Tame Your Horse, My Curls are Free to Roam

by Sheena L. Young of Sheenalashay.com


THE TAMING OF THE CURL.
That's what I just saw on the front page of the Wall Street Journal. "Oh really," I thought as I grabbed the paper, "Just what do they have to say about a curl and why in the hell does it need to be tamed?"

I quickly found the article and skimmed it. I came across some phrases like "fear of frizzy curls" , "wild, curling tendrils", "pressure to tame", "can't look unkempt", "makes it a prettier curl", "curly hair in theory", "too big...undefined...looks a mess" and "kinky curly.... more manageable."

The title of the post made me look up the definition of 'TAME', since my first reaction was, "Who said it needs to be tamed?"

This is what I found. TAME means...
  1. Changed from the wild or savage state; domesticated

  2. Docile or submissive

  3. Lacking in excitement; dull; insipid

  4. Spiritless or pusillanimous

  5. Not to be taken very seriously; without real power or importance, serviceable but harmless

  6. To deprive of courage, ardor or zest

  7. To harness or control


Listen, I know there are various schools of thoughts and personal experiences as it relates to natural hair in the workplace, both negative and positive. I've even been asked my opinion on various Natural Hair Features. Occasionally, I talk about it on my "Natural Hair" topical videos too over on Youtube.

.My easy answer is...
  1. Curly hair is suitable for the workplace.

  2. My curly hair has never hindered my professional life... both in corporate America and in the arts.

  3. Depending on how you style ANY hair; straight, wavy or curly...you can come across as unkempt or kempt.

  4. Depending on your place of employment, they can be as picky as they want. (One company wanted me to wear company issued red lipstick and corporate pearls around my neck. Just put me in chains, why don't you!)

  5. For most corporate companies, taking a pick and fro'ing your hair out probably isn't best! But wearing your hair as it naturally grows like a wash & go or styling it "appropriately" while still being stylish, is more than okay!
I live a successful life in "corporate" America, and in my artistic endeavors, and I've never once thought that I advanced or was held back because of my hair.... or my height, or eye color, or weight, etc. I suppose, it is because the fields that interest me also pay little mind to that. Even my day job in the financial industry on WALL STREET in downtown New York allows me to rock my curls. And I rock them in a variety of ways from twist-outs, to braid-outs to curly puffs, curly fro's, twist knot-outs, etc. Usually, at my job, the bigger the better!

My colleagues take joy in my hair actually. I'm not surprised by this since after interviewing for a job that fulfilled all my qualifications, I also paid special mind to their company culture.

For me, that is just as essential as the pay, the work, the benefits, perks or location. Who are the people? How do they work together? Therefore, the majority of their acceptance of my hair was expected and its always appreciated, although I don't need it.

I say majority because there's one associate from one of our firms who projects her issues of insecurity regarding her wavy hair onto my big, curly hair. Whenever I wear my various fro styles, she always has something to say. I hardly ever pay her any mind. She's not the God of my life, or my source. In fact, BE YOUR OWN SOURCE!
.
Besides, for the three comments she made in regards to my hair, the OWNER of the company often stops to compliment my hair. He usually speaks up when I am wearing a curly fro or a big poofy puff. "I like your hair," he'll quietly say as he passes by my desk. He's most vocal about my full out afros. One of my former managers would often say, "I love your hair. I wish I had hair like that!" His wife, who'd visit the office would say, "You always change it up. I love your style." Another colleague jokes that depending on the day you just never know what I might look like.
.
That's the type of environment I live and work in. If your environment is domesticating you, taking your power and trying to harness and control you until you are spiritless, I'd consider finding a different environment or developing your own. You make the rules. Don't just go with the flow, BE THE FLOW!
.
The Wall Street Journal interviewed an image consultant who added her own two cents and I'm sure her observations will probably discourage a natural or deter a transitioner and it's unfortunate. I'm sure some people have preconceived notions regarding hair, but that's only some people. I work for a high powered company that's changing the world and our look isn't even suits and ties, or business casual. It's casual. Colleagues walk by in flip flops and board shorts in the summer. Some people wear the same t-shirt three days in a row. People have piercings, tattoos, and huge FROS. And they are multi-millionaires changing the finance industry every day!

