Natural hair on black women isn’t anything new or uncommon among some, but with others, it’s something they’re still trying to embrace, especially in the workplace.
WNCT news anchor Angela Green posted a video on her Facebook page Monday discussing natural hair at work. Green said that WNCT’s intern, Madison, wears her hair natural. Green also pointed out that she herself wears her curly hair straight because her bosses like it that way.
From the video, you can see that Madison’s hair is curly and loose; some might even refer to it as “big.” Green said that Madison is about to start work on a production, but an issue came up with her hair. Madison was told that her hair was too big and “distracting.” Green explained that there are people out there with all different types of hair, and how it should be worn in the workplace depends on the market you’re in, as well as your bosses.
“My advice is to straighten it out, just to please everybody,” Green stated as her advice to Madison.
But did Green give Madison the right advice? She asked people on Facebook what they would tell Madison, and needless to say, some people were upset with Green for giving what they thought was horrible advice:
Forget about it being the style and trend. Growing hair out of one’s scalp is not a trend, it’s just how it is. If people are distracted so much by hair they can’t watch the news, the problem is not your intern. The problem is people. And you are a lovely woman and I understand the importance of People of Color just getting in and occupying jobs we are not usually privy to, but the answer to “straighten it just to please people” was very sad to me. People need to get used to seeing a diverse cross section of humans on their tv, as characters and trusted TV reporters, etc. When it becomes NORMAL to wear your hair the way it grows out of one’s head- that’s when we’ll have true progress in this conversation.
I feel that it was absolutely horrible that you would advise her to straighten her hair. You’re teaching her to hate herself. She could easily put her hair in a bun or wore [sic] it in its natural state. Are you advising her to conform on the basis that you are afraid to stand up for yourself? Stop hating who you are. I work in corporate America and has [sic] never been asked to straighten my hair. I can not understand why the hair the [sic] grows from your scalp is unprofessional!!!
I think she has to decide for herself, but her natural hair should not be offensive or a distraction. There are many ways to beautifully style curly hair that looks elegant and professional. You should not project your own decisions onto young interns. Guide them to find their own voice while still fulfilling their responsibilities in the workplace, not follow your footsteps as if you have paved the ideal path. You sound like a mindless drone: “My bosses like my hair this way so that’s why I straighten it.” Your hair should not be a part of corporate attire or treated like a uniform. It’s no different than the color of your skin or color of your eyes, you were born with them. Imagine if someone said wear color contacts or lighten your complexion because the hues are a distraction? Even the military doesn’t require women to straighten their hair. The way you presented her tells it all. You can do better than that and you should. For yourself and those behind you. On the other hand I think she does dye her hair so straightening her hair may not be a big deal for her if she is a not hardcore about it. Keep in mind straightening her hair with heat or chemicals does cause permanent damage to hair. So the choice is hers. […] After typing all of that I bet you both posted this just to raise a reaction.
But not all of the comments were in disagreement with Green. Some people indicated that she gave the intern great advice, since she was speaking from experience.
I actually love this post. Kudos to you Angela. You used this platform to shed light on a situation that needs to be discussed more but more so give your producers/bosses an idea of how we may get offended by such statements. From a professional standpoint depending on the story/production her hair can indeed dominate the screen. Putting it in a bun or using a product to allow her hair to be curly without dominating so much would be ideal. She wants viewers to see and hear her story and not just see her hair. Her hair is beautiful. I’m not sure why people are upset as if you told her to put a relaxer in her hair.
I say straight. Only because it’s business. Straightening your hair should not affect your principles if it’s for your passion. Big hair can be distracting on camera at times. My hair is natural and I blow it straight all the time only because it’s easier to manage as an on the go Editor. I really don’t think people should be upset or look beyond the point. It’s just business. Thoughts?
Green’s post undoubtedly sparked a debate on natural hair in the workplace and whether or not it’s professional. With over 2,000 people commenting, it was clear to see that natural hair in the workplace is a divisive issue.
As someone who’s worn her hair natural since 1998—in everything from being practically bald to big hair like Madison’s to now, currently, dreadlocks—I’ve never encountered an issue with my hair. Before moving into online media, for 15 years I worked in human resources, and I do consider those years some of the best of my life. Throughout that time, I saw different policies that companies had when it came to their employees’ grooming practices. But thankfully, I’ve never worked with companies like that.
From an H.R. perspective, if there isn’t anything in a policy handbook about grooming and what hair shouldn’t look like, it’s up to the individual to challenge the status quo. But if you go into a situation where there is a clear policy on what hairstyles are acceptable, then you have a big decision to make.
Madison’s hair is beautiful, and at 19 years old, she’s still trying to forge a way for herself. But that doesn’t mean she should have to straighten her hair just to get by in the world.