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Over the past decade nat­u­ral hair has grown in pop­u­lar­i­ty among the under-30 black female crowd. Many of us have decid­ed to step away from relax­ers and bone-straight hair in favor of quenched and defined curls. Although, it’s “just hair”, it can’t be ignored that we’re tak­ing part of a piv­otal moment in his­to­ry. But how do the­se changes affect our pro­fes­sion­al lives? We are still occa­sion­al­ly stopped in our tracks and faced with oth­er people’s igno­rance and cru­el­ty, which is why it’s an unspo­ken rule in many black homes not to show up to job inter­views or work with big hair, braids and even locs in some cas­es.

In May 2012 I worked as a den­tal assis­tant for two Rus­sian den­tists. I arrived to work a bit ear­ly on this par­tic­u­lar day and instead of the com­pact bun that I usu­al­ly wore, I donned an afro pony­tail because I hadn’t got­ten the chance to put my hair up and my first patient wasn’t set to arrive for anoth­er 30 min­utes. Almost imme­di­ate­ly after I removed my sec­ond arm from my jack­et I was met with laugh­ter, fol­lowed by “You look like one of those…what do you call them? The dolls with the hair…a troll doll baby!”. Not 10 min­utes after that occurred, I was pulled aside by the less will­ing to joke and more stern den­tist who told me “you have to wear your hair orga­nized”. This took place in front of oth­er employ­ees and was quite embar­rass­ing. That would not be the first time I had con­tem­plat­ed mak­ing it my last day. Instead, humil­i­at­ed, I twist­ed my puff and put my hair in the bun as I had intend­ed to before I was tag teamed by the Black hair police.

My opin­ion on nat­u­ral hair in the work­place is this; If your hair gets in the way of you com­plet­ing your work, then it should be clipped up and away from the face so that you can work effi­cient­ly. I also prac­tice what I call “nat­u­ral hair eti­quet­te” so that if my hair phys­i­cal­ly gets in the way of some­one, let’s say at a movie the­atre or train, then I’d glad­ly move it out of the way. But it seems wide­ly accept­ed that you must appear ‘harm­less’ or unpo­lit­i­cal in order to be suc­cess­ful or main­tain employ­ment, so much so that I’ve had wom­en come up and tell me of all the suc­cess­es I could have if I straight­ened my hair, and how much nicer I’d look. But why is nat­u­ral hair — the hair that grows out of my head — seen as polit­i­cal, ‘edgy’ or dan­ger­ous in the first place. I have always worn my hair straight­ened or in a com­pact bun while search­ing for work and I’ve even removed braids to look for work as well. But is it right? Am I let­ting the neg­a­tive ide­als of oth­ers deter­mine my behav­ior? And is chang­ing my hair­style a fair price to pay for suc­cess?

For more of Domineque check her out on Insta­gram: lhd­c2011 and YouTube, Long­hair­dont­care2011.

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215 Comments on "True Life: My Boss Criticized My Natural Hair in Public"

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Vonnie

I take it this hap­pened a while ago, so no fur­ther action was tak­en. Had our have been me HR it the next high­er up author­i­ty would have heard about it. I know we deal with “haters” but that com­ment, and the way you were “rep­ri­mand­ed” was out­right unpro­fes­sion­al. I hope for the future any­one else and you stand up for your rights as a nat­u­ral­is­ta AND as an employ­ee that demands respect

Leah

At my job, my con­ser­v­a­tive, white cowork­ers com­pli­ment my puff, while the 2 African Amer­i­can ladies tell me I should have it blown straight. My hair is thin, high­ly porous and 4c. My puff gives me vol­ume and I love my nat­u­ral hair. Their advice annoys me, but with nat­u­ral hair, it comes with the ter­ri­to­ry.

