Black Women Working To Break Hair Style Stereotypes In The Workplace


Friday, September 18th 2020, 7:00 pm
By: Ashley Holden


Members of the Black community in Oklahoma City and across the country say they see bias and misconceptions in workplaces when it comes to the way they style their hair. 

People around the country are trying to break those stereotypes, including local hairstylist Tanieka Evans. 

"In the beginning it just started off with me just helping my brother and my dad," said Evans. 

Now Evans has been taking people on their locks journey for over a decade. To Evans what she does is an art form, but she knows that's not how everyone feels about dreads.

"A lot of times when I have clients start their locks or decide to start, the question I ask is what took you so long to start or what is holding you back," said Evans. "The first response is ‘I work in the corporate world...’"

She's trying to break that misconception by using tools like social media and photography. In recent years Evans has helped with shoots focusing specifically on showcasing successful black men with dreads.

"All of the clients I used have their own business," said Evans. They are very successful men."

She hopes these visuals can help spark change, but the stylist said the issue goes beyond locks to other styles. Evans said this even includes natural black hair.

"It's nothing new, but for me it's a way to tell somebody how they have to do something," said Evans. 

"I think in particular when you talk about black hair styles there's a particular history about how professionalism has been weaponized against natural black hair styles," said Evan's client George Lee. 

"I've heard through other people what certain news directors said about me, and they wouldn't even interview me because I had curly hair," said former News 9 reporter Jessi Mitchell. 

Bias and the misconceptions surrounding natural black hair is something Mitchell has seen on an amplified level as a broadcast journalist, working her way up to CBS.

"We've been told to fit this mold by people that don't look like us, and we're starting to find our voice," said Mitchell. 

Recently other reporters and anchors around the country took the conversation to social media, posting pictures doing their job with various hairstyles. 

"I'm not the first black woman to wear braids on air," said WMBD Investigative Reporter and Anchor Treasure Roberts. "I don't want to take that credit, but my tweet went viral."

Back in August, Roberts posted a tweet that shared her experience with a news director and her decision to wear braids on air. The tweet has now been shared tens of thousands of times.

"I believe that no matter how I wear my hair I'm a good journalist," said Roberts.

She's hoping her message inspires others to break the box society has built.

"I am pretty brave, and this does take a lot of guts," said Roberts. "But I would say be unapologetically you, and then people that like you for who you are, you will attract those people."

Editor’s Note: News 9 is part of a local initiative that brings all of our local media outlets together to give Oklahoma a United Voice in promoting a healthy dialogue on race. To see more stories, visit UnitedVoiceOK.org.