The Interview.

Professionalism in the workplace.

As I get dressed for my interview, I turn around and seek validation…

“Do you think it is OK for me to have my hair out?”

For some reason, I always feel as though having my hair out will affect the opinion of any potential employer (Silly, I know). This is actually a scenario that I had last week, I had to speak on it because I feel like I can not be the only one that feels this way when going to an interview or into a professional workplace for the first time.

Realistically, I shouldn’t ever have to worry about how others feel about my natural hair and I always wonder where I get this idea from, the idea that an afro is ‘unprofessional’. Sometimes, I feel as if it is just Shanell, trying to find something unnecessary to stress about as always. However, a quick Google search of ‘unprofessional hairstyles for work’ soon backs up any self-doubts I may have.

-try it.

It is sad that we are made to feel that our natural hair is inappropriate in the workplace and that the only way to be professional is to slick our hair back in a bun or straighten it daily. It is sad that I even feel as though I need to ask for validation before attending an interview with an afro, in fear that it may affect me getting a job that I feel I have the personal qualities for.

Fortunately, I have never had an employer ask me to change my hairstyle, but this was the first time I had felt brave enough to have my hair out, especially with how big it is getting now.

 – I got the job!

In retrospect, I genuinely feel as though wearing my hair out does portray my personality more than any other style – although during interview-induced stress meltdowns, the thick layer of hair probably does not help me with body temperature regulation!

The next time I have an interview and I feel like having my hair out I can answer my own question…

“Yes, it will be fine.”

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Can I touch it?

Frequently Asked Questions.

Q1. How do you get your hair like that?

Every time I get asked this question, I think of the most sarcastic reply in my head. How do you think I got my hair like this? Have you never seen an afro before? Have you never seen curly hair before? I went to bed and made a wish & this is how I woke up! This is my hair, my dear. I have no explanation for it. This is what I was born with.

Usually, I just settle for a smile (on a good day) and a two-word response…“It’s natural.”

-I didn’t choose the ‘fro life, the ‘fro life chose me.

Q2.

a) Do you/have you ever straighten(ed) your hair?

Of course I have lol. The funniest thing about this question, is that 9/10 times the ‘interviewer’ has recently seen me with straight hair. Ok I don’t straighten it often. But you seen me with straight hair last month! Give me a break!

b) How long does it take to straighten your hair? 

These questions usually come hand in hand. However, tbh its not a ridiculous question and everyone always seems to be so surprised when I actually tell them how long it takes.

On an average day with no interruptions or distractions it takes 3 hours + to wash, blow dry, straighten and moisturise my hair. Arm ache is an understatement. Maybe this is why I don’t do it as often!

Q3. Do you ever brush/comb your hair?

Come on. I obviously brush/comb my hair. The difference is I comb and brush it whilst it is wet to de-tangle it and then style it and leave it to dry. If I was to brush my hair when it is dry, not only would it hurt, I would end up with a gigantic frizzball. Not quite the look I would EVER go for.

Q4. Why don’t you wear your hair down more often?

First of all, my hair never goes ‘down’, it doesn’t ever seem to grown any longer either. Whenever it grows I’m pretty certain it just expands outwards as it always seems to grow bigger rather than longer. I think the correct way of asking such question would be ‘Why don’t you let your hair loose more often’. Basically, It must be tamed. Ok, yes, I agree. It’s nice to have out every now and then or for dressy occasions but honestly, it is so thick it is like constantly wearing a woolly hat. I don’t normally last a full day with it out and I ALWAYS have a hair band on my wrist for back up.

-Also, it attracts too many questions. Ironic.

Q5. How long did it take for you to get your hair curly?

See Question 1.

Q6. “OMG I love your hair! Is it natural?!  Is it real?”

Almost always answered with “No.”

Then when I look up at the blank face staring back at me, I start to feel slightly bad and feel obliged to answer.

Thank you.

Yes, it is natural.

Yes, it is real – You can definitely tell that it is real.

Q7. “I wish I had hair like yours. Can I have some?”

Is this supposed to be banter?

Maybe it started off as banter, but I’ve heard the same ridiculous sentence so many times these past years that it I can almost predict it. It is almost like there is an ‘Ask Shanell’ script somewhere that is being handed around without me knowing.

-I don’t even answer this question, just laugh.

Q8. Where did you get your hair from? Your Mum or your Dad?

Neither.

