Posted on April 10 2019
By Nkechi Iloka (@Corporate_Curly)
As a woman of color in Corporate America, navigating through the confines of what is deemed "professional," at times creates an unusual burden when embracing natural coils on the job. This "burden" is not uncommon for women with curly or coily hair, and it's one that can cause feelings of being "stuck" in a predicament where you are compromised to mask or change your natural hair to divert attention from yourself at work. I've experienced these feelings of being "stuck" in the past, and I can relate and help women who have trouble finding hairstyles that are right for them, make them feel confident, and simply work for them at their daily 9 to 5's.
It wasn't until I was two and a half years into my career that I began questioning why it wasn't "right" or "professional" for me to wear the hair that simply grows out of my head to the place I spend the most time?
My natural hair journey began in 2010, and since then I've tried a variety of styles from braids, twists, to fros, and more, in an attempt to find what works best for me. Fast forward a few years later through grad school and working in Corporate America, I'd completely strayed away from wearing my natural hair all together. I did this because I didn't want to jeopardize my "professionalism" by wearing my natural hair to work. It wasn't until I was two and a half years into my career that I began questioning why it wasn't "right" or "professional" for me to wear the hair that simply grows out of my head to the place I spend the most time? During this time I also felt more empowered to bring my full self to work. So I knew for me and my professional journey that bringing my full self to work also meant wearing my natural hair, unapologetically.
It was after year two and a half that I took the "big leap" and wore my fro to work. Big leap, sounds daunting huh? Seriously, it was, and it is a feeling that many other women with coily/curly hair feel. Looking back, it was nerve-wrecking, and on that day I was very self-conscious and a bit insecure, but on that day I also felt LIBERATED. Did I care what people thought, yes. Did I want them to think differently of me because of my hair, no. But when I wore my natural hair, it was actually a HUGE relief and once I got through my perceived fear of wearing my own hair into work, I started to embrace it more. I began to share my experience with other professional women. And I started Corporate_curly on Instagram to help women who were on their journey of embracing their natural texture at work. Whenever I get questions on how I "took the leap" I always explain these three things:
- First and foremost, educate yourself about the health of your hair. Especially if you are a newly transitioning natural, your routines and products that you use will likely be different from the products you used while you had a relaxer/perm.
Style your hair in ways that make YOU happy. Get any negative thoughts out of your head about your hair. And experiment and try different styles so that you know what makes you happy and feel most beautiful.
- And finally, JUST DO IT. You are the only person who can love your hair the most. So love whatever texture that you have. Once you begin to educate, embrace, and love your hair nothing anyone can tell you should matter about your natural texture.
From that first day that I wore my natural texture to work, I knew that my confidence and professionalism trumped any hair style that I wore into the office.
From that first day that I wore my natural texture to work, I knew that my confidence and professionalism trumped any hair style that I wore into the office. Always know that whatever style you have, whether it's straight, curly, coily, locs, or braided ensure your hair is groomed in whatever style you decide to wear. And ultimately what I learned is to believe and understand that your hair doesn't diminish any ounce of professionalism that you bring to the workplace!
I've included my top three styles by maintenance level (from low to high) that I've tried out and love to wear at work.
Twists are such a great hair do if you are looking for an easy, convenient, and long lasting style.
2. The Natural Updo
Natural updo styles are great, because they are extremely easy to manage and can last an entire week or longer. This style is my favorite because of the convenience, versatility, and medium maintenance.
3. Twist Out/ Braid Out
Braid outs are also one of my top favorite styles as well! I love the volume and fun that comes with wearing a braid out! But unfortunately braid outs can take a lot of time to style, and may not last very long. In my experience, my braid and twist outs can last up to two days.
Visit Nkechi's Instagram at @Corporate_Curly
Note: None of the pictures are owned by the author or Project 925