The dream that you want and the ability to be yourself while you achieve it CAN HAPPEN. Perhaps you want to be the top prosecuting attorney in the country. Or you want to be a neurosurgeon, or a best selling author, or the next president. You can be anything you want and you can be yourself while achieving it.

Sure, its easier for me to boost my style and personality in the theater and art industry but I was able to find a corporate job on Wall Street where I could FRO it out too!

Look at the definition of TAME up above? Do you really want someone taming any part of you, including your hair?

Domesticate your horse but I will be damned if anyone ever tames my curls!

28 Weigh in!:
Tahlove said...

*claps* It's funny that this was posted today... I am currently working on certifying as an image consultant and it crossed my mind this morning that my "wild" natural hair might give people the impression that I am not pulled together, therefore not qualified to provide image services. After I got all indignant (mind you, I had this whole conversation with myself LOL) I told myself that my ability to embrace my natural hair and everything else that is perfectly imperfect about me is the very thing that qualifies me to offer women image/fashion advice and guidance. So there! *sticks out tongue* "Be your own source" Loves it!

LBell said...

I'm REALLY interested in seeing the comments on this one, lol...

Every time I go to NYC I see naturals all over the place wearing all kinds of styles so I'm not surprised you're able to work on Wall Street with a 'fro. It sounds like a cool job!

And of course people are going to think that it's because you're in NYC that you can do this BUT I'm here to tell people that I did this too, in Chicago, in a corporate job, in the NINETIES, and I never got grief for it (to my face).

The notion of "taming" or "training" curly/coily/kinky hair has always rubbed me the wrong way. Now I'll be the first person to say that not every hairstyle works in every work environment but it's like black women are programmed to believe that they have to go through all these extra hoops to "look professional" (which is code for blending in with non-blacks, not looking too "ethnic") when really they DON'T.

It's okay to have curly/coily/kinky hair in corporate America. Really. It's okay to let your curls/coils/kinks be great. REALLY. If I could do it with my certifiably nappy hair in the 90s, y'all can do it now...

Anonymous said...

Okay I read the Journal article but not your post here on curlynikki, simply because that article has nothing to do with "us." Its about white women and curly hair, and to be honest, white curly and black curly are two different things. Second, just like there isn't a large representation of blacks in fashion, the article was not written to attack our natural hair because the editors at the Wall Street Journal probably think that black people don't even read their articles, so again, its not a big deal. And I have some white friends with curly hair that looks TERRIBLE un-styled, and they know it so they work on it. Let's get way over ourselves.

Anonymous said...

At first I was like :fist pump: "Yeah! GTFOH with that 'TAME' BS!!!"

Then I realized: Don't we all tame our naturally curly or kinky hair?

Don't we all use some conditioner, styling products or styling methods to achieve a more tame or acceptable look?

To me, UNtamed hair is hair that is left in it's natural state. Uncontrolled(which is the opposite of tamed=controlled). Which for most of us with curly and kinky hair will mean a shrunken down fro unless you have looser curls and longer lengths then you might get some hang time.

Even the pics posted with the article look to be the result of some sort of product or style manipulation to achieve a certain look that would not happen if the hair was not "tamed" with them.

So come at me with the kinky rebellion and the, "I'll be damned if anyone ever tames my curls!" when you have your shrunken fro pics up. lol Don't get me wrong, they're cute pics with cute styles. But they're not examples of "untamed" hair.

LBell said...

*I* wore a shrunken 'fro in corporate America. With tight, coily, kinky, NAPPY hair. The shrunken 'fro actually worked well for my hair type because I could pat down any parts that stuck up.

I also wore twistouts and braidouts that were by no means perfect. When they weren't looking too great, I'd pin them up and keep on stepping.

