Hair As Identity Menu


Dr. Opie publishes new article in Fashion Studies Journal

Hello everyone, I recently published an article in the inaugural issue of Fashion Studies, a new peer-reviewed journal published by Ryerson University. Specifically, the fabulous Dr. Ben Barry and Dr. Alison Matthews David serve as co-editors. According to the journal’s website (

Fashion Studies is an open-access academic journal in fashion that celebrates multiple ways of knowing and sharing that knowledge.

Yes! Sign me up! My article is entitled, “Let My Hair Be Me: An Investigation of Employee Authenticity and Organizational Appearance Policies Through the Lens of Black Women’s Hair” ( In the article, I: 1) explore how organizational appearance policies, though seemingly innocuous, may conflict with efforts to encourage employee authenticity; 2) delve into the intersectional experiences of Black women in the workplace; and, 3) discuss how what we wear to work relates to uniforms!

The woman depicted in the article (and below!) is Ms. Petra Lewis, a blogger and friend that I met years ago while conducting research interviews. Shout out to Kevin Ryan for taking the amazing pictures!

Petra Lewis, Blogger & Entrepreneur
Photo Credits: Kevin Ryan

Also appearing in the issue are topics as varied as the origins of fashion mannequins and the relationship between fashion and race. Check it out!

Please share your thoughts on the article. Does your organization have appearance policies? What do you think about them? I look forward to hearing your thoughts!

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I’m baaaaaccckkkk!

Hello everyone, as I mentioned before, I have been on hiatus as I pursued tenure. Good news! I am now an Associate Professor of Management!

Newly tenured professors Drs. Tosti-Kharas and Opie.
We started at NYU-Stern and are now at Babson College.
I am so excited that we received tenure at the same time…couldn’t have happened with a nicer person.

I am also preparing for sabbatical for the coming academic year. Hallelujah! I now have time to refocus on! Yes!

I have missed you all and look forward to many future conversations. Please drop me a line or leave a comment letting me know what topics you would like to explore. Thank you and talk soon!

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Sundial Brands broadens product offerings to include Madame CJ Walker Beauty Culture- in Sephora Stores NOW

Sundial Brands

I absolutely love the fact that Sundial Brands is broadening its product offering to include not only Shea Moisture and Nubian Heritage but NOW Madame CJ Walker Beauty Culture is available in Sephora Stores!  YES!!!!

Listen here as NPR’s Marketplace shares the details.  Congratulations to Ms. Mary Dennis, Richelieu Dennis, Nyema Tubman, and the rest of the Sundial team.

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How Living Abroad Pushed me to Become Natural Again by Alex, a contributor

As a southern belle growing up in the deep-south in the 80s, relaxing my hair was the cultural norm. Like most little girls in Memphis, I had my first relaxer at age five. My dear sweet mom did not know how to braid or twist my hair so wearing a relaxer was the only option for me. Plus, I have really thick, “kinky hair” and there was no way my mom was going to struggle to press my hair. I clearly remember the skin burns and burnt scalps I got from the hot comb straightening out my “kitchen”.

Going to beauty salon was the solution to my mom’s problems and quickly became our mother-daughter ritual until high school. We enjoyed flipping through the Dudley hair magazines to see the latest trends before our next six weeks touch up. However, the day I left for boarding school in a remote, predominately white town in New Hampshire, my hair took a turn for the worse. Now, I had to survive on my own and learn how to relax and care for my hair. Yikes! My classmates and I played kitchen beautician and did each other’s hair. I am sure we did some hair damage along the way.

My hair journey got better during my college years in New Orleans where I started to experiment with natural hair and did my first big chop. I had just returned from my internship in Connecticut and decided to cut off my hair after being inspired by another intern. One day, I was at home in the bathroom slowly cutting out my braids and was anxious to reunite with the natural hair that I had abandoned since childhood. I was bold and ready to free myself from the bondage of the relaxer.

Being natural was a time of rediscovery and self love. I enjoyed rushing to the mirror to measure my hair monthly. Twists outs, braids, and Bantu knots were my go to hairstyles and I had even tried locking my hair for a brief period. However, my personal natural hair movement came to an immediate halt when I got married and started working for corporate America. I quickly felt pressured to conform to the relaxed hair regime.

