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Slaying Stereotypes: Black and Curvy Women Breaking Workplace Beauty Barriers

Let’s talk about a topic that’s always been a silent current buzzing in the beauty and fashion world – the policing of Black and curvy women’s style choices in the workplace. It’s 2023, and it’s high time we say goodbye to these outdated standards and embrace the endless diversity that Black and curvy women bring to the table.

1. Hair Happiness 

Let’s start with the crown – our hair. Natural textures, braids, locs, silk press or any other style you can imagine (because Black women dominate the hair creativity realm) – they’re all a part of the boundless spectrum of Black beauty. Yet, some workplaces still have issues with it. Like, seriously, why is it even a thing? It’s time to celebrate our hair, not suppress it! You do you, girl.

2. The Dress Code Drama 

Now, don’t even get me started on dress codes. Some offices have these boring, one-size-fits-none policies that don’t leave room for self-expression or personal style. But let’s be real: Black and curvy women bring life, vibrancy, and uniqueness to the workplace. Our fashion game is strong, and it’s time workplaces recognized that. Listen, if I exert so much intentionality to the details of my outfit du’jour, how painstakingly do you think I will address the details of that project at work? How you do anything is how you do everything, my guy. Let people live and enjoy these looks. 

(Khalilah Jones, Owner, Chic & Classy Image Consulting; Photo: JD Imagery)

3. Empowerment Over Stereotypes 

Let’s break those stereotypes that equate professionalism with a specific (read: historically white and conservative) look. One of my favorite t-shirts boldly states “I defy stereotypes”. That sentiment is applied to breaking down barriers, but also holds true for my personal style. Being professional is about your skills, talents, knowledge and how you treat your colleagues, not the inches of your heels or how nondescript your khakis or Oxford can be. Of course there are standards, but these are also tools to control and ensure conformity. It’s a way of saying “we want you but not ALL of you”. We deserve to be valued for our abilities, not stripped of our identity and individuality.

4. Reclaiming Our Time 

It’s high time we reclaim our time and our style choices. Saartjie Baartman had large breast, a narrow waist and large butt and was fetishized and exploited for her physical appearance. Ultimately the obsession with her curvy body and desire to study it, was the beginning of what is known as “racial science” (BBC, 2016).  Sadly, that over sexualization has not stopped. Our young Black girls are adulting starting as young as 10 years old. Filling the gap where mom or dad may not have the bandwidth to do so. Society begins to see young Black girls as grown (even before puberty hits) and so everything they do starts to reinforce that idea…one of the most harmful effects is this over sexualization. Once the Black girl starts to blossom, this sexually pervasive phenomenon becomes even more prevalent. Thus starts the unhealthy and complicated relationship with how we see our bodies and how society views our physique. I am here to say it is your time! It is okay to love all of you, and every nook and cranny is right where God intended it to be. If others can’t handle that, it is solely their issue, not yours. Black and curvy women, we’ve got magic within us, and that includes our style. We are so unique and come in complexions, shapes and sizes than run the gamut. Strut your stuff confidently, embracing who you are and the shape you’re working with in the workplace. Break those glass ceilings and stereotypes, one fire outfit at a time. Auntie Maxine said we’re reclaiming our time. I don’t know about you but that’s just what I intend to do. 

(Khalilah Jones, Owner, Chic & Classy Image Consulting with Congresswoman Maxine Waters; Photo: Writer’s own)

5. Allies and Advocates 

To make change happen, we need allies in the workplace who stand with us. Ally is an action word! Allies, it’s essential to speak up when you see these injustices happening. Together, we can create more inclusive and diverse spaces that truly appreciate and celebrate everyone’s unique beauty and style while simultaneously crushing goals!

6. Embrace the Unapologetic You! 

In 2023 and beyond, it’s all about embracing the whole “you”, unapologetically. Let’s continue to slay, shine, and inspire others to do the same. Wear your hair with pride, rock those outfits that make you feel amazing, ditch the moomoo and ill-fitting baggy clothes and never let anyone dim your light. We are no longer willfully suppressing ourselves in deference to the comfortability of others. 

(Alicia Trice, Pretrial Officer; Photo: Self captured)

So, to sum it up – we are no longer tolerating the over policing of Black and curvy women for their clothes and hair in the workplace. It has impacted how we show up and who we show up as. Perhaps more importantly, it has impacted how we view one another, in essence, using this societal “ruler” to measure one another against. AHT AHT. We bring so much beauty, flair, and talent to the table. Let’s celebrate that, empower each other, and push for workplaces that appreciate us for who we are – impactful, innovative, inspiring and indispensable! 

 

Stylishly yours,

Black Women unapologetically slaying the workforce while defying stereotypes

 

 

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Vinegar Hill Magazine is a space that is designed to support and project a more inclusive social narrative, to promote entrepreneurship, and to be a beacon for art, culture, and politics in Central Virginia.

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