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Photo Series Shows Corporate White Women in Braid, Twist and Curly Styles

• Oct 15, 2013

Beth

Seeking to spark a discussion on self expression and acceptability in corporate culture, photographer Endia Beal has launched a photo series called “Can I Touch It”. For the series, Beal selected white middle-aged women, sent them to a black salon to get their hair done, then put them in corporate attire and took her photos.

I wanted people that had a certain idea of what you’re supposed to look like in the workspace, because it would be a challenge for them to understand what I experienced in that space. And to a degree, many young white women have shared that experience, but for older white women it’s an experience they haven’t necessarily had,” Beal shared.

Ann

The photo series was inspired by Beal’s experience working in the IT department at Yale, where her big, red afro generated attention from her mostly white, male co-workers.

Ellen

Slate Magazine has an awesome write up on the photo series. You can find it here. Ladies, I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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TS
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TS

?_?

pw
Guest
pw

I see what the artist was attempting but it is poorly concieved and delivered. Most black women in corporate america are not wearing styles like this. We are embrassing our texture and yes even braids. Why have 3–4 white women with their hair braided on one side and curly on the other? Really? Why not have one with curls, a fro, braids etc. As a black natural female I’m actually insulted by this so called art. Just my opinion…

Mai
Guest
Mai

I saw this on Clutch and I agree with you. Plus there are two hairstyles that aren’t even remotely black and one of those is more of a historical hairstyle (the finger waves) that was a popular hairstyle in the 30s. The artist seems extremely out of touch with how black women wear their hair.

gapch
Guest
gapch

a lot of black people wore finger waves in the ‘90s. its not that far removed.

Flynfab
Guest
Flynfab

It’s 2013…

Bee
Guest
Bee

Tell that to girls down south lol

Crist
Guest
Crist

they went to a black hair salon and that’s what they were given…by black hairstylists although they may have been more on the side of town where the women there would wear styles like these..

Zeee
Guest
Zeee

Ummm I actully DID see a woman with roller set curls, a woman with braids, and how exactly do you suggest they achieve an afro on a white woman’s head without the use of A.) a wig or B.) EXTREME damage? OBVIOUSLY most white hair textures cannot mimic natural african american hair textures so how do you suggest they “embrace” a texture that would probably require CHEMICALS to achieve?! I don’t understand why everyone is so confused about the style choices..The stylist worked with what they had which was stringy thin, straight European hair. Also, if you read the article,… Read more »

coco
Guest
coco

lol talk about pained facial expressions

Larissa
Guest
Larissa

Yes! I wish they would smile. This just looks awkward. >_<

nylse
Guest

these are awful hairstyles and dont really represent styles i wear. no wonder the models seem to be in pain.

Chocolatecurls
Guest
Chocolatecurls

I’m yawning. Very distasteful!!

colalover
Guest
colalover

Well they look ratchet! Just like some black women look, when they wear their hair like this to the office. I can see wearing a nice fro or curls, in fact I think natural is best, but these are actually styles for little girls not grown women. When I see middle age black women wearing these styles I wonder how old they THINK they are? I would do these styles on little girls or on someone who may be vacationing in the Islands, but they truly look dumb on older black women.

Kade
Guest
Kade

So six or right simple cornrows hanging down the back is rachet on a middle age women?
What?!! I’m confused…I don’t consider simple cornrows rachet on any age. 0_0

Kade
Guest
Kade

*eight

Teetee
Guest
Teetee

I don’t think a twist and curl or cornrows are ratchet. I think the should have showed deadlocks a blown out Fro a curly Fro a Fro hawk but hey who are we kidding white women couldn’t mimick our hair textures anyway lol

colalover
Guest
colalover

The only thing the “artist” accomplished was making them look like racially confused, meth head, baby mommas to some black baby daddy thugs in prison, with their half black kids at home ready to become the future sociopaths of the world.Please. You see this everyday. I’m surprised they are not wearing gold teeth? I see very few grown,intelligent black women wearing these little girl styles.

colalover
Guest
colalover

I agree it’s not ratchet on an 11 year old. But what grown women wear this hair and then wants to be taken seriously in the corporate arena? Most may condition abd blow dry. But they won’t attend 6 years of college to wear this style on an interview. They are not giving black women enough credit. There is a time for play and time to be and look professional. This is ridiculous. But not uncommon for white people to over exaggerate our style. I could wear a crazy Pamela Lee Anderson or Kim Kardashian wig and it would look… Read more »

Flynfab
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Flynfab

I agree. Would you go into the office with a high messy bun, pig tails or side pony? That’s what these styles say to me- appropriate for aged high school and younger, especially when you’re talking about going to work.

