Phenomenal Professional Naturalista: Ms. Sybil Thompson

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is your name?

Sybil Sakle Thompson

Where do you live?

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

What is your occupation?

I’m a lawyer by training.

What is your educational background?

My Bachelor’s degree at the University of Toronto was in International Relations and Social Cultural Anthropology. I then did my Master’s degree in Social Anthropology at Oxford University. I studied Law at McGill University and was awarded both B.C.L. (Civil Law) and LL.B. (Common Law) degrees. I was called to the Bar in Ontario in 2010.

How long have you been natural?

Since the age of fifteen.

Why did you decide to “go” natural?

My hair has always been coarse and styling it was a constant source of pain and frustration, even in childhood when my mother would braid it once a week. As I got older I tried out Jheri curls once, then defaulted to regularly relaxing my hair by the age of ten and occasionally wearing braided extensions. Even though relaxing was supposed to be less painful than braiding my hair once a week, and less expensive and time-consuming than having braids put in, it didn’t make taking care of my hair any easier—occasionally the scalp burns I suffered from the relaxer were far more painful than having my hair combed.

Because I associated my hair with frustration and pain I neglected it and it didn’t grow. By the time I was in my teens, I was tired of fighting with my relaxed hair every day and dissatisfied with the way it looked—unkempt and uncared for.

Cutting it off and adopting a short ‘fro at age fifteen was a liberating experience, and I have never once regretted it.

What is your go-to natural hairstyle?

I keep my hair natural and very short, cut close to my scalp with clippers by my barber.

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

I have never had anyone confront me directly about my hair or offer any negative comments or criticisms. Inquisitive and sometimes dismissive looks have sometimes been directed at me from afar in some workplaces, but no one has yet had the courage to tell me that my hair is inappropriate or unprofessional.

I look forward to having the opportunity to converse with and educate anyone who in the future might offer negative criticisms of the way I choose to wear my hair. Challenging misconceptions and stereotypes that are associated with natural Black hair through respectful dialogue with parties who are interested in listening to and learning from my experiences as a natural hair “advocate” is always a pleasure.

What do you love most about your natural hair?

Natural hair to me means freedom. I always feel most beautiful when I have just had my hair cut short and my edges lined up with a straight razor. I find the very process of having my hair cut at the barbershop to be a restorative and cleansing experience.

I value the fact that wearing my hair cut close to my scalp means that there is nothing for me to hide behind. Everything about me—my face, my comportment, and my affect—is immediately visible to anyone who chooses to look at me and take the time to see me.

Short hair also means that my grey hairs, wrinkles and acne scars are as apparent as the shape of my skull. Each of these individual elements contributes to the unique whole that is me.

Accepting my self in my natural state encourages other people to consider the possibility that Black is normal and natural—and that it can beautiful as well.

In short, for me, keeping my hair short and natural affirms to myself that there is nothing about myself that I want or need to hide.

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

Because my hair is very short I don’t have the option of adopting lots of different hairstyles. I do sometimes tie my hair up with fabric when I want to try something different. Making different shapes and folds and carefully pleating the fabric of a head tie can sometimes be as time-consuming as styling longer natural hair—at least it is for me, since my fingers are not so nimble.

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

My hair stays the same no matter where I find myself—and that consistency of style contributes enormously to my efforts to maintain balance in my very busy life.

My short natural hair is very low-maintenance. I wash and condition it once each week with a plant-based, sulfate-free, unscented shampoo and conditioner. I also wash my hair whenever I exercise at the gym. I use coconut oil to condition my hair and scalp after they are washed. I comb it a few times each day with a fine-toothed comb. I have it cut every four to six weeks at a local barbershop. I use a lidocaine-based ointment to prevent razor bumps along my hairline. Otherwise, I leave my hair to its own devices.

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

Do it and don’t look back! You will be liberating others from the misconception that natural hair is inappropriate in any workplace.

You will also be giving yourself a gift. Your natural hair will require a different kind of maintenance than your current style, but that maintenance is a part of the self-care that is so important for every person to engage in. Never doubt for a moment that this self-care is something that you deserve:

Condition your scalp well with coconut oil and shea butter. Rinse your hair with water steeped with cinnamon, and soothe itchy spots on your scalp with drops of peppermint oil mixed with charcoal. Wrap your braids in soft fabric before you sleep, and pick out your ‘fro with a wide-toothed wooden comb in the morning. Use sweet-smelling cocoa butter to loosen any stubborn tangles and kinks.

