She’s showing off her crown!
A North Carolina woman was celebrated after sharing professional headshots with her afro on LinkedIn, Good Morning America (GMA) reports.
Koai Martin began her natural hair journey in 2019, loving her hair but not always feeling the most comfortable wearing her afro out, instead choosing to keep it in protective styles like box braids.
“I was the most comfortable this way because I have always been told and taught that straight hair is ‘more professional’ or ‘more acceptable.’ So when I started my professional career and I saw practically none of the Black women I worked with wearing any natural hairstyles, I assumed all the things I had been told were right,” Martin told reporters.
Over the last couple of years, her stance and her hair have evolved and Martin has gotten more and more comfortable with wearing her hair in its natural state. When it was time to take new headshots, she thought they should reflect what she looks like on a regular basis. When it was time to get photographed, she continued her routine as usual, steaming her afro out, a tip that she got from her sister, and heading straight to take the photos.
“I thought this is who I am and how I show up to work every day so my new professional headshot should resemble that as well...I have always taken my professional pictures with straight hair because that has always been deemed the ‘professional’ look. Over the past year or so I have become more comfortable rocking my natural hair in professional settings and I could not feel any better,” Martin said.
When the final photos came back, the Vidant Health administrative fellow said she was impressed. Her headshots in a black blazer, pearl earrings and a halo of beautiful hair could not have been more perfect. They were so good that she decided to share the pictures to her LinkedIn page.
“Honestly, I really don’t like when people bring attention to my hair, but something was different this time. I have not had the most positive experiences when it comes to my afro in both professional and personal settings and felt that I wanted to share the joy I was feeling despite negative past experiences with LinkedIn. I felt like it was just LinkedIn so a few of my connections would see it [and that] would be it,” Martin explained.
A few connections quickly turned into hundreds of thousands, many celebrating Martin and her choice to wear her natural hair, telling her how much she inspired them.
Zaria Davis, an Accenture Federal Services software engineer whose hair is loc’d said that Martin’s post really resonated with her.
“Joining the corporate world, I was told I would have to cut them off or at least style them to make them look ‘more professional.’ So for the first few weeks I was very meticulous with how I wore them, always pulled back. I didn’t feel comfortable at all but that was the ‘look.’ But one day I thought, 'This is my natural hair, I should be able to wear it down like everyone else,’ so I did, and my coworkers immediately noticed. They complimented me on my natural hair look. It felt nice being me,” said Davis.
Martin credits coalitions like the one behind the CROWN Act, aimed at banning hair discrimination in the workplace, with advancing the conversation around natural hair in professional settings. Her advice for others looking to free themselves from the shackles of Eurocentric professionalism - wear your hair however you like.
“Wear the afro, wear the protective styles, wear your hair however you want. As my sister Drahea told me when I first started my natural hair journey, ‘It is your hair growing from your head, what’s not to like?’ All hair is professional and your appearance does not make your work ethic or capabilities any less,” said Martin.
Good for you Koai! Because of you, we can!
Photo Courtesy of Vidant Health