Behind the scenes at a shoot, NOT the one I’m speak­ing of in this post.

By Wakeema Hol­lis of Hollistics.com

I had a real­ly awk­ward expe­ri­ence while shoot­ing here in South Africa last week. It took me by sur­prise because I haven’t expe­ri­enced this type of neg­a­tiv­i­ty toward my hair in so long. I was work­ing for a major mag­a­zine which also pub­lish­es U.S and U.K. edi­tions. I won’t name it because I actu­al­ly want to work for them again and almost every woman I know reads it regard­less of her race.

It was a direct book­ing which means I got the job on the strength of my book (mod­el­ing port­fo­lio) alone. I didn’t even have to do a cast­ing. This is always great because it means the client thinks my work speaks for itself. How­ev­er, as soon as I walked in the door the hair­styl­ist says “Ugh, I can’t deal with that hair! Noth­ing about it is sleek beau­ti­ful or chic! It’s so not (insert name of mag­a­zine here.)”

I stood there in shock! I had only said good morn­ing and this guy went IN on my hair. I took a deep breath and explained that I don’t straight­en my hair, ever. I asked if he had looked at my book before com­ing to work that day or if he just assumed that I would be anoth­er black mod­el with exten­sions? I also inquired about his hair­styl­ist kit because all he brought to work was a blow dry­er, a flat iron and four silky straight clip-ins of vary­ing lengths.

This sent him into full attack mode! He start­ed snap­ping his fin­gers in a Z for­ma­tion and told me he would “not be deal­ing with Nao­mi Camp­bell style divas today!” I took anoth­er deep breath to main­tain my pro­fes­sion­al­ism and explained that he was being extreme­ly rude and unpro­fes­sion­al. (I high­ly doubt he would have start­ed snap­ping in my face if I had been any­thing oth­er than African-Amer­i­can.) How­ev­er, his com­ment about Nao­mi Camp­bell trig­gered my mem­o­ry and I thought back to the pic­tures I saw last year of her hair­line which seemed to be suf­fer­ing from trac­tion Alope­cia. This only made me stand stronger in defense of my own hair.


I calm­ly stat­ed that there are tons of mod­els out there with relaxed hair or exten­sions and that my nat­ur­al hair is apart of my look. I explained that I would be more than hap­py to wear a wig to get the look he want­ed, but no one had asked me to bring one and it was clear that he did not come pre­pared with a prop­er kit or any wigs. In the end I had to excuse myself and call my agent who was just as sur­prised as I was that some­one was ask­ing to straight­en my hair. Being the amaz­ing woman/agent she is, she stood up for me and told the client this was unac­cept­able.

Once the edi­tor was called in to medi­ate the sit­u­a­tion she admit­ted that she loved my hair the way it was and want­ed the hair­styl­ist to work with my nat­ur­al tex­ture. He was forced to get over his nat­ur­al hair hat­ing issues and work with my hair. (Isn’t that what a pro­fes­sion­al hair­styl­ist is sup­posed to do?) After all the dra­ma he did a great up-do and the rest of the day was smooth sail­ing. The pic­tures were awe­some and the client couldn’t stop  com­mend­ing me for being a good mod­el with great move­ment and pro­fes­sion­al­ism (which they said they were not accus­tomed to.) We were all hap­py with the turn out and I knew my hair strands were qui­et­ly thank­ing me for stand­ing my ground.

It just goes to show that no mat­ter how well you care for your hair or how much you love your nat­ur­al tex­ture, there will always be nay-say­ers that try to attack you when you least expect it. Some­times you have to fight for your right to stay nat­ur­al!

Wakeema Hol­lis is an inter­na­tion­al mod­el and BGLH fan! She is one of the coolest chicks you will EVER meet so be sure to check out her blog hollistics.com or find her on Twit­ter twitter.com/misshollistics

Black Girl With Long Hair

Leila Noel­liste, founder of Black Girl with Long Hair (April 2008). Social media, pop cul­ture and black beau­ty enthu­si­ast. bell hooks’ hair twin…

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40 Comments on "Wakeema Hollis: “Is My Natural Hair Not “Sleek” Enough?”"

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Grow­ing my hair out has always been a chal­lenge. By the time it is the length I want, I’ll have to cut off sev­er­al inch­es due to split ends. I use a coconut oil to get around this. It does won­ders and helps my hair to retain its health even as it grows.


