Naturally Insecure.

 Exactly a year ago today, I penned a blog post about the woes of having natural hair. For me, natural hair came with some insecurities, specifically when wearing it in the workplace. Thankfully, though, God placed people in my life who helped affirm what I so badly wanted to believe myself: that my hair, in all its fluffy splendor, is beautiful, no matter the setting. In honor of the "anniversary" of one of my favorite posts to date, I decided to share it with you all. Enjoy!

Naturally Insecure.

“You’re not gonna straighten your hair for the interview? That curly stuff is just so unprofessional.”

Just two days before the biggest interview of my career to date, these words made me more insecure than ever. But I love my hair! I’m finally comfortable with it! Why should I have to change it? But coming from a man in finance whose uniform is a suit and tie, usually black, blue, or grey, I figured I’d listen to the one who clearly had more real world experience than me.

 To try and look more “professional,” I opted for the wash and go, which to me was perfect because my coils popped and the tendrils dangled over my forehead. Surely defined curls were much more acceptable in the workplace than a fluffy twist out. I wanted to make sure the fro I was once proud to flaunt as I strutted through the streets of New York was as muffled as possible. No big hair for me anymore. Well, at least until this interview process was over.

Once I got the job, I felt comfortable rocking my growing fro, and my hair products made me popular around the office in no time. “OMG Janna let me smell your hair! It smells AMAZING!” the white people in my office exclaimed. I’d lean down and let them smell the Shea Moisture products I’d drowned my hair in the night before. The coconut and hibiscus DID smell divine. And I’ve never really had a problem with the “can I smell your hair, can I touch it?” questions from those who didn’t have natural hair. You know how much time I spend detangling, deep conditioning, washing, conditioning, sealing, and twisting my hair? I’m glad it looks appealing enough to want to touch, look at, and even smell. And if I’m the only representation of black hair someone has, I’m more than happy to share my culture with them.

But still, my own hair wasn’t that easy for me to accept. When I’d go to meetings on other floors, away from my accepting Marketing and Communications team, the insecurities crept back in. I’m already one of the youngest in the company; was my wild hair a reflection of my immaturity? My brother’s words echoed in my head as I sat around a table with white women wearing straight or barely wavy hair. I wondered what they were thinking about my hair, refusing to believe that they probably weren’t thinking about me at all. I just wouldn’t believe that they only cared about doing their job and getting work done. Eventually, the more I accepted that they probably didn’t care, the more I learned not to care, either.

Well, most of the time.

While I was growing prouder of my curly mane, I almost never went to work without defined curls. Yep, I’d twist or braid it every night and enjoy the beautiful results in the morning; my coworkers would surely be able to tell that my second-day hair worked way better than my frizzier third-day hair, so I refused to get lazy enough to let my hair run wild.

Then one summer day, I heard a newly familiar voice call out to me as I walked down the hall and back into my cube.

“Janna I LOVE your hair, don’t ever change it.” My new boss, committed to peeking her head in everyone’s cube each day to make sure we could put a face to the distinctive laugh heard miles away, caught me off guard the day I took a walk on the wild side and wore 3rd day hair. Was she really talking to me? Did she really like my hair? Should I really never change it?

It wasn’t her acceptance of my hair that eased my insecurities; it was the fact that it was now HER voice that was echoing in my head, not my brother’s. And very soon, her words sat in my head, but they were now in my voice. And that’s how I’d been feeling all along, ever since I embarked on my natural journey. I loved my hair! I loved what it was becoming. I loved seeing how my hair grew out of my head, without the manipulation of a relaxer, keratin treatment, straightener or even a brush or comb. Why would I change it? Why should I have to change it?

Almost a year later, I stopped by my boss’ office to dip my hands into the candy jar that sat on her table (my usual routine), and she began asking questions about the blonde ‘do I’d been sporting as of late. “Oh God,” I thought, “she’s going to tell me to change it back to brown. It’s unprofessional. Ugh, I knew it.” The insecurities from last year began flooding my mind. As I engaged in conversation with her, though, her questions were all about how fast my hair grows, maintenance, products I use…nothing about me shaving it all off and starting over with a straight wig, as I’d anticipated. We even talked about Chris Rock’s “Good Hair” movie, which she’d seen but I hadn’t, and how damaging relaxers are. Turns out, she despises them just as much as us curly girls do.

Finally, I had to come clean.

“You know, before I interviewed for this job, I was told that my hair was unprofessional, that I should straighten it.”

“What? No!” she said, almost disgusted. “Your hair is an expression of you! You have to have creative freedom to express yourself however you need to in order to function at your maximum capacity. You think I want everyone running around, looking exactly the same? You have to find your personal style and own it. For me, that’s wearing wrap dresses and heels. For other guys here, that’s wearing shirts so tight you can see their nipples. And if your style is blonde curls that run wild, then rock it! I love it!”

Damn right, Kelly.

The fact I heard this from a white woman in the workplace and heard the exact opposite from a black man at home spoke volumes.

I realized that there’s nothing wrong or unprofessional about the way my hair grows out of my head. I care for it, clean it, and do it, just as I did when I had straight hair. And that’s enough. But for me, my wild mane is an expression of Janna. And your wild hair, or straight hair, or short hair, is an expression of you. That’s what makes us all special, all unique. Own it.

One day we all will.

1 comment

  1. Your hair is gorgeous, truly wonderful and that's what makes you who you are. True words indeed.


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