Last weekend, I arrived at Hotel Alden in Houston, Texas for my fall season photo shoot. I walked into the hotel room, confident and kinky. The stylist, who will remain unnamed, gave me one stern look with a pointy finger and said, “You are not going to keep your hair like that, right? You know you can’t make any money with your hair like that. I mean, you do want to work in this fashion industry, right?”
I got called out! How did I get myself in this complicated situation?
For every season in the fashion industry, there are new photos to be taken and new looks to be achieved. For this fall, I was in desperate need of new photos. My agency in Houston set me up with an internationally known stylist and photographer. I was very excited about getting new photos, especially because clients like to see fresh faces and new looks.
Living in Austin, I can walk into a room with my kinky hair and get nothing but love. So what was I to do with this blunt stylist, who took it upon himself to call me out. This stylist has been in the industry for eighteen years, and has worked with everyone from Tyra Banks to Heidi Klum to Iman, and the list goes on and on.
He broke it down for me like this: “In the fashion industry, if you want to make real money, you wear your hair straight. It doesn’t matter how you do it. Whether it’s weave, wigs, perm, or press, the straight look is high fashion.” He then professed, “Tyra Banks is the biggest money maker right now. She may wear her straight weave, but she is going to let you know that she has corn-rolls up under all that hair. Now that’s a strong black woman. You can still be nappy, black, and beautiful when you are at home, but when you are working in this industry, it’s a totally different story. Beautiful to ‘them’ is a white girl with a tan and straight hair, which equals an African-American. You are not African, like supermodel, Alec. You are African-American. If ‘they’ want African, they will get a real African. Girl, take it from me, it does not pay to be stubborn in this industry. It is what it is.”
Wow! Hmmm … I had to pause for a minute and really ponder all this information that had been bestowed upon me. Boy, did I get a reality check. I was heartbroken. My kinky hair is so endearing to me. But when it comes down to it, I know that I am cheating myself by refusing to wear my hair straight. I’ve gotten a lot of work with my kinky hair, but I’ve also missed out on a lot of work. I hear it from my agents all the time, “Can’t you straighten your hair, please? The client really likes you but won’t book you unless your hair is straight.”
Why do I always feel like I’m in a Catch 22? I want to stay true to me. But does it mean that if I wear my hair straight, I will be losing my identity? Or is it an honest compromise? I mean, isn’t that what life is all about—compromise and sacrifice for the good of all? I don’t want to sacrifice my hair for more money, do I?
There aren’t that many guarantees in life, but one thing is for sure—change. Change is inevitable. So after heartfelt prayer and mediation, I’ve decided that I’m going to bring change into my life. The straight wig has retired, but that doesn’t mean I can’t invest in some “Tyra” hair. I can wear my straight look whenever I’m doing high fashion work.
For my commercial look, clients are all about the natural these days, so I can sport my kinky hair. That’s the best of both worlds. I’m still being true to myself; I’m just adapting to the situation.
No matter what, I’m still My-Cherie—natural, truthful, strong, and free; full of life for all to see.
Photo courtesy of NaturallyCurly