Wakeema Hollis: “Is My Natural Hair Not “Sleek” Enough?”

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

Black Girl With Long Hair

Leila, founder of Black Girl with Long Hair (April 2008). Social media, pop culture and black beauty enthusiast.

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

  1. 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!

  2. 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!

    • 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.

    • 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.

  3. 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!

  4. 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.

  5. 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 :)

  6. 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.

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