My Hair, My Life: The Burden Of Being The Only Black Woman At The Office

August 29, 2012  |  

by Jessica Gray

I am the only Black woman at my job.

Of course, this means me and my massive hair stick out that much more, especially when the last Black woman to work here wore her hair flat-ironed mercilessly straight.

I’ve been here for almost two years and the hair questions have not stopped. In fact, they seemed to have increased, possibly because my co-workers have gotten to know me and feel more comfortable asking all of those questions they’ve been harboring since the day they met me. Now I know that I blog and tweet about natural hair like nobody’s business, but that is directed at other women with natural hair or those who may be considering going natural. It’s a different set-up when the questions are coming from people whose hair is nothing like yours.

I am starting to feel like a Natural Hair Ambassador to our straighter-haired counterparts.

I can’t say that it always bothers me, although the occasional jerk tries to test me with clearly ignorant questions. It is a little awkward sometimes because I feel like I am under a microscope or on trial. On days when I’m in the mood to keep to myself I may be tempted to ask rude questions back, but I don’t. I smile and appease any inquiring minds. There are some days when I really am not up for it and I excuse myself. I also feel like I cannot afford to ever let a Bad Hair Day make itself known because I am representing all of my kinky-haired sisters. I have to show the naysayers that natural hair does in fact fit the corporate setting, even though I am sure there are those who still dislike my hair no matter how flawless my twist-out may be that day.

One topic that won’t seem to die is whether natural hair is even accepted in the corporate world. Distressed naturals are always voicing their concerns about showing up to an interview with a textured look or asking for advice on “inoffensive” ways to wear their hair to work. Many other women experience similar situations to mine where co-workers can’t seem to hide their curiosity and many are made to feel uncomfortable. Some succumb to the relaxer or hot comb after a while or keep their hair concealed under weaves. Being a Black woman is already enough to make you stand out but having natural hair seems to take the insecurities to another level.

I will say that it is not all bad. There are days when I get a slew of compliments from my co-workers and people tell me they really like my hair, which surprisingly happens WAY more often on my big hair days than my slick, uptight bun days. There’s just this unspoken pressure to be on point at all times and act as the appointed ambassador for all natural hair wearers in every setting where you are the lone curly girl.

Do you ever feel like you’re the ambassador, or representative for other women with natural hair in settings where those who look like you are few and far in-between? How do you deal with being bombarded with questions about your hair?


Jessica Gray is the founder of the natural hair blog

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