When was the last time you altered your image for opportunity?
Akua Agyemfra was excited for her third day of training at Jack Astor’s Bar & Grill in Toronto. When she arrived at the restaurant, her boss insisted that she wear her hair down. Akua’s hair was in a natural bun. When she took her hair out of the bun, her manager could see it didn’t go down…so she sent her home.
Kathryn Long, a marketing manager for Jack Astor’s, told PEOPLE that their policy allows an “option to wearing ‘hair down’ or up in a ‘stylish up-do’.” Apparently, a natural bun is not stylish enough for this restaurant chain.
Akua wore her hair in extensions during her interview and first two training shifts. However, when she decided to take out her protective style and wear the bun, she was sent home. She lamented, “I know most black women at restaurants are forced to wear wigs or weaves or extensions, or are forced to straighten their hair every day. Don’t get me wrong, I think extensions look great. I’ve been wearing them ever since I was a little girl. I love when I get my braids. It’s the protective style I choose and works for me. But why am I scrutinized when I decide to take them out? That’s not fair.”
Unfortunately, many black women face this plight. From Facebook discussions of whether you should show up to an interview in straight hair, as to look more “work friendly” are constantly popping up in my feed. It’s stressful and problematic because altering your image for opportunity to fit the standards of the majority fuels the fire of systematic oppression. When did curls become controversy?
“I’m not going to compromise my roots and edges because my employer wants me to. My scalp has a right to breathe just as much as the woman standing beside me.” ~ Akua Agyemfra
The war on the image of black women is real. It’s so interesting how black hair is openly accepted unless it’s on a black woman. From Vogue declaring that North West’s curls are inspiring a “generation of natural hair girls” (what’s wrong with Blue Ivy’s curls?!) to the New York Post declaring that Sasha Obama’s state dinner hairstyle was inspired by UFC fighters – our coifed hair is given credit to everything and everyone…but us.
Under the encouragement of her mother, Akua decided to quit her racist job and speak out on the issue.
“Hopefully moving forward women working there will not feel pressured and will be able to wear their hair how they please. I just want the women there to be able to express themselves accordingly and make a difference!”
…and a difference Akua Agyemfra has made. Since she came forward, the restaurant has established a confidential channel where employees can express their views on company policy, without fear of backlash from senior management.
Kudos to Akua for standing her ground, wearing her hair, and not conforming. Beauties, do you feel the pressure to wear your hair a specific way for a job interview?