“Two weeks earlier, after first installing the kinky twist, my supervisor made a big deal of my hair change. She’d ask other coworkers, ‘Don’t you just love Ayana’s hair?’ prompting more conversations I didn’t ask to be a part of. She invited the COO to my office door, explaining how long it had taken for me to braid my hair, and how ‘cool’ it was. He responded, ‘Huh, interesting.’
“Here’s the thing: I didn’t ask his opinion. I didn’t care what he thought, and I was pissed that my supervisor had, once again, made my hair the topic of corporate office conversation. She may have meant it to be an exercise in inclusion – I was the only Black woman in our corporate office – but it felt like an exercise in ‘othering.’
“When a white woman changes her hairstyle, her coworkers compliment her, or don’t, and they move on. Not so for Black women. A compliment is fine, it’s appreciated. But it always seemed to go several steps further.
“I decided to go natural ten years ago. I’d been working at a school where the staff and students were predominately Black, and I felt proud to see all of the natural styles – even prouder when I cut all my own hair off, sporting a tiny Afro for a year or so. Corporate America is not as welcoming.
“My hair is beautiful, it’s strong, it’s versatile. It’s me. I don’t want, nor do I need, non-Black commentary on what’s appropriate, ‘sophisticated,’ or ‘cool.’ A simple, ‘I like your hair today’ is great. But silence works, too. I’ve since left the corporate world and now I wear an Afro-puff almost every day.”
— Ayana King, 39, Owner of Maximum Communications, Wyandotte, Michigan