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!

Phenomenal Professional Naturalista: Ms. Kimberley Tull

What is your name?

Kimberley Tull

Where do you live?

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

What is your occupation?

Manager, Community Development & Engagement; Project Manager, Access Programs, in the Post-Secondary Education Sector

What is your educational background?

BA (Hons.), Specialist Political Science, Minor Economics, University of Toronto Scarborough; Post-Graduate Diploma, Arts Administration & Cultural Management, Humber College; Event Management Certification, George Brown College; and Master of Education, Adult Education & Community Development, University of Toronto

How long have you been natural?

23 years (give or take a two or three years in there when I decided to switch it up, so probably 20 years in total).

Why did you decide to “go” natural?

Well, I didn’t “go” natural, I went back to being natural. I was a student-athlete, who was trying to rock a relaxed short cut, but with all of the sweating, the back and sides of my hair would revert to natural. I was rocking a half-fro and that was not cute! I was also putting super, extra-strength relaxer on my hair every couple of weeks. One day, I said, “This is enough”… So, I cut it all off, and rocked a TWA; and that’s when I felt like me. I fell in love.

What is your go-to natural hairstyle?

Two-strand twist/twist-out, usually in a pin-up, updo (warmer weather); here, in Toronto, my hair is against the cold temperatures, so it hibernates in the winter under crochet braids, twists or faux locs.

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

I have; but it has never been an issue at my place of business. I can say, no one close to me has ever told me that my hair is unprofessional (whether family, friends, or colleagues). Those that do, my response is: “How can something that grows directly out of my scalp be considered ‘unprofessional’? Whose standard of ‘professional’ are we talking about?” That being said, I’ve been fetishized; treated like I was the entertainment; petted; asked the infamous “Is that your hair?” question; othered. It took me a while to learn to find the words and ways to call people out. As a Black woman, I had to set and stick to my boundaries.

What do you love most about your natural hair?

I get to do whatever I want with it; it’s flexible, and my kinks and curls have their own personality. It’s freeing and it’s unapologetically me!

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

Finding ways to keep it moisturized during the different Canadian seasons. My hair responds differently to the different seasons; as a result, I have to change up my products to suit, from shampoos to moisturizers. And, of course, wash day, potentially a full day off the grid (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing!)

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

My hair forces me to take time out of the day just for me, so whether I’m twisting it up for the night, detangling, two-strand twisting, crochet braiding it, I’m forced to sit and be (somewhat) still. I look at that as a bonus, it’s me time and I get to reflect or binge watch a show.

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

1. The natural hair journey can be a long and daunting one – manage your expectations – it will take some time to figure this thing out

2. Let go of the control and follow your curls, they’ll let you know what they feel like doing

3. Accept your curl pattern. We tend to longingly look at other people’s hair wishing and wanting their curl pattern, their thickness, their length but that’s their hair, not yours. You’ll never be truly content with your hair unless you own and accept your hair.

4. Let other people own their issues with natural hair, that shouldn’t be your concern or business. Oh, you have an issue with natural hair… oh, well that’s your issue, you can keep it.

5. Don’t suffer in silence. Find your circle of care and ask for support, opinions, recommendations.

6. Have fun! Play with it, braid it, twist it, wash ‘n’ go it, colour it, cut it, grow it … but most importantly, love it!

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Follow Kimberley on Instagram: @kaeniktee

or Twitter: @kimzies

or visit torontoaka.ca or misseducation.ca

Phenomenal Professional Naturalista: Mrs. Shaneka Shaw Taylor

What is your name?

Shaneka Shaw Taylor

Where do you live?

Toronto, Canada

What is your occupation?

Lawyer, Partner at Boghosian + Allen LLP

What is your educational background?

Honours Bachelor’s degree in International Relations from the University of Windsor; Juris Doctor from Osgoode Hall Law School, York University

How long have you been natural?

From birth until around 1995; and since 2004 to present.

Why did you decide to “go” natural?

I just really wanted a change and a fresh start. I had just started undergraduate studies when I started my dreadlocks from 2004. I cut my locks in 2011 when they got too difficult to manage and I didn’t have the time to spend on my hair as I previously did. I cut my hair to a low fade, and the rest is history.

What is your go-to natural hairstyle?

Hahaha, a side part with slicked sides and a side tapered afro.

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

Not to my face! I have heard of other negative experiences but I personally have not had any challenges due to my hair.

What do you love most about your natural hair?

The curls! I have tight coil curls that resemble the spring coil inside a pen; however, I have noticed that my curls have changed over time, perhaps due to the chemical colouring of my hair.

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

Maintaining the right balance of moisture in my hair and trying to get it to grow. It perpetually seems to be staying at the same length.

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

Honestly, I don’t do anything different. From season to season, I try to mix it up with crochet or regular braids, and once per year, I get a blowout. Otherwise, my hair does what it wants!

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

Embrace your curls. Do not feel limited by others’ perception of what your hair should look like. Once you accept your hair, the way it grows and the way it makes you feel, others will learn to accept and appreciate it. Do not feel the need to conform to Western society’s beauty constructs, as that narrative often does not view Black hair as beautiful. The more you embrace it, the more others will. Get a great stylist who is adept at working with natural hair and get him/her to teach you how to properly care for your curls. Be kind with yourself!