However, life took another turn and in 2010 I returned to my natural self. As my husband and I prepared to travel to Honduras with two kids in tow, the first thing that I stressed about was how I was going to do my relaxed hair in Latin America. When you have relaxed hair, finding the right salon is imperative, especially in cities with small black populations. I searched throughout Tegucigalpa where we lived, and finally I found “ a black hair salon”, which was a blessing and a curse. Located deep in the “barrio”/hood of Honduras with lots of reggeton and salsa music, “Maria’s Sala de Belleza” as I shall say, was a black girl’s heaven. It was the one safe place where a black woman could easily get a Dominican blow out without the mean stairs or was refused service for having “cabello malo”, which means bad hair in English as is a racist term. “Maria”, my new found black hair stylist, over- relaxed my hair and did not rinse out all of my Mizani relaxer that I had bought from the United States.

Maria’s lack of running water and poor relaxing skills led to my hair eventually falling out. My hair was weak and my scalp was always burning after a retouch. I should have run for the door as soon as I saw the bucket of water that was used to rinse my hair. I knew better, but was blinded by the fact that “Maria” was a black hair stylist. Wearing braids was the only way to go until my natural hair grew out.

Since then, I have worn my hair natural and will never go back to a relaxer. In developing countries, the salon industry is so unregulated that you do not know who you can trust with chemicals. My frustrations with hair and finding good products on the local market in Honduras led me to form my cosmetic distribution company, Marina Bella Imports. I currently represent four major U.S. brands in the United States, Honduras, and Rwanda: Luster Products, Cortex Professional, and GK Hair, and my own exclusive line of Passion Remy Indian Human Hair. I did not want future women of color to visit salons with bad products and hair stylists. Now that I work in the hair industry, I have learned how to better care for my hair and teach other hair stylist in developing countries how to properly use chemicals.

As for as hair maintenance, I keep it very simple. I wash my hair once a week with GK Hair Professional, Color Protection Moisturizing Shampoo and Conditioner. I also deep condition my hair with Shea Moisture products. I apply moisturizing lotion and Olive oil daily. I love to twist or roller set my hair too.

I am very pleased with my hair growth. My hair is thick and is pass my shoulders when it is pressed out. I can do various hairstyles and updos. My bangs stretch to the bottom of my nose. Now I am wearing hair color by GK Hair Professional, and thus my hair is still healthy and strong.

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Hair News: What’s on My Mind (Pantene’s Dad-Do / Strong is Beautiful)

Hello everyone,

I’ve been busily working on several academic manuscripts, launching a new research think tank Natural Hair @ Work Day with the fabulous Terresa Hardaway and Antonia Opiah (Natural Hair @ Work Day is coming in July 2016, check it out here: all while doing my best to be a good wife, Mom, daughter, sister and volunteer (when did life get so busy)!  Nevertheless, I’ve had a lot on my mind!

For one, I LOVE the new Pantene commercial “Strong is Beautiful” featuring NFL players giving their daughters “Dad-Dos” (how cute is that?!).  ABC News provides a lovely extended version where Benjamin Watson (Tight End for the New Orleans Saints) is with his beautiful daughters and states, “She’s going to really judge all men by how I treat her and so it’s important for me to connect with them and do things that they want to do.  Whether it’s doing their hair, whether it’s riding bikes…it’s about connecting and showing them that they’re important.”  (around 1:17)

Here’s the 30-second version from Pantene’s website:

I think that Pantene has done a phenomenal job illustrating that hair is an important way to bond with our little girls.  Watch out! Daddy-Dos coming to the playground near you!

Check back soon to talk about hair in Beyonce’s latest video (Formation)!


Isis Brantley: Entrepreneur and Trailblazer WINS hairbraiding case

Isis Brantley, an entrepreneur and trailblazer for natural hair

Isis Brantley, an entrepreneur and trailblazer for natural hair (image found on

I am thrilled that Isis Brantley won her lawsuit and is now able to braid hair without unnecessary government regulation.  I find it deeply troubling that the state of Texas would bring suit against a woman who is doing what Black women have done for centuries: braid the hair of other women in the community.  Are ancient cultural practices protected from government regulations?   Hairbraiders are entrepreneurs and Black women have long used hairbraiding as a path for economic gain, perhaps when they were unable to or chose not to obtain employment in the larger economy.  Since money is involved, must these practices be controlled by the government?  That is a troubling thought.

According to the Institute for Justice website (, the state of Texas began regulating hair braiders in 2007; and, in a seemingly unwise move, subsumed hairbraiding licenses under the state’s barbering regulation.  This decision would have forced Ms. Brantley to install barber chairs, almost double the size of her business and install sinks (ironically, in Texas hair braiders cannot offer services that need sinks).  Additionally, Ms. Brantley would have had to invest up to 750 hours learning to be a barber instructor, and passing exams related to barbering.  Seriously?!  What’s next?  Are we going to force the women who bake and sell cakes for the church to become licensed caterers?

