Poised, Professional and…Natural?: Mixing the Three in Corporate America

Last year, I was determined to get in shape so I made the crazy decision to train for a half marathon. I had the fitness clothes, the running sneakers and even my running app. The one thing I didn’t have: a solution for my hair. As someone who has never had a relaxer, I was enamored with my flat iron and knew there was no way I could sustain my straight, silky tresses while running 8+ miles per week (I tried and my edges weren’t having it). So, alas, I committed myself to the natural hair journey.

After completely failing at twist outs, wash and go’s and bantu knots, I finally found a regimen that worked for me. But not without another concern arising: can I rock my natural-do at work? Well, the only way I was going to find out was to try.

 Jenna with straight, natural hair and looking drop-dead gorgeous!

Jenna with straight, natural hair and looking drop-dead gorgeous!

The first day I wore my new look, I was inundated with thousands of questions as I helped some of my colleagues pick their jaws up off the floor. “Oh my gosh! Look at your hair! I love it! How did you get it like that? Is that your hair when you don’t straighten it?” Of course I had an innate desire to educate my coworkers about my laborious routine but instead, I proudly smiled and replied, “yes!” Luckily, no one asked to touch it but a few twirls, Q&A sessions and lunches later, my natural hair became the norm.

What’s most interesting to me about my natural hair conundrum, though, wasn’t the trouble of discovering a regimen or even the late nights of saturating my hair in Shea Moisture. But, instead, the fear I had of not being accepted at work by wearing my hair natural. Natural, y’all. Natural. The same word used to describe the food we should eat, the skin care products we should use and the type of beauty that’s revered. “She has such natural beauty!” “I use all natural face wash.” Natural is used so positively in the aforementioned situations, but I suddenly feared wearing my natural hair? Yep, I sure did. As a phrase that Kevin Hart so eloquently coined, let me explain.

As someone who prides herself on learning through observation then implementation, in my five years in the working world, I’ve noticed that your success as a female is largely determined by how you carry yourself. Now, in no way am I saying that the only way to succeed in corporate America is to look pressed, prim and proper. I’m also not saying that it requires a female to be gorgeous. But I am saying that, if you’re a woman that does good work, taking pride in your appearance while you dominate, without a doubt, helps. Could I really wear my natural hair to work, though?

 Jenna rocking her natural hair at work. Curls are flawless, of course. 

Jenna rocking her natural hair at work. Curls are flawless, of course. 

Thanks to reactions to natural hair in movies like “Good Hair” and phrases such as, “If your hair is nappy, they’re not happy,” I shunned my natural hair because, to me, it wasn’t possible to look good with it. To me, it wasn’t acceptable. To me, it put the successful future that I dreamt about in jeopardy. To me, my natural hair just wasn’t good enough. Then came the implementation. I told myself, the only way to know, love and truly embrace my natural hair was to rock it like my flat iron never existed. I learned that the perception of my curly fro would never change until those around me were exposed to it. So, I shook it, fluffed it till it couldn’t get any bigger and wore it with such dignity that I took as much pride in my hair as I did my work ethic, my posture and my attire. I spent—and still spend—countless hours in front of the mirror twisting, braiding and spraying my hair until I was comfortable with how it looked (Praise break: Thank God for my patient husband).

 Jenna in all her natural glory! Look at that fro-hawk! 

Jenna in all her natural glory! Look at that fro-hawk! 

Now, as my pastor always says, “What’s your point preacher?” Well, my point simply is this ladies: wear your natural hair in whatever way makes YOU comfortable and don’t be ashamed of it. Don’t let it define you as a professional or make you feel inadequate in the office. Instead, make it a part of who you already are—own it! Spend as much time loving, nourishing and delighting in your natural hair (and all of its frizz) just as you do with your natural skin, your meals made of all natural ingredients and your natural beauty. Finally, despite what others think, I truly believe there’s no such thing as good hair. However, there is such a thing as a confident and beautiful woman who does a good job of sincerely adoring her natural hair.

Now, I have to ask, have you ever feared wearing your natural hair to work? How did you deal with it? Drop a note in the comments to share your story!