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How to be a Professional and a Natural Woman

Updated on November 29, 2011

As an African American professional woman that recently made the decision to "go natural" (ie-wear my hair in its natural state, the way it grows out of my head), I'm viewed in several ways. To my employers, I'm seen as the radical, the unprofessional, etc. To my family, I'm the brave one. To my fellow naturalists, I'm well supported. But how do I see myself? Well, I'm intelligent, I'm genuine, I'm humble and God-fearing, but most of all, I'm damn good at what I do and no one can question that.

So, why all the push from those who are uncomfortable with the black girl with kinky hair? Well, not everyone is as receptive to "natural hair"--the kind with thick coils that you don't wash every day. That requires moisture at every turn and may seem unkempt, but it probably took that person several hours to achieve what you see!

So how do you keep it professional, yet stay away from the creamy crack that is the relaxer? (For those that don't know, I'm referring to a hair product that chemically alters the natural coil to make it straight. It's crack because it's extremely addictive.) Well, I'm so glad you asked! How to keep it real and keep it neat at the same time.

What is good hair?

Do your research.

Man--youtube is a natural woman's research library. I love it! So many natural stylistas to choose from! A few of my favorites are Naptural85 and Nikkimae2003. They both do great product reviews and do step by step tutorials for the amateurs out there (like I once was). CurlyNikki is also a great resource if you want to find new professional hairstyles, learn how to henna, or you just need support from other curl addicts! Essence Magazine's Fall 2011 Special Issue of Hot Hair was just what I needed to find new great natural hairstyles that I could do at home and show off at work! You just have to look around--trust me, you'll find the do that works for you!

Create a natural hair event at work!

I got this tip from a good friend--this one can be a good look for you professionally. Why not host a natural hair event with your African American Interest Group or even dolo? Give tips for African American women in the office and invite other demographics who just plain don't know what you're talking about when you say "natural hair". For one, you'll be noticed by your peers and by your superiors alike. You won't need to fear wearing your hair in it's natural state, you've already broached the subject and created a level playing field. I'm definitely thinking about taking the initiative to do this one.

Be the best worker bee you can be.

Perhaps you've been prejudiced against for wearing your TWA (teenie weenie afro). Good! They know who you are! Now, it's time for you to take that recognition to the next level. Kill them with kindness and be undeniably the best worker they've ever seen. Yes, it means you may need to arrive early. But hell, then you can leave early. Or, if you're a night owl, arrive on time and leave late (hey, I know how my people are!) Make sure you double and triple check those emails before you send them too--no one likes a person who can't tap F7.

Have a one on one.

Ask your lead directly: Does my hair make you uncomfortable? Now we've got things out in the open. If they say, Well yes. Then ask, Why? Some folks have never been asked before. Now that they need to provide an answer, maybe they don't actually have an answer. But again, providing that open forum can give way to deeper understanding and even a deeper relationship. Last week I had a guy tell me, "You know, your hair's not really that professional." Now, he wasn't my lead, he was just a peer that I wasn't too close with. But I said, "So what?" Definitely not my finest response, but I was caught off guard. He replied, "Oh no! I like it!" Well, there it is.

Invest in these. Now.
Invest in these. Now.

Invest in your greatest weapon(s)

Even the most drab hairstyle can do a complete turnaround with one of two things:

  1. The right hair accessories (pictured right): including but not limited to bobby pins, banana clips, head bands, dainty flower, etc.
  2. The right earrings: Believe this, jazzy earrings can turn that do right side up!

Happy accessory hunting!


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    • findawayormakeone profile image

      findawayormakeone 5 years ago from Washington, DC Metro Area

      Thanks Natural & Proud! I wrote this article 8 months ago and since then I've only worn my hair natural to work. I'm excited to say that even my own small rebellion in the workplace seems to have changed the viewpoint of many! As long as we stay conscious enough to challenge the status quo and maintain our professionalism in other areas, there's no reason why natural can't be the cultural norm.

    • profile image

      Natural & Proud 5 years ago

      It's such a shame that we are still chained by THE MAN. We should just wear our hair natural, and if they have a problem then take them to a race relations tribunal if they object.

      Fortunately I live in the UK, and within the workplace they're far more tolerant than the US.

      Perhaps if Michelle Obama had taken the leap to natural hair it might have become the cultural norm. We black people have too many hair issues.

    • findawayormakeone profile image

      findawayormakeone 6 years ago from Washington, DC Metro Area

      It is an absolute shame Angela. Thank you for your advice--I'm going full force!

    • angela p profile image

      angela p 6 years ago from Richmond, Virginia

      I think its a shame that we have to worry about things like this. I was told my hair was distracting one time because of some highlights I put in it. I had to change it or lose my job. While at other places they were ok with my hair as long as it was well kept. I asked as you suggested and they were ok with it. I just think some places or people have their own idea of what professional is and if they are in charge, people like us can get harassed because of natural curls or blonde highlights. I bet your natural hair is beautiful - go with it.