Sadly I have no pictures to share so you're just going to have to take my word for it...or not. *shrug*

It's just interesting how some still refuse to accept that just maybe we don't have to jump through tons of extra hoops to conform...

Anonymous said...

I could be mistaken, but I’m not, because I’ve heard many naturals refer to “taming” their curls. In fact I’ve probably used the term myself. And before anyone starts in on a self-hate diatribe, I assure you, I love LOVE my natural hair. In fact, I recently decided to stop doing braid outs and twist outs, because I prefer my natural texture. We spend hours on blogs, seek out product reviews, watch dozens of tutorials, and countless other hair activities; in order to figure out what is perfect for our hair and our lifestyle. Whether that’s a free form or styled (controlled, finished, tamed, or whatever else you want to call it) look, is a personal decision. When I first went natural two years ago, meeting my fro was such a beautiful/spiritual experience. However, my fro has grown from a twa into this massive head of hair, that according to my growth cycle will continue to grow at the average rate for at least another four years. At times, I choose to control it by doing various updos because 1) I am not my hair and when my fro is out, best believe it is stealing the show, 2) My fro is unpredictable, 3) Sometimes I want a polished look like a badass updo. The further along I go on this journey the more annoyed I become with this whole self-righteous often-contradictory topic. While discrimination is still rampant and stills needs to be extinguished, the WSJ using the term “tame” which is the direct result of the term “mane” oft used to describe hair, or an image consultant advising professionals to wear professional looks as oppose to blue hair is not at the top of my list of invidious discrimination. Now the obvious question is: who’s to say what is a professional look—the company in which you work is free to set their standards within the confines of Title VII. Now a person being told that they can’t wear the hair in it’s natural state (i.e. forced to chemically alter it) is a real issue. I know I may sound tart, but people keep circulating this topic stirring up controversy where there is none.

Anonymous said...

It seems like naturals always find issues where there should be none. This is right up there with folks who get offended when you say "dreadlocks."

Jazz Stanton said...

OK...so I actually READ the article and I feel like pieces and parts were picked out to make it sound bad.

The article is simply about other options for those with curly hair. It is not an anti-thesis towards natural hair.

Michelle Breyer of naturallycurly.com is also featured and she definitely all for wearing hair in its natural state.

It is actually an article about Brazilian Keratin treatments, which I know for a fact many naturals do. Isn't this what natural hair is about? Embracing the flexibility of it? We have the MOST options...straight, wavy, curly...etc.

The author of the article was NOT condemning curly hair..."Some image consultants say professional women with lots of curls often feel pressured to tame them for work."

In the next line: "The women who have the power spots in banking and hedge funds and all of that never wear their hair to extremes," says Susan Sommers, a New York business-image coach who has advised employees at companies including Deloitte and Colgate-Palmolive Co. Their hair isn't too straight, too long or too curly."

She wasn't just talking about curly hair specifically...simply that you should be well groomed which is common sense.

I feel that the article was well-written and completely taken out of context here.

Anonymous said...

*side-eye* Umm? Did you read the same article as I did? You seem to have taken it completely out of context in order to stir the pot here. *roll eyes"

Anonymous said...

I read the WSJ article as well but I wasn't really offended because it had no substance and like [email protected]:48 stated it was geared towards white women! Aside from that article i understand and agree with what you are saying. btw BEAUTIFUL HAIR!

Anonymous said...

I don't think her post is necessarily ABOUT the article. I think the article sparked these thoughts in her head. People have nothing constructive to say these days. I really wish this would stop. It's a post. If you disagree fine. I understood what she was saying. Even if you don't there's no need to be rude.

Anonymous said...

