When we first came up with the idea of the Naturally Professional series, the goal was to find a few natural haired women who were willing to share their experiences on Afrobella.com and CurlyNikki.com. The intent was to prove that despite what has been said – and unfortunately what is still sometimes believed – women with locs, sisterlocs, and loose natural hair are present in professional industries. The intent is to prove that natural hair IS in fact, professional, well taken care of, and welcome in any kind of workplace.
The response has been overwhelmingly supportive. And so, with great pride we present our first Naturally Professional woman.
Title: Television News Reporter
Tell me about your natural journey. How long have you been natural? What led you to wear your hair in a natural style?
Two years ago I began noticing how fascinated my 2 year old daughter had become with my long straight hair. At the time I was having frequent conversations with her about how beautiful her natural curls were. This whole “dance” felt wrong, painful even – so in September of 2009 after receiving a blessing from my bosses I chopped off my relaxed hair.
Have you ever faced any undue scrutiny and/or adversity in your career because of wearing their hair natural?
I live and work in a city (Seattle) where my natural hairstyle is embraced and accepted.
I don’t believe I’ve received push back although recently I had an agent mention that my hair may not fly in other places.
Do you think there is an issue today with acceptance overall in the corporate workforce for women who choose to wear natural hair?
I’m not sure. I do believe there is a lot of ignorance about our hair, how it grows and what it really looks and feels like in its natural state. We as a community of black women still struggle with loving and accepting our natural hair so I think it would only be natural that corporate America might take issue with it.
Are there any particular natural hairstyles they feel are no-no’s for the workforce or a particular style that is “safer” or more accepted than others, based on your experiences?
I think many of us get confused about natural hair and professionalism. If you’re working in corporate America a Mohawk – whether relaxed or natural is probably not a good idea.
In my profession I don’t want my hair to be a distraction, it should complement my look not overtake it. I’ve only been natural for a year and half, as it grows I’m learning what works and what doesn’t.
How do you or have you handled any questions or issues you’ve faced regarding your hair?
Initially after getting the “big chop” I expected to get a lot of questions or confusion about my hair but I haven’t. I do however receive lots of compliments and emails! My hair has become my signature in many ways – the other day I had a woman stop traffic during a live shot to tell me how much of an inspiration I’ve been to her. I’ve had mothers tell me they record my stories for their children to watch. These messages are powerful to me, I’m reminded of when I was little and we’d crowd around the TV to watch the Cosby show – people are thirsty to see a reflection of themselves on screen and I’m humbled and honored to be a part of offering that.
There is always discussion and sometimes concern about wearing your hair natural and working, as well as succeeding, in the corporate workforce. What strategies can you offer other women who wear their hair natural on handling issues they may face in the workplace regarding their hair choice?
I’ve been hearing the word “authentic” a lot lately. I guess it’s another way of saying “keeping it real.” The broadcast journalism world is extremely competitive and now more than ever news bosses are looking for people who are authentic, different – someone who isn’t a carbon copy of everyone else.
As a leader what insight can you offer women in general, natural or not, on succeeding as African American women? What are the top 3 tips to success you can offer?
Never leave work early, people notice.
How far you go in your career depends on how hard you are willing to work.
But also note working harder is not always enough, you also have to work smarter.
Thanks for sharing your story, Tonya!
Are you Naturally Professional? Do you know someone who fits the description? Then please send an e mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or to email@example.com using “Naturally Professional,”as the subject line. Please include the nominee’s name, photos, and a reliable email address.