Finally, there is the question that I dread at the end of every ‘afro interrogation’….

Q9. Can I touch it? 

No. The answer is always no. I don’t walk around asking for my hair to be groped. The amount of times I have had to duck and dive from wandering hands. I am not a pet. I am not a zoo animal. I do not wish for anyone to touch my hair. Why would I drag myself to engage in wash day (A Naturalista’s biggest chore) and put all these products in my hair to ensure a frizz-free day – just for you to put your grubby little fingers in my hair?! I don’t know where your hands have been. I don’t wish to ever find out where your hands have been. But they should not be in my hair. It’s weird OK. Especially as most of the time, these people do not know me. Why would I ever want a stranger to grab my hair, its weird.

-However, not the weirdest. I have had a stranger sniff my hair in a lift because it ‘looked like it smelt nice’. That’s another story.

The Pursuit of Curlyness.

My Story

Regrets

When I was younger, I absolutely HATE HATE HATED my curls. They were hard to control, I didn’t have a clue how to manage or look after my hair. I had friends that would braid my hair for me every now and then but in between I really struggled; then the inevitable happened… I had it relaxed. I don’t think I have ever regretted something so much in my whole entire life to date. Nowadays, I couldn’t imagine anything worse than sitting in a hairdressers for hours on end with this smelly concoction on my hair – definitely not a pleasurable experience. Then for the next week or two the SCABS. I think it’s fair to say never again! Will I expose my hair to such chemicals!!

The last time I went to the hairdressers, must have been about 8 or 9 years ago. I had my hair relaxed and cut. This time I decided to have it cut just above my shoulders (second biggest hair regret). It didn’t grow. It stayed that length for what seemed like forever. Then one day, during my first year at University I decided enough was enough.

Transition

The first step was a strict no heat policy. I would wash and go every day. Literally. Wash and go. Wash, leave-in conditioner, try (fail) to tame it and go. I let it dry however it wanted to. Now this took a lot of perseverance. I hated my hair, I hated the length, I hated how it did its own thing, I hated the kink of the wannabe curls that just balanced on my head. But still I persevered. To this day I still only straighten my hair every 4-6 months but I wish it was less. Usually, especially when I have my hair out, I have to wet my hair every single morning to tame it. I find that this works best for me. I comb, style and tame it whilst it is wet and then leave it to dry naturally. No heat. No hairdryer. Nothing but the wind.

During the transition period, I used to mix my own natural hair masks; usually mayonnaise, 2 raw egg  YELLOWS (I know. Eww!) and an avocado with whichever conditioner I was using at the time. I threw all these ingredients in a blender, then I used to absolutely saturate my hair in this mix and use one of those cheap clear plastic shower caps to cover it for the next 30 minutes to an hour for it to work its magic. I then used to wash my hair as normal, comb through all the tangles and add Black Castor Oil to my hair whilst it was still wet and wrap! I understand that different methods work differently for different people but honestly, this was amazing for my hair. The curls used to bounce back and look so healthy. I really should start doing this again.

Everyone goes crazy over coconut oil, but I’ve never really been a fan of using it in my hair. I’d much rather use Black Castor Oil. BCO has definitely been my go to over these transitioning years. However, be warned… the thick, gloopy, sticky liquid will have you smelling like you have rolled around in a stale ash tray! However, the results are worth every accusation that is thrown towards you of being a heavy smoker! I use this for my scalp, for treatments, for ALL my hair needs. My hair absolutely LOVES the stuff.

Current Situation

Transitioning DEFINITELY takes a lottttt of patience. As with every method of ‘Going Natural’ but it is definitely one of the best choices I have made for my hair!

Currently, I would say I’m quite happy  with my curls. My hair still isn’t exactly how I want it to be… Are we ever 100% happy with our hair?! *eye roll* But I feel as though I know what my hair likes and what it doesn’t like. The length of it is decent and I am able to manage it so much more easier at this length. Any knots and tangles I get, I cut off. This sounds harsh, but is SO much better for your hair in the long run. Combing through knots can cause split ends, so I try to avoid that as much as possible. I still wet my hair everyday, style it, and leave it to dry naturally. The last time I straightened my hair was mid October, so I’m trying to see how long I can last before I want to straighten it again.

In my opinion, pursuing my natural hair journey was definitely the best decision. I wish I had started it sooner, but I’m happy with my results so far. Now my journey continues…