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Follow Shaneka on

Linkedin: shanekashawtaylor

Instagram: shaneka_taylor

Twitter: @shanekashaw

or visit: http://www.boglaw.ca/shaneka-m-taylor

Phenomenal Professional Naturalista: Ms. Norah Dorcine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is your name?

Norah Dorcine

Where do you live?

Currently, I reside in Paris, France.

What is your occupation?

Lawyer.

What is your educational background?

Licence in Civil Law (LL.L.) and Bachelors of Laws (LL.B.) obtained at University of Ottawa; LL.M. candidate in international law, Universite Paris Descartes

How long have you been natural?

Since 2007.

Why did you decide to “go” natural?

I just loved the natural hair look. Sometime in 2006, I was at the hair salon. While under the dryer, I was looking at hair magazines. While most styles were done with relaxed hair, one hairstyle caught my attention: it was beautiful, curly black hair, well-defined. I asked my hairdresser how I could achieve the look, but she said that it was not possible with my hair type—and, plus, I would have to stop perming. I was disappointed. I had been perming my hair since I was 10 years old; I couldn’t imagine anything else! Another time at the salon, I noticed that my hairdresser was selling curly black ponytails that resembled the look I liked so much in that magazine. I bought one and was able to pull off a cute curly ponytail hairstyle. The only problem was that  I could not let my hair out and achieve a complete curly look because my own hair was relaxed. In 2007, I decided to stop perming and start my natural hair journey. I never looked back!

What is your go-to natural hairstyle?

It depends. One week, it can just be a simple wash-and-go (using flaxseed gel), which can last about 3 days for me. Another week, it can just be a twist-out.

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

Thankfully, no. Any barrier to not wear my natural hair was self-owned. Back then, I thought that it didn’t look professional enough for a lawyer to wear an afro look. Over time, I just realized that there was nothing wrong with my afro or my twist out—and it certainly didn’t make me less professional!

What do you love most about your natural hair?

The versatility! The shape of my curls, the different hairstyles I can achieve—just everything! When I was perming, my hair was flat and had no body. Now, it is full of curls and life!

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

The maintenance. Admittedly, it is time-consuming. Keeping my hair moisturized during the winter months takes time and patience.

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

I try to keep it simple during the week. Before going to bed, I spritz my hair with some water and aloe juice. I put it in a bun and put on a satin bonnet—this keeps my hair fresh for about 3 days. I repeat this process midweek.

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

Your hair is your crown, it was beautifully and uniquely designed by God.  Perceptions do not define who you are—what people think of you or your hair is irrelevant and has no bearing on your professional skills.  As for maintenance, keep it simple and moisturized, and try something fun during the weekend.

Phenomenal Professional Naturalista: Ms. Fana Gibson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is your name?

Fana Gibson

Where do you live? 

London, UK

What is your occupation?

Strategy Consultant, Financial Services

What is your educational background?

Howard University, BS Physics, BA French; University of Pennsylvania, The Wharton School, MBA, MA International Studies

How long have you been natural?

For most of my life. My hair was permed for three or four years as a teenager but I got tired of the maintenance and grew it out. Two other times I’ve gone back for a ‘change’ but those periods have always been short-lived (a year or less) before I revert to being natural.

Why did you decide to “go” natural?

I don’t know if it was ever a decision to “go” natural as much as coming to the realization that putting a chemical in my hair for it to look a certain way doesn’t sit well with me. I’ve spent a lot of time in extensions, either braids or crochet styles. Now I’m challenging myself to leave even those behind and to learn to style my hair as is. This, of course, is a process, and I feel like I’m still on that journey of loving my hair for what it is.

What is your go-to natural hairstyle?

Twist-out or a braided two-strand flat-twist.

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

No. I’ve worked in a corporate role for my entire career and have never been made to feel singled out because of my natural hair.

What do you love most about your natural hair?

The versatility. We can do so many great things to how we look by simply changing our hairstyle, whether it’s a two-strand twist, braids, a blow-out, or picking it out into a beautiful Afro!

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

Figuring out how to take care of my hair in the right way has definitely been a challenge. Black hair is so diverse that the same hair care routine or product range won’t work for everyone. In the beginning, I’d get frustrated because I just wanted someone to give me a handbook of all the right things to do, but unfortunately, it just doesn’t work that way. So it’s been a journey of discovery learning about my hair – from porosity, to the LOC method, to how weather and seasons affect it. You just have to keep trying and tweaking your routine- which sometimes can feel like a hassle but the end result is beautiful, healthy hair, which is worth it.

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

On weekends I usually spend several hours washing, conditioning and moisturizing my hair. During the week I have a very busy schedule so I try to minimize time spent on my hair to 5 minutes on mornings. I have two or three go-to styles that fit into that timeframe: either a braided flat-twist or a twist-out which I can quickly unravel if done from the night before (usually takes 20 minutes while watching TV).

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

You should be able to bring your full self to your job and part of that is deciding what hairstyle is right for you. The key is to own that decision and to have confidence while doing it – then it won’t matter what anyone says. In terms of maintenance, it’s definitely a journey – one that can sometimes be frustrating, but, more often than not, rewarding. Throw yourself into it, learn as much as you can, and create a routine that works for you and your lifestyle.