?
Guest
?

Ratchet????? Do you mean wretched?

cacey
Guest
cacey

nah ratchet’s a word that’s in circulation right now. i guess it’s “our” vernacular for ghetto, ignorant, etc.

Soapbox
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Soapbox

Our? Yeah, no. Some ignorant rapper with minstrel lyrics started this purposeful mispronunciation and the ignorant masses followed suit. SSDD

-Signed sick and tired of “some” of us embracing ignorance and claiming it as ours.

Dionne
Guest
Dionne

It doesn’t work for me, this look may help break down the hair barriers black women face in this environment, but many would see it as too out there yet for bw these styles are just normal every day hair styles.

Shelly_Shelle
Guest
Shelly_Shelle

Why oh why?! This segment missed the mark of provocative and landed in a pit of foolery…just foolery. There is so much commentary that could be made, but I reserve my deepest eye roll for the hideous hairdos. These styles were in vogue about 10 years ago! And I agree, most professional adult women weren’t wearing these styles even when they were hot. A White woman will NEVER fully understand what a Black woman experiences (especially in corporate America); point blank period. However, if Endia wishes to “challenge what they understand” regarding Black hair, she should capitalize on those teachable… Read more »

Sandy
Guest
Sandy

Interesting how you talked about white women and their insecurities with their curls…I have heard this before from a white woman I know with extremely curly hair who was told to ‘do something with it.’ When she came to terms with herself she ditched the flat iron. Many South Asian women also feel the same way about their curls and flatten them out. Smh…we have been fooled into believing we are the only ones that don’t have straight hair naturally.

Shelly_Shelle
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Shelly_Shelle

Yes indeed Sandy. There are so many groups worldwide that have curly to coily hair. In other groups (such as Indians) natural hair is not a topic of debate or revolution. It is common practice, an unquestioned, that you DO NOT ever wear curly hair. 2 of my Indian friends (one in her 20s, the other in her 40s) have issues with their curls. The younger one wears her curls only in the case of a time emergency. The older one has never worn her curls in public. It’s really a shame. I think we as Black people constantly have… Read more »

TWA4now
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TWA4now

I think it is a very BOLD step. Go for it!

Sophie
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Sophie

I think the braided on the side look is more of a funky (in a good way!) hairdo even for black women, so I’m not sure this is what a corporate black woman would wear to work. I have curly haired white friends who don’t wear their hair out/down to work for fear of it being “unprofessional” too, so there’s a wider group involved in this particular aspect. I always tell them that it’s because our hair is so gorgeous it’s distracting 😉

Nappy 4C Rocks
Guest
Nappy 4C Rocks

*sigh* why?

Stephanie
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Stephanie

The face on the lady I the second picture is hilarious!! Man I can’t stop laughing at her face and ridiculous hair-do!!! Lol

geenie
Guest
geenie

I really don’t get wot she was trying to achieve. Just looks like bored peeps with a bad hair day :s

JustLeavingaComment
Guest
JustLeavingaComment

I don’t get it…seems like an ill-conceived joke…at our expense. I could be wrong, but it just looks that way to me.

Jc
Guest

To be perfectly honestly I am a little disappointed with the artist. In my view natural hair is exactly that, allowing your hair to grow and be showcased as it is. None of these styles are particularly flattering to any of these women. Furthermore, there are very few professional women in their mid 40s who are black who would wear these styles which leads me to the conclusion that this is an artistic concept without a solid thought and perhaps for the sake of generating talk and controversy. A more artistic concept in my view would have been to show… Read more »

geenie
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geenie

U r so ryt. And those r great questions. Especially no 3. Wot the heck is the purpose of this piece of artwork? This is just sad

Iva
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Iva

@JC. Honestly, I think you put more thought and care into your response than the “artist” put into this entire project. I have the same issue with this that I do with the “You Can Touch My Hair” exhibit and the Catsuit Project- it is artistically lazy and solely done for controversy. Noooo professional black woman would wear these styles, none ever, and as I look around my office I see several heads black heads of relaxers, wigs, full afros, curly fros, twist outs, and braids but none of the styles exhibited above. Did the artist do any research or… Read more »

Coconut + Cream
Guest

o_O

Uhm… O…Kay?

