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!

Advertisements

Phenomenal Professional Naturalista: Mrs. Kimberly Johnson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is your name?

Kimberly Johnson

Where do you live?

Scarborough, Ontario, Canada

What is your occupation?

Service Manager in the Federal Public Service

What is your educational background?

Bachelor of International Business degree, Carleton University, Ottawa

 

How long have you been natural?

I started transitioning in October 2015, but I did the Big Chop in January of 2016, because I couldn’t deal with the two textures.  It was very annoying, and none of the styles looked right—when it was curly, I had straight ends.

I went to the hairdresser in January 2016, because I didn’t know how to manage it and I was looking for support. I wasn’t planning on cutting it that day- I went in for wash and style—and then I saw these straight ends, and I was like, “No. Cut it off.” Initially, my hairdresser refused to: she thought I was being emotional; but I insisted.

I was sitting under the dryer after my hairdresser had cut it all off, and I texted my fiancé (at the time), and told him, “Yeah, I cut off all my hair.” So he asked me to send him a picture. Keep in mind that this was January before my wedding in August.

Did I have regrets? Well, the first time I came to wash it and do it, I didn’t have a clue; so I felt like, “What did I do?” So I started asking other naturals, I tapped into the community, and I used YouTube like crazy; that’s how I learned how to manage it.

 

Why did you decide to “go” natural?

That’s a loaded question.  I had several reasons, one of them being for health reasons—in preparation for having children—I knew that I couldn’t be relaxing my hair.

I could no longer reconcile perming my hair and thinking about what I’m going to tell my kids. They were going to see my straight hair, and then out of the other corner of my mouth, I would be telling them that they are beautiful. Now I could deliver that message without being a hypocrite.

I wouldn’t want them to get caught up in the foolishness that I did, taking years to be confident with my hair in its natural state.

But I had to be converted. I had a “Damascus Road” Experience because I was hard-core on the creamy crack! I was the last person in my nuclear family to go natural—my mother and my sisters have been natural—way before this “Movement”. Since age 13, when I went to the hairdresser to get my first relaxer, I hadn’t seen my natural hair.  When I got my first relaxer, I wanted it. It was like a rite of passage for me; it wasn’t a question. I realize now in my journey that I CANNOT go back!

Also, I was emboldened by one of my colleagues, who is a very good friend of mine: a few months earlier [before I decided to go natural], she came to work and she had chopped all of her relaxer off. Because she was in the government context, and she had done it, that encouraged me.  Since she had done it, I knew I could do it.

It’s about passing that torch: the more of us who do it, the more we will encourage each other to do it!

I realize in my current context that I have Black females who report to me; and in the 6 months I’ve been [in this department], I’ve seen two of them chop their hair off. Perhaps it could be coincidence; but I believe that they could see that I’m their boss and I go to work like this, so they feel like they could do it, too.

 

What is your go-to natural hairstyle?

Wash-and-go, all day, every day! Part of it is because I really haven’t figure out how to do anything else! But I will do the occasional twist-out. It’s all about the wash-and-go though.

 

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

I guess, the comments. Sometimes I’ll put braids in or protective styles, and then everybody on the floor has to come and parade in to see Kim’s new hairstyle. I’ve had people stop meetings with big wigs, even, to come and say: “OMG! Kim changed her hair again, I can’t keep up!

Sometimes people think they are giving me a compliment, and for most people, it’s not coming from a malicious place: “I like it when you do your hair all crazy!” Or when I do stretched styles: “I like it when you do it all big and crazy!” Those kind of underhanded micro-aggressions. I really believe that for some people they are really trying to compliment me, but the question is, “Would you say that to your other colleagues?” No, because you don’t think that their hair is crazy- you think my hair is crazy.

 

What do you love most about your natural hair?

At first, I didn’t know what I was doing, I didn’t love it; but there was one day, that I just realized that I “love this”, I love ME; it was like a switch that went off.  It had to do with me figuring out my own hair.  I love the versatility of it; I love the fact that it’s MINE. It’s my authentic self. That’s what I love about it. It’s Me.

 

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

The TIME—don’t let anyone tell you the fallacy that natural hair is faster or more simple—there’s nothing simple about it! It’s a lie from the pit of Hell- it’s very time-consuming. Especially for the wash-and-go, it’s time consuming on the front-end, but you get a lot of longevity out of it—at least out of my wash-and-go, I do.

Also, the expense with respect to products because the industry realizes that it’s the new “in” thing. They want to charge $30 for 8 oz.  It can be very expensive if you want to get the good quality stuff.

Another thing is dealing with the ignorance, sometimes from people at work with the “I love your hair when it’s crazy” comments, and sometimes it has been from my extended family: “Kim, your hair was so pretty, and so long!” My relatives who haven’t caught it yet are usually from another generation, not my generation; they haven’t been delivered yet.

 

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

I just try to find styles that will stretch—for me, it’s all about the longevity. I don’t straighten it, partly because I haven’t been able to get that longevity out of it. Since going natural, I’ve straightened it about 3-4 times, but I don’t like the idea of putting heat on it—I know it’s not good, so I don’t do it.

 

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

I would say, just do it! Just do it! Take the hit, because you will get a hit.  The first week or so, you will literally be on parade.  One of my girlfriends and I were laughing about it: I knew everyone at work would come to my cubicle to spectate.  So take the hit for the week, and then everyone will move on to something else. The freedom that you will have from taking that one single action is worth it.  It’s worth the parade past your desk and the spectators! So, just do it!

It all depends on the sector you work in, but there will be a reaction, so don’t fool yourself! But just move on with your life in FREEDOM!

Also, you will feel ugly for a period of time—especially if you do the Big Chop. It looked bizarre to me! You’ll feel like there’s nowhere to hide, and that’s the part that was very unnerving for me, the high level of exposure and vulnerability.  But you have to push through that.  You have to learn how to love and become reacquainted with yourself.  So prepare yourself for feeling ugly.

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