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.


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


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


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

Jo Somebody

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


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… 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)… Read more »