Rethinking Black Women’s Corporate Hair
Whitley Isa usually wears her hair in braids for protective styling but that changed once the pandemic hit. Her braids turned into her natural fro, which got her thinking about her role in corporate and the way she wore her hair to work.
Isa knew she wasn’t the only Black woman that had a fear about wearing their natural hair to work, so she created the project, “Corporate Natural Hair” in 2021.
Isa was born and raised in Belgium and has Nigerian heritage.
As a part-time photographer, her project was inspired by old corporate portrait paintings where she took pictures of eight Black women in the corporate world rocking their natural hair.
“I hope my project inspires [Black women] to wear their natural hair more, if they don’t already”– Whitley Isa
Through this project, Isa learned about other Black women and the reasons they may have about wearing or not wearing their natural hair to work.
Showcasing the Beauty of Our Hair
In a project statement, Isa said she wanted to showcase the beauty of natural hair and that it is professional. On Isa’s site, each photo in the project is accompanied by a caption from the woman pictured.
Isa posted the project on LinkedIn and it went viral. Black women from around the world started to post pictures of their natural hair in the comments. Isa also received comments of gratitude for creating the project.
“I thought it would do well, but it’s at like 16,000 (likes),” said Isa.
Tsa took the pictures in a studio against a brown backdrop with a brown chair to complement their skin. Pouchka Duval Wille handled Hair and make-up.
Isa is still discovering her way in photography; she said she hasn’t found her specific style yet. She started taking pictures as a child during school field trips, which led to landscapes and now portraits. Whitley recently started watching and learning from other photographers on Youtube.
She plans to move to Brussels, which is the capital of Belgium because there she’ll only be a two-hour flight from London and an eight-hour flight from New York. This way she could take pictures in both locations and have a wide clientele.
“I want to inspire people, Black people specifically, to do what they want because we can,” said Isa.
The Corporate Natural Hair project may expand in the future.
Nyesha Stone founded Carvd N Stone in 2017 to cover positive news while attending the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Stone has a B.A. in Journalism. She has raised over $30,000 to award grants and scholarships. She has also been featured in ESSENCE and worked with the American Black Film Festival.