A fan contacted me on Twitter (thank you @KillahCam52) to say that he was watching me on Def Comedy Jam. It inspired me reach back into my archives and dig out this photo taken during the taping oh so many moons ago.
What: Taping of Def Comedy All Star Jam
When: November 1995
Where: Academy Theatre, NYC
What’s up with the Hair: Pre Sisterlocks
By 1995 I’d been natural for a while alternating between braids and my signature DIY (Do It Yourself) two-strand twists. In this photo I’d recently had a drastic hair cut. The scissor happy hairstylist at a salon in Harlem convinced me that I had the worst split ends in Christendom and that I desperately needed a trim. A trim turned into a chop and I was exceedingly unhappy. I complained bitterly for months afterwards that thought I looked like a boy. Ridiculous, I know. But that’s how I felt.
I showed this picture to a friend and he said, “Wow, you’ve been natural a long time.”
I said, “Yes. Yes I have.”
“That says a lot about you. Not a lot of women chose to go natural back then.”
I was impressed. That’s not something a lot of folks are inclined to notice.
No, not a lot of Black women chose to wear their hair natural back then. The support, en masse, simply wasn’t there yet. It was kinda ok if you were “in the arts” but even then you were in danger in limiting the roles you’d be sent out for. (There just weren’t a lot of locks, braids, or ethnically-ambiguous curly girls in commercials, TV, and movies back then.)
During my senior year of college I was strongly encouraged by well-meaning mentors to take out my braids or risk not getting a coveted corporate job. Why, pray tell, would I want to work somewhere that had regressive, oppressive (and I daresay illegal) attitudes about my hair? Yes, I know. I was being terribly naive. By the way, I left my braids in and was hired by a Fortune 500 company to work in their Corporate Communications Department.
If you’re wearing natural hair at your corporate job and you’re stunned that this is even an issue .... you’re welcome. #fistbump