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In a now-viral post that shared her new professional headshot, Koai Martin is helping make the standard of what is considered “professional” more inclusive. In the photo, she rocked a black blazer, pearl earrings, a winning smile and a stunning Afro.

“This is the first headshot I have ever taken with my natural hair.” The Vidant Health administrative fellow told LinkedIn’s users, I have always taken my professional pictures with straight hair because that has always been deemed the ‘professional’ look.”

“Over the past year or so I have become more comfortable rocking my natural hair in a professional setting and I could not feel any better. #blackhairisprofessional,” she added.

According to Good Morning America, Martin started her natural hair journey back in 2019. 

“Over the past year or so I have become more comfortable rocking my natural hair in professional settings and I could not feel any better,” the young professional told the outlet. Before becoming comfortable wearing her natural hair in the workplace, she opted for protective styles like box braids.

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“I was the most comfortable [that] way because I have always been told and taught that straight hair is ‘more professional’ or ‘more acceptable,'” Martin said. “So when I started my professional career and I saw practically none of the Black women I worked with wearing any natural hairstyles, I assumed all the things I had been told were right.”

As a person proud of the personal and professional growth she’s amassed in the past two years, she explained that her decision to take her latest headshot with her afro was a way of living in her truth.

“I thought this is who I am and how I show up to work every day so my new professional headshot should resemble that as well.”

After the posts unexpected success, Martin edited her caption to include information on the national effort to diminish workplace bias related to hair discrimination.

“Because this post is getting a lot of attention I would like to bring awareness to the CROWN Act and the important work that is being done by the CROWN Coalition, Dove, National Urban League, Color Of Change, and Western Center On Law & Poverty to end race-based hair discrimination,” she highlighted.

Moreover, Martin is encouraging to others who’d like to wear their natural hair to work.

“Wear the afro, wear the protective styles, wear your hair however you want,” she told GMA. “As my sister Drahea told me when I first started my natural hair journey, ‘It is your hair growing from your head, what’s not to like?’ All hair is professional and your appearance does not make your work ethic or capabilities any less.”

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