Thanks goodness Ms. Brantley pursued justice.  Not only did the court rule the barbering requirements as unconstitutional for hairbraiding schools (January 2015) but, the legislature fully deregulated natural hairbraiding in Texas (June 2015).

Ms. Brantley, I salute you.  You are a trailblazer for natural hair and for justice.

Sources that discuss Ms. Brantley’s experience:

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Sundial Brands (SheaMoisture and Nubian Heritage) partners with Bain Capital

A little under a week ago, September 2nd to be exact, Sundial Brands announced a partnership with Bain Capital.  Sundial owns such popular natural hair brands as SheaMoisture and Nubian Heritage.


Here, Sundial describes its partnership with Bain Capital:

“Today, Sundial Brands, announced an historic and exciting partnership with Bain Capital to bring the firm on as a minority, non-control investor in our company. As we approach our 25th year in business, this begins another transformative chapter in our story – a story that our community of employees, consumers, retail partners and many more are writing along with us. So, we wanted all of you to hear straight from us why we made the decision. Quite simply, we want to be better so that we can serve our communities better. Period. But we thought you might want a few more details as well, so here are some of the key reasons why this is such an incredible opportunity for us – and you!”

The website goes on to provide 10 reasons SundialBrands chose a new partner.  Feedback on social media seems largely positive.  For some, the partnership with Bain will allow SunDial to reach more consumers, broaden the brand’s reach, and, hopefully, generate additional revenue.  However, some bristle because Bain Capital was founded by Mitt Romney.  In essence, some may perceive Bain Capital as a Republican haven and think that the firm cannot properly handle a natural hair brand.  Articles in the Wall Street Journal and the Boston Globe provide additional context on the partnership and Bain Capital.

What are your thoughts?  Is it it a good move for Sundial Brands to partner with Bain Capital?  Why or why not?

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Hair penalties: The negative influence of Afrocentric hair on ratings of Black women’s dominance and professionalism

Hi everyone,

I’m proud to announce that my co-author, Kathy Phillips, and I recently learned that our paper on Afrocentric hair and professionalism has been accepted in an academic journal called Frontiers in Psychology.  Here is a link to the abstract:

You can also download the full article PDF on that page.


More and more women are donning their natural hair in the workplace.

Many of us may be aware of the international phenomenon where women are embracing their natural hair.  In our paper, we found that Afrocentric hair is rated as less professional than Eurocentric hair.  Honestly, this was no surprise given societal norms.  However, of particular interest to us was that, when evaluating Afrocentric hair, Black people were harsher than White people.  Read the full paper to understand why.  Please share your thoughts on natural hair in the workplace on the blog or my Facebook page at




  • Mia

    Congratulations on the acceptance of your paper on such an important topic!

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Camping, bears and my new do

Hi everyone,

As you may recall, I got another big chop when my hair was damaged by a flat iron.  This short curly do has come in handy this week as I planned to camp with my hubby at a few national parks.  Ok, I confess, I’m NOT a “roughing it” kind of girl.  Sooooo, when we pulled up to our cabin (Laurel Hill State Park) the other night I loved the gorgeous natural scenery but I was taken aback to realize that there was no bathroom, no shower, no water in our unit (public showers down the road a bit).

Laurel hill state park cabins in woods- 555b62e8b2661.image

Wow.  But it was game over for your girl, the woods and this whole camping idea when someone spotted a BIG bear (Blue Knob State Park).  The park ranger made matters worse when she said, “Well, don’t run” when I asked what we should do if we crossed paths with the bear.

PA bear

HA, camping trip over, we booked the next few nights at a Best Western.

So, what does this have to do with hair?  Well, I can honestly say that aside from a dousing with water and a dab of gel, I haven’t thought about my hair one bit.  The freedom NOT to think about what I’ll do with my hair if I want to take a swim or if we get caught in a downpour, or if we’re away from running water for a day…ahhhh, that has been liberating.  The swatting gnats, flies and peering onto the horizon for lumbering bear-like gaits, all while keeping my finger on the remote car lock so that I can high tail it to the car if need be, not so much.

Outside of the fear of being eaten by a bear, I’ve truly enjoyed our time in the outdoors.  Seriously, national parks are indeed a national treasure.  If you have a chance, visit one.  🙂

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