Amanda Lee

This hap­pen to me this morn­ing at work but the com­ments came from Black wom­en and it was behind my back. I love my hair and I think it looks cute in a curly fro. I wouldn’t let com­ments from for­eign­ers fade me but when it comes from Black wom­en, it’s sad. All of their hair is bro­ken off, short, and hid­in under a weave, yet I get laughed at for the hair I was born with. SMH Crazy!

tiredofthebs
I under­stand where you’re com­ing from, but I don’t agree with you on let­ting “com­ments from for­eign­ers fade me” An insult is an insult, and we do not live in an ide­al world, where all images of beau­ty are cel­e­brat­ed. The Rus­sian wom­en have been spoon­fed the same thing that every wom­en from every race and cul­ture has been fed: that straight hair is the ide­al. With that said, the only dif­fer­ence between the Black wom­en at your job and the Rus­sian wom­en at the author’s office is that the Black wom­en may have the kind of hair that’s the… Read more »
la*belle

So true. I guess it boils down to your mind­set, right? I shud­der to think that not so long ago, i’d NEVER have con­sid­ered going nat­u­ral. Now, i can’t believe i was so blind to the beau­ty and utter gor­geous­ness of nat­u­ral hair. Hope­ful­ly, more and more will change their per­cep­tions. But, it doesn’t say much for the man­ners of some, that they made such rude remarks.

la*belle

That is just so rude and uncivilised… I live in South Africa, bc’d 4 months ago. My com­pa­ny is a pret­ty con­ser­v­a­tive cor­po­rate one, but NOBODY at work had a neg­a­tive thing to say, they loved it! I have pre­dom­i­nant­ly 4a hair for what it’s worth. One kind, slight mis­guid­ed cowor­jer said ‘Oh, your hair looks so nice and curly. Did you relax it?’ She couldn’t believe it was just water and con­di­tion­er! The only per­son who had a bit­ing­ly nasty com­ment to make, was a fam­i­ly friend who has type 4 nat­u­ral hair too. Strange how that worked…

la*belle

*slight­ly and *cowork­er. Sil­ly phone ;)

cb

we know what she meant…stop

Lee Jones

Lol the spelling cor­rec­tions came from the same per­son who wrote it. ;) No need to get angry.

la*belle

Uh.. I thought her com­ment was fun­ny? Since it was the exact oppo­site of what i was doing. Still have a good chuck­le because she now won­ders if i perm :)

legallytnatural2
there is a dif­fer­e­ce between neg­a­tive or embarass­ing com­ments and racist or dis­c­riman­to­ry remarks. Rus­sian den­tist mak­ing jok­ing remarks about your hair sounds more racist to me and per­haps I am sure if this made you want to leave could defin­te­ly be looked upon as a hos­tile work envi­ron­ment. Many of the­se types of state­ments go undect­ed because we don’t real­ize the legal ramafi­ca­tions of the­se state­ments. Once we learn our legal rights and demand to be treat­ed with respect, I am sure those types of com­ments will be down­grad­ed to a dull roar. Oh, they will still chuck­le, but… Read more »
jjac401
This is a well writ­ten arti­cle that pin­points some of the dis­re­spect that some nat­u­rals go through. Obvi­ous­ly the writer of this piece is a well pol­ished young lady who knows how to present her­self. I say that if a nat­u­ral sports a pol­ished style with their cloth­ing in the work­place — the nat­u­ral hair is even more fly.  I am a nat­u­ral who is pro­fes­sion­al and I take pride sport­ing my hair at all times. Although I have not expe­ri­enced any­thing but pos­i­tive com­ments on my hair, I am not going to trip over some igno­rant mind­set should it present… Read more »
Tabatha

Well I’m not mak­ing excus­es, but they are Rus­sian what do they know about black hair? What that one did was unpro­fes­sion­al actu­al­ly the oth­er guy mak­ing the troll judge­ment is unpro­fes­sion­al too. Well I don’t have that issue at my work. my boss doesn’t real­ly care unless it looks extreme­ly unkept. I think its ridicu­lous that you can’t keep your hair how you want as long as it’s not a big ugly mess.

kb1908
Just one thing, I hate to bring this up but 30+ crowd have been nat­u­ral for a while, a few friends of mine includ­ing myself stop get­ting perms in the 90s. And most of the black wom­en at my (in their 30s) are nat­u­ral Now back to the hair at work, we have to own our beau­ty before oth­ers do. I have friends w/ 3b hair say­ing they can’t go nat­u­ral, because they won’t get a job. If the­se peo­ple are wor­ried then what’s the hope for the kinky 4 girls, like me? Before peo­ple get mad at me I… Read more »
kb1908

*black wom­en at my work (in their 30s) *oops*

Stacey

I recent­ly wrote a blog on this top­ic regard­ing nat­u­ral hair and inter­view­ing. http://thecareershift.wordpress.com/2013/04/01/29/

Curly Queen

And this is why I work for myself! I just don’t have time for the fool­ish­ness. I would have been more than mad. You shouldn’t be made to feel uncom­fort­able about the hair that grows out of your hair. If it’s get­ting in the way of your work that is one thing but oth­er­wise let peo­ple be.

