16 December 2009

Mirror, Mirror: The HAIR Raising Debate

Today on Twitter a follower expressed this sentiment regarding hair:

"IvyLaArtista: REALLY intrigued by this social definition of beauty. Natural hair not viewed as "pretty" or feminine by mainstream society"
I found the statement rather intriguing myself. Now I'm a newbie to being natural (9 months going strong!). Being a natural is a HUGE step for most women. We all have probably had reservations on how other people would react, how we would feel and look, etc. My experience has come with mixed reactions and I had some apprehension when it came time to finally rid myself of my relaxed ends. I knew for SURE people at work would really take notice.

1. I'm the ONLY female in the office now
2. I'm the ONLY person of color in the office now
3. I'm part of the management team

While I was transitioning, I wore my hair in Senegalese Twist (which I did myself *pats on back* it was my FIRST time EVER wearing "added" hair to my own) because I just needed a break from trying to figure out what to do with my hair in the morning. The twists were well received by my co-workers even though it was so drastically different from how I had wore my hair in the past and what they were used to. One day, our COO happens to pass my office and says:

"I'm on my way to pick up the guys from the airport Queen Latifah."
I'll give you a minute to digest that comment.

You know when you think you heard something but wasn't quite sure that's exactly what you heard? Yeah. I had that reaction. Realizing he put his foot in his mouth, he comes back down the hall and then says:

"I meant, I'm picking the guys up from the airport and with your hair like that you look like Queen Latifah.
I'll give you a minute to digest that one too.

The first comment was insulting enough. The explanation that followed made it worse. What makes this even better is I'm in HR- but undoubtedly it made me realize that my hair was now "standing out" causing people to convey thoughts and comments that should be kept to themselves ESPECIALLY in a corporate environment. It left me in a arkward position because it caught me off guard and I needed to handle this in a manner in which didn't create a situation where I was going to be hostile or unprofessional. I don't know what his personal feelings are about Queen Latifah. Maybe he can't stand her. Maybe he hates her. Maybe, Maybe....The point being it was a racial comment based off my HAIR. While Queen Latifah is a gifted and talented performer...last time I checked that wasn't my name either and if it was I'm missing some SERIOUS money. So I sat for a few moments to gather my thoughts and composed an email to our CEO. Coincidently, the day the comment was made, we were having a company board meeting with ALL the founders and board members. Boy did he pick the WRONG day of all days to mess up. After receiving my email, the CEO abruptly stopped the meeting and took the COO into his office and laid into him BAD. Our CEO is also a lawyer (now non-practicing) so you can imagine how infuriated he was that this could potentially become huge legal issue and how stupid a person in upper management can say something like that.

It's strange because I wasn't faced with that when I was relaxing my hair. Paul Mooney says it BEST:
"When your hair is relaxed... so are they, but when its nappy... they ain't happy!"

I haven't had any negative comments from my own family but they were rather supportive. I don't expect everyone to be enamored with my choice to be natural and I can care less if they aren't. No one has to live with my hair but ME. As long as in the corporate world I keep it coiffed and neat, who cares if it's not straight? There seems to be this stigma with naturals that we're militant or on some black power movement. Don Imus seemed to think that straight or natural we were all "nappy headed hoes." I'm more offended by the fact he called us "hoes." I'm not trickin' so I ain't got it! We all have to stop with this stigma that having kinky hair is terrible. It's a know fact that if we do not chemically or heat straighten our hair...it's what? KINKY. Now if you prefer to wear you hair straight via chemical processing or weaves- go for it! There is absolutely NOTHING wrong with it. For those that wear their natural hair or are considering it- go for it! We can all respectfully honor one's decision despite our views on how we chose to wear our hair. I've been on both sides of the fence now.

Beautiful hair is HEALTHY HAIR. PERIOD.


  1. People need to chill and let others live their life. Just because someone straightens their hair doesn’t mean the hate their natural texture. People need to be more concerned with being healthy, head to toe, and that includes having a healthy head of hair, whether it’s ‘natural’ or not.

  2. Wow! Totally jaw dropping @ the bold statements your coworker made. You handled it very well. I think its a shame the type of stigma ppl put on "black" hair! And what's more of an embarrassment is that often those stigmas come from "us"!

  3. This is one of those shocking, but I'm not surprised moments. Foolish though to be in his position and think that sort of comment would fly.

    I don't know what it is either about natural hair that people get worked up about. Why would someone feel uncomfortable about hair? Especially if it's kept tidy.. which last time I checked was not a synonym for straight.

    As far as I'm concerned it's fabulous. And so are you for how you reacted. Thanks for sharing. :]

  4. I'm so glad you did something about his comments rather than just let them slide or laugh them off. And you in HR? Go girl, young, black, part of the management team and their ace in the whole! love it!

    did he come back and apologize to you?


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