Phenomenal Professional Naturalista: Ms. Kareena Elliston








What is your name?

Kareena Elliston

Where do you live?

Cherry Hill, New Jersey

What is your occupation?

Senior Manager Finance, Capital Assessment

What is your educational background?

Honours Bachelor of Arts in French, Spanish and Mandarin; Master’s of Business Administration, International MBA

How long have you been natural?

Since 2003.

Why did you decide to “go” natural?

I decided to go natural when I was studying/living in a foreign country and the water was causing huge chunks of my hair to fall out. I figured that my hair was strongest in its natural state and had the best chance of not falling out if I went natural. Also, it would also be easier to take care of my hair by myself in its natural state, given that I was without access to black hair products or chemicals for long periods of time. My commitment to my studies meant going months at a time without access to hairdressers, hair product suppliers, and other black women. My hair would best survive if it was free!

What is your go-to natural hairstyle?

My go-to natural hairstyles are twist extensions and a natural twist out.

Have you ever experienced any challenges in the workplace due to your natural hair?

I was told early on in my career that my natural hair could affect my ability to get hired into certain banking departments or to be promoted. It may well be possible that certain doors closed for those reasons. However, others opened. I decided that if people were narrow-minded enough to have those thoughts about my appearance, then they wouldn’t be able to handle my intellectual contributions; thus, it would be better to look elsewhere for opportunities.

What do you love most about your natural hair?

What do I love the most about my hair? Its strength, versatility, and forgiveness. It can withstand my lifestyle: it’s willing to be manipulated into creative, sometimes arduous styles, and it’s forgiving of my ‘neglect’.

What have you found to be most challenging about being natural?

Honestly, for me, the most challenging part about having natural hair is that I am not as good to my hair as it is to me—I don’t have the time! I don’t explore new, more caring, ways to maintain and highlight its natural beauty. And it does require additional thinking for vacationing or long-term travel.

How do you maintain your “work-hair-life” balance?

The vast majority of my time, my hair is in twist extensions. I don’t wrap my hair at night and I don’t do it in the morning. Every few months, I replace the protective hairstyle with another set of twists. It’s easy to travel; to work late; to attend a wedding that I had forgotten about; and to care for a newborn!

What words of encouragement would you offer to someone who is considering going natural, but may have reservations due to their profession?

A few things come to mind in terms of advice for others: expand your mind on what is ‘beauty’, what is ‘acceptable’, what is ‘time-consuming’, and what compromises you are willing to make. Don’t underestimate your hair’s ability to grow! Finally, there are some really amazing new products out there that make natural hair so much easier to manage and celebrate. This is one of the best times to go natural—our hair is everywhere right now!


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