Rain
Guest
Rain

Luv the concept, but the artist could have taken it a little further, really done some research on natural hairstyles that corporate America tend to say is out of the box and incorporated it in her art. I would luv to have seen yarn twists/genie locs and more textured updos, or hair with more texture as a whole, because it is not always about the hairstyle but the texture of the hair with the style.

Nevertheless, some of these women look nice and this series has made me think.

kat
Guest
kat

at first glance i thought well thats interesting, they look kind of terrible,
is it supporting the message that certain hairstyles are not acceptable in the corporate world? because if that’s not the point maybe the artist should have used more age appropriate afro stlyes on these ladies to prove a point, for example, the whole world seems to be rocking a top knot a twist out or a just their natural hair, oh yeah, that wouldn’t have been provocative in the same way would it… :/

Flynfab
Guest
Flynfab

This fell flat for me. I think mainly because the styles are not age appropriate. I don’t know any middle aged professional black woman who would wear their hair like this, in or out of the office. My stepdaughter would wear the second hair style — and she is 10!

Maybe it’s also their ridiculous facial expressions or those hideous outfits??

Fail.

niksmit
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niksmit

To everyone who has questions, I don’t think the artist is focused on natural hair, but on Blackness. I do think that the execution could have been better though. I get where she’s trying to go but it took some pondering. Successful art should evoke something immediately that may lead to deeper pondering, but my pondering was just to clear confusion. The article said she has a residency and is continuing her work, so maybe it will be refined in the future.

Shelly_Shelle
Guest
Shelly_Shelle

Art (successful or otherwise) is about expression; typically of a view point or message that provokes thought to the viewer. I think most commentators are confused about what the artist is expressing or attempting to convey, which makes this piece unsuccessful. The styles do not read “Blackness”. Blackness is really about our hair texture which often dictates the hair styles. So as many have said, she should have did styles that played on texture. This artist had some goals in mind, but the hairstyles on this age group in 2013 failed. This is what’s leading to confusion, and makes this… Read more »

mlank64
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mlank64

I wouldn’t wear any of these styles. They look more suited for a 10 year old. None of the styles are flattering.

Tara Kamiya
Guest

Totally agree, stupid jabs. You know no black woman would wear these styles to a corporate job!!!

Princess C
Guest
Princess C

I would and I am currently wearing a style like these pictured right now and I am doing just fine in the corperate world.

Pleaseeeeeeee can we stop pushing our individual opinions as the accepted thoughts of all black people.

Shanice
Guest
Shanice

I agree that these hairstyles aren’t as contemporary as 2013 natural black hairstyles are BUT keep in mind these styles never go out of style whether you see them or not. Black hair is diverse and versatile (something that was hard to portray seeing as these are white ladies with white hair, it tends to look odd on their skin color and hair texture). It is hard to work with certain white hair types when trying to emulate black styles, so I see why they had to resort to some of these styles. I mean think about them trying to… Read more »

Toni
Guest
Toni

The style on the redhead lady looks best

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Krys
Guest
Krys

Just because we are natural doesn’t mean that black women don’t wear these styles. One lady in the photo has her hair curled and the other has her hair in synthetic braids. Honestly the whole point of this was to take these people out of their comfort zone, and make them experience what it was like for black women to be approached about their hair. With these hair styles how many times do you think they were approached? So then the point was accomplished, no? I’m sure these women have never been to black salon and probably chose styles that… Read more »

Hannah
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Hannah

This artist has basically said ‘Hey black hairstyles can be smart, here are some examples of white women to show you how smart black hairstyles can be’. Same with twerking it’s not good or cool enough if black girls are doing it but when Miley Cyrus is doing it.…

AllyCat
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AllyCat

They do look inappropriate for the workplace on them so they are proably look inapproriate for the workplace period. See you dont see it until you’ve seen it here. Pull your hair back in a bun at work, save your “ethnic” hairstyles for at home/club/mall/church ect.

Troy
Guest
Troy

OR it could mean that only white hairdos are appropriate in the workplace in our country. WHICH IS THE POINT BEING MADE. Our country is racist and your opinion is ignorant. Their hair styles aren’t any more “ethnic” than white peoples are. Even if they were, you use ethnic in a negative connotation implying that anything non-white or non-western is less professional or acceptable. PoC are American just like anyone else here; to find that classically western hair styles are more professional or more American is racist.

tristan
Guest
tristan

interesting…I do feel, however, that most black women past a certain age wouldn’t be sporting most of these hairstyles, let alone in a corporate setting. They seem like hairstyles that younger girls or women would wear.

