When deciding on how to present oneself for a professional photoshoot, many people don't have to decide between wearing their hair natural or not because their natural is seen as normal. But when black people, and, more specifically, many black women, decide that the want to wear their hair in the way that it was intended to grow from their heads, they are often questioned, looked at sideways, and told that "it might be best to straighten their hair for first impressions." The following article by Bie Aweh M.Ed speaks on going against the grain for the world to see. Sisters, whether you wear your hair naturally, permed, cut shorter than mine, or in locs, step in confident and know that you're just as good, if not better than every other candidate in your field.
Picture day at work can be an exciting time: not only are you becoming an official part of the team, the brand, but it is also another excuse to buy new clothes. The most exciting part, for me at least, is to be able to update my Linkedin profile. All that said, unfortunately, picture day can also invoke a lot of unnecessary anxiety for me. Not because I am camera shy–just check my Instagram–because while I think my natural hair is awesome, many others still think that it is….different. Never mind that I have a stellar work ethic, or that I contribute to student success daily at the number one public university in the world. All these things seem to not matter once people see my natural hair, because all of a sudden both my hair and I are identified as "unprofessional".
The anxiety I experience does not only come up during picture day, it comes up as I am preparing for interviews. I generally love interviewing and feel quite confident that when I am in an interview, I am absolutely flourishing! My anxiety manifests itself as I am trying to figure out how to professionally style my hair. Forget the fact that women worry about what to wear; I am in the group of Black women and girls who have been told that unless your hair is straight, it is not professional thus undesirable. Hence, a large portion of my interview prep consists of me staring in a mirror trying to style my hair in the least distracting way so that my interviewer doesn’t have a chance to focus on the stereotypical images of Black people they may have been consumed through the media. This is what renowned social psychologist Dr. Claude Steele calls stereotype threat. Stereotype threat refers to “ a situational predicament in which people are or feel themselves to be at risk of conforming to stereotypes about their social group”. This directly correlates to the feeling of constantly wondering if and what stories are being projected onto me simply because of my locs by those interviewing me — something I highly doubt my non Black colleagues have to worry about.
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