I appreciated this take on the article just because I believe that just as important as what we say is, it's equally important to listen to what is not being said; sometimes more important to do so. The article may not have been written to brown skinned girls and their coils, but I can guarantee that if this article was written for "white women" and their curls (as Anonymous @ 9:52a pointed out), then we can be sure it more than 100 times applies to darker skinned girls and their curls! I don't believe this article has the tone of an overly sensitive girl who is reading too much into a bland, generic article. This is very pointed: CURLY hair is not appropriate for the workplace. Anyone could get offended by that: curls or not. If an open letter were published in a paper that made disparaging remarks about the a certain characteristic that I shared with others, even if the letter were not directed at me I could be offended. And, to say that the editors "probably think that black people don't even read their articles": WOW. That's offensive, and narrow-minded. At least the article is in defense of and exhibiting pride in how she was born. I live in NYC and worked on Wall Street for several years and trust me: there are plenty of people of color on Wall Street, and plenty of women. And to revisit the topic of word choice (in this case the word "tame"): semantics matter. What is said ("tame", e.g.) is as important, but maybe more importantly is what was NOT said. The word "tame" (when used in conjunction with one's natural, God-given curls for ex.) does conjure the thoughts of something being unkempt and inappropriate. And, the definition of "tame" (this is the "what was NOT said" part, BTW) as included in the article above definitely highlights the negative spotlight being cast on curls in general.

As for Sheena Young's article: Job well done. Even IF (a very emphatic "IF") this article went overboard on the topic--which I don't believe it did--I'd rather err on the side of casting a postiive light on my natural curls. We were not all created the same, so why should we deny, ignore, downplay, hide, or even alter what makes us unique?. This rebuttle offered a strong voice to the conversation, and an oft overlooked voice at that. Thank you for your time, thank you for the article and thank you for not living your life as a stereotype. If you did, why...you would never have read the WSJ. And, if all stereotypes are true then not only do the editors "probably" (probably-(adv.): in all likelihood, very likely) think "black people don't even read their articles" (according to Anon @ 9:52a), but we actually don't. ...Not true.

Again, great job on the article.

Anonymous said...

Quite frankly for Anon 9:52 to say black people don't read the Wall Street Journal is offensive. I'm insulted. Black people are not all the same. Some have different interests. Just because you don't do anything outside of what goes on in your own little world don't say black people don't read it. Not only do black people READ the WSJ. They WORK on Wall Street. Just like the poster. Furthermore, white curly and black curly CAN be different, but not always. I know some black people with 2b hair. You must be new to this site.

MelMelBee said...

Best commentary I've read in a while! Go head Ms. Sheena...I'm with you! This leads nicely into the post about dealing with your own insecurities and realizing that we are sometimes our own worst critic instead of the world around us!

Imma WERK this untamed, sometimes matted, kinky, curly, wooly, dry, shrunken, non-domesticated, exciting, "wild", "militant", African, and downright BEAUTIFUL Head of Hair!

Nique1076 said...

Absolutely awesome post! Ms. Sheena is the bomb... this article was beautifully written.. again, bravo!!

... said...

sigh.

Liz said...

I feel the same way. People are SO stuck on the idea of "nice, flowing, manageable, straight" hair that anything outside of that needs to be tamed to fit that mold. Absolutely not. I even had someone from a company suggest that I "tame it down" when referring to my hairstyle at the final interview for a job. I smiled politely and left, even though I wanted to tell her where she could go!
I can't stand ignorance. I really can't.

Anonymous said...

I'd also like to say that no one's curls need to be "tamed," Black, White, or otherwise!

Anonymous said...

Natural hair is fine, though I personally would not wear either of the two styles pictured. They are in my opinion better suited for free time and weekends.

Anonymous said...

And don't think that because no one says anything to your face, no one is talking about your hair/appearance. I have been in the meetings where we discuss who to take to an important function/meeting and it has been mentioned that soandso's clothes aren't appropriate, and yes, hair has also been targeted. Don't miss out on opportunties in the workplace because you wanted to sport a hairstyle.

Sheena LaShay said...

@Anon 11:00AM who said the post wasn't necessarily ABOUT the article but the thoughts that sparked in my head.<---- EXACTLY.

