pretty much successful and get the job when I interview. (Thank God)
Do you wear your hair in natural styles in the work place? Always
If so, have you faced any conflict because of it? Any praise? I am constantly complimented on my hair. I also receive some stares. Actually, the other day a woman pulled me to the side at work to tell me how beautiful she thought my hair was. She even referenced an article in the New York Times about natural hair being fondled by strangers. We sparked up a 10 minute conversation that was extremely pleasant. I feel like the more we as women of color wear our hair natural the more people will be forced to accept it. But we as women have to get over that hump and accept our hair ourselves.
What is your favorite hairstyle to wear to work? Oh honey, I go in. I wear it out, up, in flat twists, headwraps and I always adorn it with a big African print bow that I make myself. lol. I treat my hair like an accessory. Why not? Natural hair is fun.
What hair styles, if any, are considered inappropriate in the work place? A lot of places considered headwraps inappropriate but I don’t. It always depends on the package. I have gotten away with wearing my headscarf with a big bow on my head. But I had red lips and earrings on. Plus a little confidence will make anything work. If you’re hair hygiene is right and you are  comfortable and feeling beautiful it should be acceptable. Whenever I am in doubt I ask. Before I started to wear wraps and funky scarves I asked my boss what he thought. It allowed us to have some great dialogue and I as a result, was more comfortable experimenting with styles than I have ever been.
Have you noticed any other black women working for the same company or organization as you? If so, how do they wear their hair? Well, because I have my own hair blog a lot of the women I work with end up asking about it and experimenting with their own hair. It makes me so happy to see some of them transitioning and beginning to cultivate their curls. One girl has a cute fade into a mohawk of curls, another has a cute pixie cut with coils and the other two wear their hair out most of the time. It makes my day.
Do you find it difficult to take care of your hair now that you are working for this company or organization? No. It’s all good.
Do you have any advice for professional women who want to go natural or natural girls who want to go professional (are entering the workforce)? I would tell them to present themselves they way they are. Nothing will change as long we continue to change ourselves. If you sense any issue surrounding your hair confront the issue and have a conversation with whomever you need. Be sure that the issue isn’t actually your own. The bottom line that there is nothing wrong or unprofessional about natural hair. Rock your coil. You may be surprised with how you are received.
Name: Imade
 Where are you located?
Durham, NC
What is your position?
I was an Interactive Strategy Coordinator and then a Junior Account Planner at an advertising agency.  I  am now I’m a freelance music journalist http://imadeintruth.com/
How long have you been working there?

I’ve been in advertising for 2 years since I graduated college. I’m fairly new as a freelance music journalist.  I started this past spring and now I’m doing that full-time.

How long have you been natural?

I’ve been natural since high school.  I got a perm against my mother’s wishes in 6th grade because I got picked on a lot for having natural hair.  At the time, it was expected to have relaxed hair, as well as other European features, but I can write a novel about that! It’s obvious that African-Americans have been brainwashed from slavery to now that we are inferior to white people.  On a subconscious level, I believed it because I wanted to fit in with my “friends”.  By the
time I was in the 8th grade, my hair was so damaged that my sister told me that I need to go natural.  I transitioned as a freshman in high school and was picked on by guys because they thought I needed a perm.  At the time though, their opinion didin’t matter because all I wanted was healthy hair.  At the time, I was the only girl (that I can remember) in my school who had an afro.

 How did you wear your hair for the interview for this position?

Well, I remember my hair being really jacked up for my interview as an intern!  I was locking my hair at the time and going through a troublesome stage called teenage locs.  My locs was very fuzzy so I had a scarf on with my dress shirt and slacks.  The advertising agency has a very casual dress code, so that was comforting.  But on the flip side, the agency had very few individuals of color.  I was the only natural in an office of almost 200 people.

By the time I interviewed for a paying position, my locs were looking  a lot better.  I remember getting my locs re-twisted and styled for the interview.

For both interviews, it was all about my skills and passion for working in the advertising industry.  It wasn’t about my hair.  I work with very professional people and I’ve always appreciated that.

Have you ever worn your hair in a natural style for any job interview? If
so, for what position of what company and what where the results of the
 interview?

Yes, since I’ve had my hair natural since a freshman in high school, I’ve always wore my hair natural (not pressed) for interviews.  I actually CANT STAND pressing my hair.  But I digress!  These interviews were for my positions in advertising as well as internships.

Do you wear your hair in natural styles in the work place?

Yes.  I wear my locs in different styles but I mostly wear it down.  I usually do my own locs.

If so, have you faced any conflict because of it? Any praise?

No, I haven’t.  There are co-workers who ask about my hair, and it gets quite funny sometimes.  People have thought my locs were braids. I’ve had someone recommend that I use beeswax while many loc-wearers consider beeswax like kryptonite for locs.  But most of the time, I get compliments on some of the loc styles I wear.

What is your favorite hairstyle to wear to work? (Please send picture examples)

I’m a free spirit when it comes to my locs.  I like them to be free and a little messy.  I like the feeling of going against the status quo and embracing the totality of my hair.  I like braiding my locs the night before and wearing them crinkly to work.  I also like using rods to make my locs curly.

 What hair styles, if any, are considered inappropriate in the work place?

Hmm, I’m not sure.  I never felt like my hair was ever inappropriate because I work in a very laid-back, casual atmosphere.  I think it’s fine as long as your hair is clean and not distracting to the point where it inhibits professionalism.

Have you noticed any other black women working for the same company or organization as you? If so, how do they wear their hair?

Yes, there was 1 other black woman who had natural hair.  GASP!! Even though we made a small group, we encouraged another co-worker who was considering going natural.  We were like a tag-team emotional support group.  It was great to affirm the natural beauty in her and each other.

Do you find it difficult to take care of your hair now that you are working  for this company or organization?

No, not really.  I actually stopped regularly going to a stylist because I wanted to save money.  I wanted to experiment and explore my hair on my own.  Being in a non-corporate environment allowed me to do that.

Do you have any advice for professional women who want to go natural or natural girls who want to go professional (are entering the workforce)?

Accept who you are.  You should never have to apologize for being yourself.  We as African-Americans should demand respect, but you have to respect yourself first.  I was told by a past stylist that wearing natural, non-pressed hair in the workforce was not professional. Today, I laugh at that.  I’ve been in a job where deadlines and 12 hour days were the norm.  When you have a presentation the next day, no one is going to care about your hair.  It’s about the value you bring to your job.

Conclusion: Natural hair is the business. What more can I say? God does a beautiful job all the time. =) Lol. There is more to say that just that.  One thing that Imade and Antoinette have in common other than similarities their career paths, affinity for the performing arts, and having beautiful hair is that they both say that getting a great job is really not about your hair, although appearance is important.  These two ladies are good at what they do and that is what is most important.  So please, if you are applying for jobs ladies, focus on your qualifications and improving your résumé and less on the coils or lack of coils in your hair.  

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Entry Filed under: Hair,Workplace

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