Take pride in the glory of your hair, and don’t begrudge yourself the time spent taking care of it and yourself.

As well, please don’t be afraid to ask questions of other women (and men!) whom you see wearing natural styles about what their experiences have been, in reflecting on what style or styles might work best for you. Remember: in choosing to adopt a natural hairstyle you are in step and in solidarity with many other people who choose every day to make this transition!

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Phenomenal Professional Naturalista: Ms. Janine Clarke

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is your name?

Janine Clarke

Where do you live?

Toronto, Canada

What is your occupation?

Process Excellence and Operations Management in the Financial Services Industry

What is your educational background?

Bachelor of Business Administration, University of Toronto; Master of Business Administration, Queen’s University

How long have you been natural?

Almost a decade…and a lifetime to go!

Why did you decide to “go” natural?

After decades of chemically processing my hair (since childhood)—from Jheri Curl, to Hawaiian Silky, then Wave Nouveau—I started to notice a lot of breakage. Since my hair had always been curly (albeit with chemical assistance), I already really loved curls and was curious to see what my natural curls looked like. It was initially challenging to find the right products and to figure out how style my hair, but after years of trial and error, I figured it out and love my hair so much!

What is your go-to natural hairstyle?

I love doing flat twist-outs. The style keeps my curls poppin’ for days!

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

No. I’ve been fortunate to work in organizations that embrace diversity and authenticity. My colleagues often compliment me on my hair and are impressed by my range of styles.

The only disappointing experience I can recall happened just as I was finishing up undergrad (my hair was curly, but not natural at the time). My family and I stopped by the office of a (former) family friend, who was also a successful entrepreneur from our community. After I excitedly told him about the different potential career paths I was considering after graduation, he said to me “…whatever you choose, you’re going to have to straighten that hair if you want to be successful.” This happened so many years ago, and I can still remember leaving his office feeling so deflated. On the bright side, I’ve definitely proven him wrong!

What do you love most about your natural hair?

I love that my hair is healthy and versatile.

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

It has taken me years of trial and error, years of being a product junkie, and many #hairfails to figure out what works best for my ever-evolving mane. I don’t view this as a challenge though. It’s really a labour of love and ongoing self-discovery. I consider the time I spend on my hair to be an expression of self-care and creativity.

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

The short answer is: I don’t! LOL. I’m often up late “setting” my hair so that styling in the morning is easier and my hair looks on point. One thing that has helped me save some time is protective styling. After years of our long and frigid winters taking a toll on my mane, I finally decided to introduce more protective styles into my repertoire. While I’ve embraced experimenting with different styles (mostly variations of crochet braids), and appreciate the time I save by not having to set/style it daily, I really do start to miss my own hair after a few weeks. Haha!!

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

Our hair is so beautiful and versatile. Embrace it. Learn about it. Seek out help and advice (friends, YouTube, hairdressers, etc.)

Many of us are raised to believe that our hair is what defines us. It’s a lie. What defines me at work is being an exceptional leader, my subject matter expertise, and how I drive results. I have zero tolerance for, and would seriously question the vision, mission, corporate culture, leadership, and frankly, the long-term sustainability of, any organization that would limit my professional advancement based on my decision to wear my hair how it grows naturally out of its follicles.

 

Women’s Month 2018: Phenomenal Professional Naturalistas

During the month of March, Women’s Month, we take time to acknowledge and celebrate the phenomenal contributions of women to society at large!

In honour of this Women’s Month, The Natural Hair Advocate will be showcasing a roster of Phenomenal Professional Naturalistas: women who are doing AMAZING things in their respective sectors—from law to education, medicine to business—while also shining in all of their natural glory! Each of these women has proven that you can slay—both as a professional and a naturalista—and so we asked them the secrets to their success! Join us this month, as we recognize, applaud, and hear from these natural brains and beauties!

 

…Now you understand

Just why my head’s not bowed.

I don’t shout or jump about

Or have to talk real loud.

When you see me passing,

It ought to make you proud.

I say,

It’s in the click of my heels,

The bend of my hair,

the palm of my hand,

The need for my care.

‘Cause I’m a woman

Phenomenally.

Phenomenal woman,

That’s me. 

~ “Phenomenal Woman” by Dr. Maya Angelou