There's a few others who also "got" the point.

To the rest, there are just no words for you. I'm not sure where you read that I was "offended" or "felt attacked" and its unfortunate, in my opinion that you see this as "stirring the pot". Exactly, what pot is that? I know some of you can only identity with people who look just like you in regards to skin texture and hair texture, but that's not the filters through which I view the world.

To each their own.

But to the ladies, who saw that this was just my reaction because it sparked me to "THINK" and articulate my own opionions and go off on my own tangent for fun and encouragement...thank you for getting it.

This article which is a blog post thus subject to "my opinion" is to encourage others and tell them that they can be themselves and still live a professional life of their dreams.

If you feel its self righteous or whatever else, that's just your take. I could look up the definite of self righteous and write out my reaction to that but I'm not sure some would "get it."

While many have spoken about what Tame means to them, I saw the TITLE as a play on shakepeare's "The Taming of the Shrew" and knowing that, I wrote about that definition of "TAME" according to me.

I'd respond to each of your points but honestly, the people who got it...they got it!

Have a wonderful day!

Renise B said...

I thought the title was a Shakespeare reference! lol.

It's funny to me how so many pple read this and automatically related what was said to race. This was an article abt embracing yourself and not letting certain view points hinder your sense of self. A major point that I think a few pple missed was to find a job that is as great a fit for you as you are for it. For instance, I realized after my first job that I do not like wearing uniforms so I do not apply for jobs that require them (medical field/scrubs).

Anonymous said...

It's funny. For many women of colour outside the US, this is not an issue. I live in Holland (Europe) and there is absolutely nobody who cares how I (a black woman) wear my hair at work. I work as an HR officer and have been natural for a year. Befor that my hair was chemically treated. My co workers compliment me on my new look. Wheather my hair is straight or curly, it does not matter to anyone. As I said, it's not an issue here, not for me as a black girl, nor for my white co worker with curly hair. She can wear her hair also the way she likes it. Curly, or straight, wild of tamed. Noboy cares, it's a reflection of who you are and that's okay.

Anonymous said...

Funny, so many people are searching for products to define curl and manage frizz, and will fiercly defend the fact that chasing the curl (even for hair that doesn't have it) is their right and preferene.
Yet the minute anyone else uses the exact same language, they want to be up in arms that it is offensive. Sometimes a word is just a word, or the issue is really just your issue.
Well, in my opinion, everyone has bad hair days, and your perception that the world hates curly hair (as much as many straight haired people envy and compliment it), colors your interpretation of these articles.
If you read articles about people with super straight hair, you'll see adjectives like limp, stringy, and lifeless. And those people are chasing body, volume, and thickness.
So matter what your hair type, it's always something, and seriously, if you are running after the latest curly creme and marveling over someone's perfect curls (like Nikki's) then don't be so quick to jump all over language. It's really more about you and not them in so many cases.
And I'd also say that terms like kinky and nappy are only offensive when used by people who have decided or whoe believe that those are inferior types of hair (which not everyone does).

Anonymous said...

This is one of the best posts I've read in a good while. I applaud her for being herself and inspiring others to do the same.

Shaun said...

I LOVE Sheena and her blog!!!

Anonymous said...

I am just happy to hear that people are wearing their afro textured hair and it is becoming the norm. At times, I have concerns when people tell me they can't apply to certain business schools because they have locks or people with straight hair aren't being hired at certain companies because they don't have afro textured hair. I think the most important thing is to be the best person you can be and that will shine through no matter what.
LLP~OGC

Anonymous said...

To March 29, 2011 9:52 AM
Anonymous said...
I think there's a BIG difference re taming hair and using conditioner. The latter is used to keep your hair soft & healthy and detangled which prevents breakage, etc. and that's the purpose I use it for nothing else. If you mean women who are preocuppied with the perfect twist-outs/braid-outs, shrinkage prevention methods, etc. NOW you're talking about folks with taming natural hair issues.

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