Me
If I’m not mis­tak­en, LHDC lives in LA now… So that atti­tude would­nt shock me… Rus­sians, Arme­ni­ans and oth­ers that come from the old Sovi­et Union/Eastern Block nations are extreme­ly racist and bold. Los Ange­les is one of the most seg­re­gat­ed cities in Amer­i­ca, and racist. There are some parts of the city I would­nt go to sim­ply for safe­ty rea­sons. I had a Lebane­se female boss that remind­ed me of the mask from Scream and the face of the SAW char­ac­ter — she laughed one day and asked “why would you put your hair in a pony­tail if it’s… Read more »
AllyCat

hillar­i­ous!

cb

come on Ally­cat, real­ly

Chelle
My boss humil­i­at­ed me once about my nat­u­ral hair. I grew the relax­er out my hair back in 2003, but I flat ironed it for years. I would’ve tried curly nat­u­ral years ear­lier had my boss not made fun of me. I’m an attor­ney in a firm and Back in 2007, I tried my curly hair at work. While it was a bit of a dis­as­ter, it was still curly and (I thought) cute. My boss, who is South­ern, white and fan­cies him­self a come­di­an, told me (in front of every­one) that it looked like I had stuck my fin­ger… Read more »
Ellie
I’ve had a sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion but it wasn’t a super­vi­sor it was a guest at the hotel I worked at in North Las Veg­as. She com­plained to my boss that my hair was dirty and wild. Of course my white man­ager and his­pan­ic cowork­er both defend­ed me say­ing that there was noth­ing wrong with my hair and they liked it. Of course I com­plained to a chef friend of mine who was black and his respon­se was “Well your hair is a lit­tle wild some­times, may­be you should straight­en it.” It was pret­ty sad because the main peo­ple to com­plain… Read more »
Tracy
That was just ridicu­lous and uncalled for on your co-work­ers and employ­ers part. I give you kudos for han­dling your­self in a pro­fes­sion­al man­ner I don’t know if I could have done the same, I’m sure I would have given them a quick pro­fes­sion­al read to let them know what lines they need not cross… I will say that I have been lucky to work where I do because my hair has nev­er been an issue. I have for­tu­nate­ly only have had pos­i­tive com­ments to my face at least. It’s fun­ny bc I big chopped from a long weave to a… Read more »
Jeanty_23
I am a young black grad­u­ate stu­dent and pro­fes­sion and this tru­ly sad­dens me. I have often worked and been taught in envi­ron­ments where I am the only black per­son and I have got­ten A LOT of ques­tions about my hair. This does not both­er me at all. I feel like the com­ments, ques­tions etc. are not root­ed in hate/malice but in a need for under­stand­ing a dif­fer­ent cul­ture. I always respond well to the­se and don’t mind them. How­ev­er, I do rec­og­nize that this wont always be the case. I don’t think this is a race issue, more of… Read more »
me

But then again, the­se guys are Den­tists — so we assume well edu­cat­ed? I would not expect that at all.

jasmine

“well edu­cat­ed” does not mean & will nev­er mean intel­li­gent or diverse.

RedLady80

I briefly worked in a con­ser­v­a­tive law firm, and dur­ing my time there I tran­si­tioned to nat­u­ral and wore lots of braid outs, rod sets, braids, and even­tu­al­ly big chopped. I got so much great feed­back when I had my TWA. It seemed that every­one appre­ci­at­ed the ver­sa­til­i­ty of my hair and the man dif­fer­ent styles I wore before and after the chop. I proud­ly wore my fro and occa­sion­al­ly wore sene­gale­se twists and yarn braids. I’m sor­ry you had this expe­ri­ence and that peo­ple laughed at you. We should be able to wear our hair the way God made it.