Thank u SO MUCH for shar­ing this expe­ri­ence, Wakeema!! I think I can actu­al­ly say that every work­place has some sort of bias against nat­ur­al hair, but it’s OUR RIGHT to wear our hair as it grew of our heads! And that we can still main­tain pro­fes­sion­al­ism (and calm) when some­one tries to come after us about the look :)


StyL­IST. You know what I meant. ;-)


The guy was bla­tant­ly racist, glad you were backed up and hope he was report­ed to his agency. Pre­sump­tu­ous idiot! Usu­al­ly a mod­el has to be pre­pared for any­thing to hap­pen regard­ing their hair but if they’ve seen your book and what you look like, they know what they are get­ting and should be pre­pared. Sounds like he had major atti­tude.


That styl­ish was a total and utter prick. It sounds like he was SCARED by the chal­lenge of hav­ing to style nat­ur­al afro hair and too much of a dick to admit it. Does he hon­est­ly think women should destroy their hair on his account because he lacks pro­fes­sion­al knowl­edge and expe­ri­ence? Well done for stand­ing your ground and teach­ing him a thing or ten about how to do his job prop­er­ly.


So proud of Wakeema for stand­ing tall in the face of such dis­re­spect and unpro­fes­sion­al­ism. A “Z” snap, real­ly? Who does that? This makes me proud to be an unchem­i­cal­ized woman!! A gra­cious role mod­el, indeed!

Angelic Messanger

Way to go! :)

NaturalHairMojo.com (@NaturalHairMojo)

Kudos to you, Hol­lis, for your lev­el-head­ed response to what must have been a shock­ing and infu­ri­at­ing expe­ri­ence. You’re just as beau­ti­ful on the inside as you are on the out­side!!


I liked this book because the intoimafron per­tain­ing to cred­it repair is accu­rate; he gives you a lot of good tech­niques to use right now; the lay­out is good; the pic­tures are nice, it’s easy to read, it’s detailed and straight to the point. I per­son­al­ly feel that he is charg­ing too low for the intoimafron in this book.


Way to stand your ground Hol­lis! You are an inspi­ra­tion to nat­ur­al girls every­where!


Yes I total­ly agree. As much as I loved the secert I always felt it was incom­plete. Like some­thing was miss­ing. I real­ized lat­er that is was a primer. That fur­ther study was need­ed to com­plete­ly com­pre­hend the Law.


Wow this is very inspi­ra­tional. You are so beau­ti­ful and your hair makes you even more spe­cial. You not only stood your ground for your­self, but for blacks and nat­u­rals. Keep up the great work!


I salute you,Wakeema for being a role mod­el to all apir­ing mod­els and to women, in gen­er­al. Its time high peo­ple become edu­cat­ed and stop with this back­ward men­tal­i­ty.

I know this off top­ic, but I real­ly wish such forums could inspire oth­er com­mu­ni­ties who face prej­u­dice around their looks and who do not fit the stereo­typ­i­cal false def­i­n­i­tion of what beau­ty is. I hope one day dark-skinned Indi­an women around the world could chllenge soci­etal beliefs as we have. Beau­ty comes in all forms!


Good for you, you’re beau­ti­ful.


You go! I prob­a­bly would have cried and let it get to me. I’m real­ly glad your con­fi­dence and grace paid off in the end too. I bet you’ll get a good word from the peo­ple on this shoot in the indus­try. Good luck to you!


Go Wakeema. I def­i­nite­ly admire your strength.


If any­thing, his out­burst only high­lights his igno­rance AND his incom­pe­tence. If he knew how to work with nat­ur­al hair, he wouldn’t have said a QUARTER of the things he said. Child­ish unpro­fes­sion­al­ism at its WORST. My 6-year-old niece prob­a­bly could’ve han­dled that sit­u­a­tion bet­ter than him.

Vânia Luz

Loved her atti­tude


He didn’t want to work with THAT beau­ty??? Not sure what it is, but a beau­ti­ful black woman makes oth­ers feel so inse­cure and inad­e­quate. We trig­ger some type of deep emo­tion­al brain response that makes folks go into a tizzy.…He’s prob­a­bly still spin­ning, because his sis­ter is GORGEOUS! 

Tell him to go see a ther­a­pist. Until then.…PLEASE keep doin what you do:)


*this* sis­ter


You are beau­ti­ful! Thanks for shar­ing your sto­ry and speak­ing up for your­self. You may have made it eas­i­er for the next sis­ter who has to deal with that pompous fool.


Great vlog and my biggest pet peeve is pepole who don’t watch their kids too. We had my youngest’s par­ty last week­end and some­one actu­al­ly left their son in the bounce house for HOURS. He was lit­tle and couldn’t get in and out him­self and they nev­er checked on him. It was ter­ri­ble. Thanks for the space to vent since I can’t write about it on my own blog.


smart and classy… great! i love her for that classy atti­tude.


