A UK beauty blogger who wore her hair in box braids was recently denied a job working for an agency that services department stores because they weren’t deemed acceptable.
Simone Powderly, 25, said a rep at the Elite Associates beauty industry staffing company told her she had great credentials and “was successful” but then asked if she would be willing to take her braids out and “go for a more natural look” to suit the brands and clients’ “high end products.”
Powderly, whose mom is Irish and Dad is Jamaican, models, and is a brand expert and shares many of her tips on her beatuy blog.
She even blogged about her experience losing out on the gig.
Powderly said she went out for the job because she knew as a natural hair blogger and advocate, her being in such a prestigious position would embolden and empower other natural hair girls that they too could rock high end brands like Dior and Chanel.
She wrote of the experience:
“I received a call sometime later and was told I was successful in my group assessment but what was to be said next I didn’t expect. Can we ask you to take your hair out in time for the interview, its high end brands and they like a more natural look.”
I have never been asked such a thing in my life, and to be honest, it hurt.
Apparently it seemed my box braids weren’t acceptable for luxury brands like Dior and Chanel? I’m sure Beyonce has rocked her box braids and not been turned away? When Kylie Jenner rocked her braids would they turn her away from coming to their stand? NO!”
Powderly said she struggled about standing up about being discriminated against or just swallowing her pride and succumbing to the request. She sent in photos of her curly and straight hair and was granted a follow up interview even though she informed the interviewer she planned to arrive wearing her braids.
She did not get the job and Powderly believes it was because of her braids.
Oh well for the claim of wanting women to look “natural.”
As correspondent Tara Welsh of BBC London News noted in her recent piece, “for many women with natural hair, braids are a natural way of looking after it.”
It’s not like being asked to remove a nose ring or change a mohawk to adjust to a company’s image.
That’s a different situation because that describes style choices, Black Beauty and Hair editor Irene Shelley told the BBC.
“Afro hair is what grows out of your head,” Shelley added. “People are saying to us ‘your hair texture isn’t good enough, you must do something about it before we take you on.’”
It’s a trade off that many black women in professional settings in America, the Caribbean and Europe have had to make.
“Black women have been chemically straightening their hair for years,” Welsh states in the video (below). “Some do choose a more natural look but professionals feel the need to go with a more European look.”
It’s a balancing act and burden to some.
“We should be able to wear our hair any which way we want as long as it is presentable and neat,” Amina Lawal from Amina Kadia salon told the news site. “But at the same time, if you want to get on, you have to do what you have to do.”
Braided hair was a mainstream controversy only a few weeks ago when E!’s Fashion Police host Giuliana Rancic triggered outcry over her joke that singer and actress Zendaya Coleman’s Oscar faux locs looked as if they smelled of weed.
Coleman wrote in response that “harsh criticism of African American hair in society” [is]due to “ignorant people who choose to judge others on the curl of their hair.”
Powderly too demanded some answers.
When she got her rejection letter, she asked Elite for the photos that were taken during the group assessment but was told they were shredded. Powderly seems to be skeptical of this claim.
Elite Associates has said it is investigating the matter and said diversity is “at the core of its business.”
Sometimes spoken words are louder than policy words on paper.