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, 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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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!


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!


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.

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.

Angelic Messanger

Way to go! :)


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!


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.


StyL­IST. You know what I meant. ;-)


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 :)


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.