A few months ago, a sorority sister who now works for the Los Angeles Times posted a question on Facebook- is anyone with curly hair willing to talk about their struggles with curly hair to one of her colleagues? I immediately volunteered. The request was posted a few weeks after I had shot my first pictures for my website. I had chosen to wear my hair natural and it had not been an easy decision for many reasons.
First, I have struggled with thick, coarse hair my entire life, just like I’ve struggled with my weight and my curves. They go together in my mind, something that sometimes makes me lack confidence in my appearance. In my late twenties, I would drag myself to salons in Chinatown and Bay Ridge and get it blown out pin straight every weekend. In my early thirties, I decided it was a huge waste of money and time. I liked curly hair and I had never dated anyone who preferred my hair straight so what I was doing it for? If I was now leading my business and selling myself to people who wanted authenticity from their career coach, I thought I should show people who I truly am- an independent women of a certain ethnic heritage who embraces the look she feels is right for her. Right?
Second, even though I generally like my hair curly, it’s not easy to style. I rarely get it right. I either don’t use enough product, or I use too much. If I have a little more disposable cash when the next Groupon or Living Social Deal for Keratin treatments comes out, I am there, but until that time comes, I am on my own. The night before the photo shoot I washed my hair with DevaCurl, used a ton of leave-in conditioner and combed through every inch with Miss Jessie’s (expensive) Curl Crème. I put it up in clips and took them down every 30 minutes to scrunch. And then I went to bed and hoped for the best. Luckily, my hours of preparation worked and my curls survived the next day’s humidity.
(What my photographer and I should have really worried about was makeup- nothing stopped that from melting every 10 minutes. Thank God for iPhoto’s retoucher.)
Third, when I occasionally do get a blowout because straight hair is easy for a few days, I get compliments from women, especially in the workplace. I always roll my eyes in my head when these women tell me how beautiful I look because I feel like they’re projecting their own issues with their hair onto me. But maybe they were onto something. Maybe none of the strong females that I wanted to attract as a career coach would be attracted to my services because of how I wore my hair in my pictures. Maybe they wouldn’t think I was “professional” and that I had made the wrong decision after all. I believe that fear was really what prompted me to want to talk to the reporter.
A few months have passed, but the article finally came out this Sunday. After reading it, I was so pleased to be part of it and seriously impressed with the diversity of sources that Whitney Friedlander used. The research shows that I am not alone in my issues with my hair, or my belief that curly hair is great in both personal and professional situations if you wear it confidently. And over the last few months, the fear about my photo choice has also passed after I had my first paying clients. I know that my instincts were right- being myself and wearing my hair the way I wanted has been an asset. People want career coaches who are comfortable in their own skin because it makes them trustworthy and approachable.
Do you question your style decisions in your professional dress? I’d love to hear?