By JEFFARAH GIBSON
Tribune Features Writer
A new campaign launched by a local salon seeks to debunk the common misconception that natural hair has no place in corporate settings – a topic that has become a hot button issue in the Bahamas and beyond in recent weeks.
“Natural Hair is Professional” is an initiative that was started by the Happy Hair Boutique to coincide with the salon’s annual “Love Your Natural Hair” month, which is recognised throughout February.
Happy Hair joined forces with a number of Bahamian women in various professions who all wear their hair naturally to refute the belief that natural hair is unprofessional. They are doing this through a special photo campaign.
The campaign features professionals such as a medical engineer, dentist, CPA, doctor, tourism specialist and business owners. These women proudly rock their natural kinks and curls on a daily basis in their jobs.
Carolyn Taylor, owner of Happy Hair, explained to Tribune Woman how the campaign got started.
“Love Your Natural Hair Month is something we have done over the past two years. This is just an opportunity for customers to express themselves and help them have a better appreciation for natural hair in general. This is also an opportunity for us to support our customers and just be able to connect with one another as a support mechanism,” Carolyn said.
“But we have been wanting to run a campaign. We talked about a lot of things and one of those things is the fact that a lot of our customers who are the professional and career women are sometimes very uncomfortable wearing their hair naturally at work, so they want support just in terms of styles that look professional. There is a challenge because there are many employers that are not comfortable with women wearing their natural hair. So that has been something we wanted to do to: help women to try and change the culture by encouraging them to be brave, confident and wearing their hair.”
Though this issue of natural hair being considered unprofessional has always been discussed among women, the topic was pushed to the forefront last week after Tayjha Deleveaux, a CR Walker student, was scolded for what the school’s principal saw as not properly groomed hair. The student reportedly sported an afro puff.
The incident sparked much controversy after Tayjha’s mother posted a photo on Facebook of her daughter and a statement defending her hair. Not long after, the hashtag #SupportThePuff was created and the story went viral, being featured on several international news websites and blogs, including BBC News, Cosmopolitan, The Huffington Post and The Shade Room.
While a campaign to address issues women with natural hair face was always in the works, Carolyn said the initiative got even more fuel after the CR Walker situation.
“When the incident came up at CR Walker and it was mentioned about preparing students for the career world, I thought it was necessary to highlight women in the professional world. It was our goal was to get individuals from a broad spectrum of professions, but mostly professions where people feel like wearing your hair naturally is not traditionally accepted. So women in the higher professions like doctors, lawyer, accountants, anyone in the business world was what we were looking for,” she said.
The campaign also features Tayjha Deleveaux and some of her fellow CR Walker students.
“Generally, people look at natural hair as wild and associate it with people who work in the arts or lowered level professions. So we wanted to debunk that myth and show that natural is professional across the board; it is professional if you just work in an office as an assistant and it also is professional if you are the CEO of that company,” Carolyn said.
“Hair is beautiful, but it is not a focus and it is not something that should take away from women as professionals. For example, if you are talking to someone they should not get so wrapped up looking at your hair that they forget the entire message. I believe if people continue to be professional, carry themselves professionally, that will change the mindset people have.”
Carolyn said during the campaign they also wanted to emphasise grooming ones hair as opposed to the texture.
“We often support our customers and try to help them, especially new naturals, in styling their hair and in doing that these types of issues always come up. We are always talking about issues relating to hair acceptance. Some people come in and say, ‘My daughter is going natural and my mother or my sister is discouraging her and telling her that you are wearing your hair so picky.’ I have gone through that myself,” she said.
“People say, ‘I really want to wear my natural hair but I don’t get any encouragement from mom or my husband’. That is a very common thing, too. So we deal with these issues all the times.”
The salon on Montrose Avenue will also host the “Happy Hair Hour” on Saturday that will feature free natural hair consultations, prizes, mystery grab bags, discounts and more.
The event runs from 6pm to 8pm.