Sounds like he was the one being a diva, or divo. lol. You are gor­geous and you han­dled your­self very well.


That is a great ife les­son. I’m glad that you had every­one else back you up. He was unpro­fes­sion­al and to call you a Nao­mi Camp­bell Diva?! You weren’t throw­ing a fit, curs­ing or even throw­ing cell­phones. Not all black women act like that and I’m so mad at the ones that do. Con­grats on keep­ing your cool.


You know very well that if ONE black woman does some­thing, that means that ALL of them do it too or will fol­low suit!!!…stereotypes, stereo­types smh

Jo Somebody

Cor­rec­tion — if one Black woman does some­thing *neg­a­tive*…


unfor­tu­nate­ly tia but i like that there are women like wakeema who prove all the stereo­types wrong


there are tons of non-black women who throw fits, curse and throw cell­phones. what i don’t under­stand is why this stereo­type is attached to us alone


OMG she is gor­geous!!


Bra­vo for stand­ing up to that hair­styl­ist from Hell. Your pro­fes­sion­al­ism through the whole mat­ter put him in his place. I can’t under­stand why they way our hair grows out of our head is so unac­cept­able. Peace, Love & Accep­tance.

Wakeema you are wise beyond your years! Strong, bold, fear­less and beau­ti­ful! I am so proud of you! Good going for stand­ing up for your­self and for main­tain­ing your com­po­sure while try­ing to knock some sense into a not so nice per­son oth­er­wise known as a brat! How rude of him!“nothing sleek or chic about it”. Accord­ing to who?? I am so thrilled you know your iden­ti­ty and that you love land appre­ci­ate your beau­ti­ful self! Imag­ine what his igno­rance could do to the self love/esteem of some­one who has not quite embraced their nat­ur­al hair! I tell you, it’s… Read more »

GREAT ARTICLE!!! Per­fect exam­ple intel­li­gences, beau­ty, and being all around pro­fes­sion­al with ethics!! <3

If there is one thing I don’t expect from MY hair it’s for it to be “sleek”. I like it big and eye-catch­ing. That being said, I can under­stand that a par­tic­u­lar magazine/photographer doesn’t want the hair to be the focus of the shoot .So a pony­tail, puff, bun could be in order. As for that hair­styl­ist, I don’t under­stand why he felt his opin­ion (on what a mod­el from this mag­a­zine should look like)was valid. You were HIRED as a mod­el, which means there was an agree­ment with the edi­tors and stuff. I find that peo­ple who don’t know what… Read more »

its makes me sick when peo­ple view our hair in such a way. all because our hair is dif­fer­ent means that it is not good and thats where we got the men­tal­i­ty of bad hair = kinky and good hair = straight and like white peo­ple. you go girl :)


I am guilty of think­ing that an afro is not “sleek” but it aint any­thing some water and gel can’t fix. That hair­styl­ist was unpro­fes­sion­al and not knowl­edge­able at all. If he thought a twist-out wasn’t sleek, then he could wet it and do an updo to begin with. Why he had to bring his atti­tude and per­son­al issues into the mat­ter, I will nev­er under­stand.
P.S. I love the way you stood up for your­self! Thank you, and keep being amaz­ing


I wan­na scream this loud and clear: YOU GO GIRL! YOU DON’T HAVE TO TAKE THAT! Classy, pro­fes­sion­al and pol­ished, you were every­thing we all want to be. I bet you he’ll nev­er get booked to work for them again, and so deserved­ly too. You shi­i­i­i­i­i­i­i­i­ined like the star you are!


It’s a breath of fresh air to know that there are women out there who are con­fi­dent enough to not give up their own looks and def­i­n­i­tions of beau­ty to fit into some­one else’s. Also kudos to you for not releas­ing the name of the mag­a­zine. It shows a lot of class on your part.

Go ahead sista!!!!! I am SO glad you stood your ground and showed them just how incred­i­ble our hair is! I can’t under­stand the nerve of some­one to respond the way this “man” did (espe­cial­ly with the snap­ping of the fin­gers), but your atti­tude only made his ridicu­lous­ness more obvi­ous and total­ly worked in your favor. I hope sis­tas can under­stand this is how we should deal with ALL sit­u­a­tions like this. Calm­ly and in order. I think it woul­da been very hard for me to, how­ev­er, LOL. p.s. No shade on Nao­mi (every­one loves her and I do too) but you were… Read more »