So last week I caught up with some of my cubicle buddies from corporate America. We greeted each other with a flurry of smiles, hugs and compliments. One of them came in swinging a beautiful bob instead of her natural hairstyle. It was so cute, but I couldn’t help hide my surprise.
Let me fill you in.When I went natural, or rather came out as natural (no flat iron, just curls) a few folks in the office got bit with the go-natural bug. Honestly, all of these women like myself, had been desirous of sporting natural curls but just hadn’t. And this particular person, was so eager that she did what I did not have the guts to do-the big chop.
From then on we dished on technique, products and how-to’s and she looked fantastic. But she truly surpassed me when it came to styling her natural curls. I had to ask, “so this is a blowout?” Her answer made me swoon (Ok,on the inside, I swooned). But I kept my smile in tact.
She explained that an executive had made comments that her hair style was “too ethnic”-so she went back to the lye. It took less than 1 minute and 17 seconds for me to identify the “anonymous executive.”
When I was in corporate America, I was all for mentoring and coaching. The problem is, when it comes to something as deep-rooted as the hair that grows out of your scalp, I’d be skeptical of anyone, especially someone who shares my heritage and gender, that says my hair is “too ethnic.”
So many of “us” have “issues” with our hair and we transfer those issues and standards to others. Couple that with an executive title, a corporate profile and voila!
Now while that smile stayed plastered on my face, the skepticism obviously showed in my eyes, prompting the comment, “you remember how the culture is.” Again, my mind started ticking. I can count at least two other executives that had natural hair. Then I remembered that the CEO of Xerox wears her hair natural. And then I felt a deep rumbling in my gut that I stopped before it passed over my lips: That’s some bull.
Am I saying it’s easy to be a curly girl in the relaxed corporate world? No. I’m also aware that this isn’t an African-American issue. Just last summer NBC did a piece on the perception of curly hair that featured women of varying cultures, The Mane Debate, (video below). In fact, that prompted me to interview some women who had gone natural in the workplace. I pitched it to major magazines, but it didn’t get picked up. I think I’ll blow the dust off of that and share it right here at home.
The reality is, not everyone cheers you on when you opt to go natural. Some would prefer you live the lye. What do you think? Is this coaching gone too far. Or is it just time to take a big girl pill and go natural after a layoff/retirement?