In honor of #BlackHistoryMonth + #theCrownAct I decided to make some figurative work subliming women’s hair.
*The CROWN Act is a California law which prohibits discrimination based on hair style and hair texture by extending protection for both categories under the FEHA and the California Education Code. It is the first legislation passed at the state level in the United States to prohibit such discrimination.
Here’s my story:
Early on I internalized that my curly hair wasn’t “good”. I was so excited to get it straightened and every time it happened people positive comments reinforced this idea.
Once in my early 20s, I went to an interview – first year living in Paris – I had a nice Zara pants and jacket with cute shirt and since I knew that I had to look “professional” I pulled my hair very tight into a ponytail. I can honestly say I had a magnificently manicured hairdo that day. Still the interviewer felt the need to tell me that if I got the job, I would not be able to wear braids or my hair out. I was so used about that type of abuse and discrimination that I enthusiastically responded something like: “of course!”. I got the job.
When I moved to New York, one of the first purchases I made was a curling iron. For me it was a survival tool as important as a getting plates and cooking pans.
I think it was around 2007 I started to “transition” when my friend Fatima sent me this YouTube video of Taren Guy (I think that’s her name) basically explaining how to take care of your natural hair. It took years for me to unlearn and rebuilt the self-confidence and acceptance around my own hair.
In 2015, when I started to work at my last company, I was interviewed by an old colleague of mine Lana from my flight attendant days. One thing was different tho: she had switched her relaxed black hair to beautiful blonde locks. It felt so good to see a woman being top executive of a company wearing natural hairstyle – and encouraged me to also wear mine the way I wanted in the corporate settings.
When I started to work I decided to confidently wear natural hairstyles, especially when we were meeting with suppliers in Asia and Europe – to make a point to show that my professionalism was in no way impacted by how my hair looked.
It’s been a journey but I can honestly say that all these experiences empowered me to be the confident person I am today and pushed me to deconstruct other preconceived ideas about beauty and power dynamics.
Here’s some of my illustrations!