colorfulkinks

lol I don’t think you have ever been to Rus­sia. There are plen­ty of dif­fer­ent races over their, espe­cial­ly blacks straight out of Africa. Most peo­ple still seem to believe that Racism is only in Amer­i­ca. They may not tell you out right, but they will try to keep you down. If Europe and oth­er white dom­i­nat­ed soci­eties are so open mind­ed. Why do they still attempt to sup­press the rep­re­sen­ta­tion of black beau­ty by mak­ing excus­es that “it won’t sell.” A sim­ple googling of racism/black in rus­sia will explain enough.

p.s.- this wasn’t made to attack

Stacey
First, good job for not ‘going off’ at the office. The dentist’s respon­se was unpro­fes­sion­al. Your co-work­ers’ behav­ior bor­ders on work­place harass­ment. You men­tioned that the­se peo­ple are Rus­sian. Under­stand their images and per­cep­tions of us are formed out of ‘white-washed’ inter­ac­tions with Amer­i­cans. In their coun­try they prob­a­bly see white peo­ple as the only peo­ple in Amer­i­ca. If you believe you can have a ratio­nal con­ver­sa­tion with the den­tist WITHOUT los­ing your job let him/her know: you were humil­i­at­ed by the com­ments and under­stand the need to be pro­fes­sion­al at all times. You prefer to be referred to my… Read more »
me
I live in Lon­don, Eng­land and have had sim­i­lar expe­ri­ences. In my expe­ri­ence some­times peo­ple have been fas­ci­nat­ed by my hair more than I imag­ined. It sur­pris­es me and some­times makes me feel like peo­ple should get out a bit, con­sid­er­ing Lon­don is very mul­ti­cul­tur­al. When I had a twist out recent­ly, one of the peo­ple I work with said, oh you look dif­fer­ent, have you got braids? My Boss, said I looked real­ly nice and she pre­ferred my hair that way [I took this most­ly as a com­pli­ment, but I can’t say that deep down inside, part of me… Read more »
tee
So sor­ry that this hap­pened to this author — yeeessssh! What wankers they were! @me Had to read this twice so i was sure i didn’t write it! Also a lon­don­er *waves* been nat­u­ral since 03/04 time, it wasn’t even a case of ‘going nat­u­ral’ mov­ing to uni, it was the best. Any­way been through it all except sew ins, tried thrice, not me. Any­way, your expe­ri­ences are like mine at work, last time i thread­ed my hair, a col­league just had to ‘touch it’ her words. My face? Recoil­ing but unable to move either, have had at least 5 touch­ing… Read more »
CharlitaH

Hope­ful­ly this is chang­ing lit­tle by lit­tle, but it cer­tain­ly wont if we con­tin­ue to put dan­ger­ous chem­i­cals in our hair and dam­age it with waaaay too much heat. Instead of killing them with kind­ness we’ll do it with nat­u­ral hair, don’t be dis­cour­aged!

ProfessionalNatural
I actu­al­ly think it depends on the work place. I wear my hair in a afro to work every­day. Mat­ter of fact I inter­view with my hair in a afro because I want­ed to be sure that when i was hired the knew who they were get­ting. I wouldn’t want to work in a place that couldn’t accept me for who I am and how I choose to wear my. Most com­pa­nies and cul­tures are accept­ing and inclu­sive. I work for a large for­tune 500 com­pa­ny and a lot of wom­en wear their hair nat­u­ral­ly. We even have a per­son… Read more »
Guest1234
Thank you! Cor­po­rate lawyer, here. And the major­i­ty of the black ladies at the top of the game wear nat­u­ral hair. Who the heck has HOURS on end to spend straight­en­ing hair? And whose employ­ers actu­al­ly WANT the pro­fes­sion­als they’re pay­ing GOOD MONEY for wast­ing qual­i­ty bill­able hours doing that mess? And whose CLIENT wants peo­ple they’re pay­ing GOOD MONEY FOR focus­ing on hair rather than win­ning the case? NOBODY’S. I promise you. It annoys me when black folks tell OURSELVES that we’re not pro­fes­sion­al as-is and sit around ana­lyz­ing how to beat our­selves into sub­mis­sion. Nobody worth a damn… Read more »
gigi

those two must not get out much… your big ponies are actu­al­ly quite chic! they also don’t seem very professional/ prob­a­bly got their train­ing from some ???????… lol good rid­dance

gigi

woops — looks like the cyril­lic didn’t make it lol ‘Krushcheby’ was what I meant… like a back­woods slum­my den­tal school