Sana
Guest
Sana

She gave it a shot. Keep in mind their hair can’t do what our hair does and vice versa. This is the best that they can do with what they have without adding extensions. If they wore an afro then people would question or some may even be offended. They would have to make drastic changes to their hair.I don’t mind that she is trying because I know that my hair can’t naturally do what their hair can do I will need chemicals and weave.

gigi
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gigi

perhaps if they used waspier women too… some of these ladies look like my fair-skinned aunties… bah… yeah, lofty initial concept, poorly executed & it has fallen flat

gapch
Guest
gapch

to a point i agree w/ u. it would’ve been better to see blondes, red heads, brunettes with paler or at least a variety of skin colors. it would of created more of a shock factor. when i first clicked the thread some of those photo’d did look just like light skinned black women.

cacey
Guest
cacey

i didn’t get the same impression. i didn’t think for a minute that any of these women were black. i can count on one hand the number of times i’ve seen in real life a black woman who i mistook for white initially. it’s very rare. usually the eye color and the hair texture gives it away, anyhow, even if the skin is “light enough” to pass for white. in any case, the issue with showcasing a variety of hair colors is the fact that statistically speaking, the vast majority of white women naturally have brown hair, usually on the… Read more »

cacey
Guest
cacey

so…if i understand you correctly, you expected the white women to look stereotypical, then.
well i think on average this is what white women in this age group look like. i live in a 90 percent white town so i can promise you that these women definitely fall into the avg. the “waspy” white woman is mostly a media product.

colalover
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colalover

Lol proves that ANYTHING passes for so-called “thought provoking” art these days. Yes, tell us how “deep” you are while I take a nap.

cola
Guest
cola

I mean I understand why they would try to do it but what are these pictures really saying? We need white women to embrace and wear our styles too? I don’t know honestly.

Londoner
Guest
Londoner

It’s simply provoking conversation. Art doesn’t particularly have to tell you everything, you form opinions according to what you are given. Even classical paintings-though they may have an intended to show a certain point of view — will change in meaning according to who views it and in which time and place. That is the beauty of art.

lachanda
Guest
lachanda

i like what photographer attempted to do, “show that the hair doesn’t make the women, position, profession”

the images might be accepted more, if the models wearing them were smiling or looked as though they embraced their new look.

because they appear (no smiling/ their body language)to be like a fish out of water, it appears offensive in a sense and more like ‘prestigious’ women were made to wear off beaten ‘dos ‘below them.’

the styles are not bad.

Rose
Guest
Rose

Is it me… or do these ladies look like they don’t like their new do?

Lina
Guest
Lina

I think two of the ladies actually look nice with these hairstyles. it is clear that they are uncomfortable, and perhaps that is part of the point — that sometimes we put ourselves in uncomfortable positions to “look the part” for the workplace, and at the same time, we do things that are commonplace for our hair, but “uncomfortable” for others. Body Language can also take or add additional stress to an awkward presentation such as this. With the facial expressions alone, it would not be surprising to get not so great energy from others about it.

Rakeena
Guest
Rakeena

I love these hairstyles on them, and they look just as professional as any other hairstyle. Also … Does anyone else think the last woman looks like George Washington?

Nappy4C Rocks
Guest
Nappy4C Rocks

now what?! professional looking?..don’t think so

the mane captain
Guest

I dont see anything wrong with the chosen styles. Making them “more presentable” would require extensions and lots of pulling which i;m sure these women didnt sign up for. Nice photos but these styles are definitely not the norm for non Blacks and would definitely generate more attention, same way the photographer’s red Afro generated a lot of attention. You don’t see such styles everyday, and depending on the workplace, a red afro could acutally be too distracting, so I can see an employer having issues with it.
themanecaptain.blogspot.ca

Zeee
Guest
Zeee

I don’t understand why everyone is so confused about the style choices..The stylists worked with what they had which was stringy thin, straight European hair. Also, if you read the article, the point wasn’t to depict a modern day independent black business woman in a professional setting on a white woman’s head! Yes, they might have used a few dated, stereotypical “black hairstyles” but the point that the artist was trying to make was taking these women out of their comfort zones and allowing them to experience some of the personal discomfort, fear, strange looks that the artist had to… Read more »

SantanaNyla
Guest

Black women wear their hair straight-so this is the reverse.Did you guys see the fingers waves? Nice!

cacey
Guest
cacey

the hairstyles themselves look impeccable but…i think it looks weird to me on them because i’m not used to seeing white women with these styles. i don’t care for it on them, but i recognize that it’s a product of my conditioning to expect them to have short, slick-straight not-a-hair-out-of-place hair

gapch
Guest
gapch

good point.

