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There’s an underlying myth plaguing the African-American community that wearing one’s natural tresses is an impediment to success. In the case of Vanessa VanDyke, a 12-year-old girl threatened to be expelled due to her voluminous mane, many people deemed her natural hair to be “unprofessional.” But is the issue much deeper than this?

For centuries, the unique characteristics of Black women have been undermined by Eurocentric standards of beauty and we’ve all been wired to believe that somehow our hair — in its purest, natural state — affects our skills, abilities, and competence in the workplace. Check out some of the ladies who challenged these erroneous notions and grabbed success by the horns — coils, kinks, curls and all.

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