gigi
oh yeah, almost for­got… I know a few rus­sians & have dat­ed a cou­ple too — didn’t real­ly want to play on the race/ethnicity angle, but since some­body else men­tioned it, I’ll just say I find them to be very assim­i­lat­ing. They’ll chameleonize them­selves to who­ev­er they think has the pow­er, and to their pleas­ant sur­prise because they look the part,the anglo-sax­on angle is the ‘thing’. Fun­ny thing is that it’s not even about race in their heads… They get the big pic­ture, sum up what’s going on & blend until they can take over… They’re tricky that way… no… Read more »
@HelloMissHarper
Im very glad this arti­cle was post­ed. It’s sad­den­ing to know that this is what we are faced with every­day in the work­place. It’s usu­al­ly an invol­un­tary silent bat­tle with the views of soci­ety. I think the above sit­u­a­tion is com­plete­ly unac­cept­able. I do from time to time whip out the ghd’s on my hair (which kills me a lit­tle bit inside to be hon­est) but I find that when I have worn my curls out in the work place on a good twist-out day. When my bush looks the best, the reac­tion is either an erie one of one… Read more »
Jeremiah Desravines

You are beau­ti­ful, just the way you are. Con­sid­er legal coun­sel. And stay strong through the groups that sup­port you.

Candice
I own my own busi­ness, so on a dai­ly basis, it large­ly doesn’t mat­ter how I do my hair because it’s a small busi­ness with few employ­ees and I’m the boss. How­ev­er, there are times when I’ve had to go to busi­ness meet­ings, espe­cial­ly back when I had a twa, and I was def­i­nite­ly seen as poor (i.e., I couldn’t afford to get my hair done rather than I chose not to). Also being in the pub­lish­ing busi­ness where there are almost NO black peo­ple at all, let alone black wom­en, let ALONE black wom­en with nat­u­ral, I find my… Read more »
RobynW.

I feel hor­ri­ble that this hap­pened to you, and in the work­place no less! Your boss han­dled the sit­u­a­tion very poor­ly. Its one thing to address appear­ance as a part of office dress code but NEVER should an employ­ee be con­front­ed in front of oth­er employ­ees. That can lead to an uncom­fort­able and hos­tile work envi­ron­ment. And how dare your co work­er say you look like a troll doll!! No way shape or form is that okay and your boss should have con­front­ed her too.

Nak

And what’s fun­ny is, the­se very peo­ple will be the first to say they aren’t racist. I bet you her boss and cowork­ers had no clue how offen­sive that was.

Cublktigress

As long as it doesn’t look unkempt or get in the way it should not be a prob­lem. They would just rather have you assim­i­late and we’ve done that for so long. Our hair is what sets us apart from all the oth­er races. Some­thing rather unique about defy­ing grav­i­ty!

coffeeandfingernails
I think this is some­thing that’s bound to change as more and more wom­en go nat­u­ral. In the mean­time, how each wom­an han­dles this has to be a per­son­al deci­sion and I’m the last to judge. If you have the lux­u­ry of tak­ing a stand and walk­ing out, more pow­er to you. Some won’t have that lux­u­ry and will have to go along in order to keep putting food on the table. I’d be curi­ous about how this varies from indus­try to indus­try, and in dif­fer­ent parts of the coun­try. As a black wom­an work­ing in left/progressive/nonprofit type envi­ron­ments on… Read more »
Tabatha

In the mil­i­tary you aren’t allowed to do your hair in fash­ious styles. I was able to put my hair in corn­rowws, but the parts couldn’t have zig zags they had to go straight back same with locks you have to be able to pull them back in a bun. They didn’t want any indi­vid­u­als.

Nak

I’ve been nat­u­ral in a cor­po­rate envi­ron­ment. I have 3b/c hair, so I’m not sure if that makes a dif­fer­ence to non-Black peo­ple, but I haven’t been approached. How­ev­er, my moth­er con­stant­ly tells me to wear my hair straight to inter­views and thinks every job I didn’t get some­how relates to me wear­ing my hair curly. Also, just b/c I haven’t been approached by any­one doesn’t mean they don’t think any­thing.

I real­ly don’t know. But I do def­i­nite­ly wear my hair in a bun to inter­views.

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