Jesse
Guest
Jesse

Upon first glance, these array of pictures did seem to mock African or black hairstyles. However, I took the time to read the slate article to understand more about the motivation behind the work. It is actually pretty interesting. I mean why CAN’T these women wear black hairstyles? These pictures definitely open up a discussion on black hairstyles in the workplace. All of the styles were done very well considering these women have very, very straight hair (except for the curly fro). The reason why black hair may not be accepted in the American workplace is because people have narrow… Read more »

Shana
Guest
Shana

an attempt to poke fun…and my feelings are hurt — these women look foolish.

Deedeemaha
Guest
Deedeemaha

This was so laughable I could hardly contain myself. Lol tears are falling from my eyes as I type. It reminds me of the colonial period, where men wore wigs. Let’s face it some hair styles , clothes, etc are not flattering to the face or body. When I was younger and middle aged now, my daughter has tried a few of these styles on me at home. I laughed at myself and took them out. Now don’t get me wrong, have seen these styles on many and have complimented them on how good they look. However, if I saw… Read more »

MizViaNow
Guest

This is quite striking and thought provoking! My immediate thoughts are that we (curly haired women) are expected to wear our hair as theirs grows naturally, turning to perms and inordinate amounts of heat to achieve this feat. They seemingly look ridiculous but so do we when we superimpose their hairstyles onto our heads. I would like to challenge these women to maintain their braided hair dos for even a week, something that is easy for our hair at its natural state but will prove nearly impossible for them. Now tell me that my hair is not professional!!

Camille Mckinnon
Guest
Camille Mckinnon

This display demonstrates a much larger movement in America. Amazingly striking. If this spreads, this would bridge the gap between woman every where in the world. This display would start a mighty movement that could create a war among religious groups of women. We rule. All women. We no longer conform. Women of all races and and socio-economic classes are now wearing their hair any way they wish; any where they wish. LOL!!!

BM Rambus
Guest
BM Rambus

Yes! Nice, keep at it. Its Universal! (Remember where it came from) but Yes, braids, twists, etc needs to be introduced even more into the corporate world. Its not going any where and needs to be no only accepted but understood.

aleesha
Guest
aleesha

lmao

linnie
Guest
linnie

I think it was great that these ladies went to a Black salon to get their hair done. And don’t forget, the stylists probably weren’t used to working on a white person’s hair so some of the styles are a bit awkward. Like when I used to go to white salons when I was too lazy to go into the big city to a Black salon-my hair always looked like a science project when I walked out. I’m all natural now and very happy.

Candice
Guest

But fingerwaves though.…do people even wear those anymore? Helmet head & the Office…idk that’s a stretch. But the other ones are dead on.

If you really want to be daring, how about headwraps? Ive worn headscarves on many occasions to board meetings and never once got reprimanded. I was known for wearing headwraps, afros, braids, twist outs etc in the office of a 500+ employee insurance company corporate office. As were many of my coworkers.

AC
Guest
AC

I think the Redhead was feeling her style lol, she’s the only one that looks close to happy.

sincereluv4life
Guest
sincereluv4life

They all look pissed lol

Matlhodi
Guest

These pictures are hideous. The models themselves look unconfortable and annoyed. Uh-Uh

Jenny
Guest
Jenny

.…lololol!! I was thinking the same thing. They all have this WTF look on their faces 😉

Cia
Guest

wait what’s the point of this? I’m looking through these photos… finally clicking on the link. I saw it the first time and said, oh no what now. And then said uh uh I do not want to see any of that mess. Was the point of this to say that this styles should not be worn in the work place? Majority of these styles can be done, on our texture hair, that it won’t be such a devastating experience. I know there are some over the top things people do. But I think as long as your hair is… Read more »

waukee
Guest
waukee

I thought the first lady looked nice. The style fits her face.

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Carol
Guest
Carol

From the Slate article: Beal said many of the women she took to the salon took pictures of their new hairstyle on their smartphones and posted pictures on Facebook. Almost all of them embraced Beal after the portraits were taken, saying they were excited to have experienced something new. “Some of them wanted to wear [their hairstyles] out, and some wanted to go home,” Beal said. “Many of them said, ‘I can’t wait to get home and show my husband!’ ”

BubzLife Starlight
Guest
BubzLife Starlight

It looks like crap on WW

HeiSun
Guest
HeiSun

Only one of those women looks contented with her hairstyle… some others look mildly insulted, and one looks amused.

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