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Paul Orfalea and Kinko’s: A Surprising Hair Inspiration

Paul Orfalea, Founder of Kinko’s

Yesterday between analyzing data and washing my hair, I watched “The One Percent”, a documentary by Jamie Johnson (heir of the Johnson & Johnson estate) on social class in the United States. One colorful personality covered in the documentary was Paul Orfalea, the founder of Kinko’s. I’ve wondered about the Kinko’s name because it sounds like kinky but I didn’t think much of it.

Well, it turns out that the Kinko’s name came about because Mr. Orfalea has very kinky hair (let’s just say that an alternate name was Pubo…I’ll let you figure out the origin of that) and was teased about it. Talk about making the best out of a situation. I found it interesting that Mr. Orfalea didn’t shy away from this unique character trait (he was in Santa Barbara, CA when he founded Kinko’s. Demographic data suggests that kinky hair would have been an anomaly), rather, he embraced it and used it to his benefit.
As I type this in my car, I look at my reflection in the rear view mirror. Just this morning, I asked my husband if my freshly-washed double-strand twists made me look like a pickaninny (I blow-dried my hair before I twisted it and the extra length gave me a different look). Yes, those were the exact words I used. I have a meeting today with several colleagues and they present themselves as having conservative, White backgrounds. In other words, thinking about this meeting made me wonder if I looked “hyper-ethnic”. I coined that term (I think) to refer to the sensation I sometimes get when I feel like a neon light is shining on me and highlighting how different I look, think, act, speak, etc.. Now, I try to figure out how to turn that agita into positive energy. Yes, I have the negative thoughts but then, I say, “Girl, this is who you are and how you look, OWN IT”. Who knows, my “Kinko’s” may be just around the corner.
Have you ever felt hyper-ethnic in a professional or social setting? Please, share your stories!
  • Jeanne J. Holmes

    Yes, I've felt hyper-ethnic in professional settings. I decided to go natural during my last semester of college (1997) but was highly advised by family members, friends, and uninvited strangers that I couldn't get hired in Corporate America with any type of natural style (including braids). So I delayed my big chop until 3 months into landing an HR position within a national insurance carrier. My twa proved to be a HUGE shock for my co-workers and boss. I'd often get comments like, "So what are you going to do with your hair in the future?" — as if my twa wasn't a completed style. Well, I kept it for 5 years before growing it out. Fast forward several years and you'll see that I pressed my hair for all of my interviews that followed. I still get worried about looking "hyper-ethnic" and don't want to give any reason for them not to hire me. I still walk in the door with my natural 2-strand twists on the first day of work, but I'm still insecure about the biases of natural hair— even in 2011. Even with an advanced degree under my belt, I still battle with feelings of insecurity about my choice to embrace my natural beauty. Thanks for sharing your ongoing journey, Tina! ~ Jeanne Holmes

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Tracee Ellis Ross: Hair Idol!

In a recent article I wrote for the Washington Post, I shared that Tracee Ellis Ross was (still is!) one of my hair idols. Why? Well, one look at this slide show of her hairstyles and you’ll see why. Ms. Ellis Ross manages to look uniquely quirky, elegant, stylish and gorgeous while ROCKING her natural hair. Go Ms. Ellis Ross!

See the slide show at Essence.com: http://bit.ly/Npdzko

  • Samara

    She was my hair idol too! When I went natural,and realized my hair wasn't anything like hers I was utterly disappointed. Talk about a reality check.

  • topie

    Samara, you are preaching! The thing is, we ALL have to come to grips with our own hair (and our own selves) so that we love, LOVE, LOVE it! Not an easy task but so necessary!

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Essence Magazine and Essence.com


Given my personal hair evolution, I’m keenly attuned to depictions of natural hair in the popular press. I must say that Essence magazine has impressed me of late. I received the January 2012 edition (Queen Latifah looks radiant on the cover) and I was delighted to see an article by Tasha Turner entitled, “Growing out a relaxer: Caring for your strands”. The three-page spread covers everything from transition do’s to styles for the in-between stage, to hair care products. The article seems particularly helpful for people opting not to do the Big Chop.

Further, I went to essence.com and I was greeted by a beautiful photo montage on 2011: The Year in Natural Hair.
I don’t work for Essence and I didn’t receive anything for blogging about this. I just want to give credit, where credit is due. Happy Saturday!

IMAGE: http://bit.ly/PT58Ud
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Should: A Dirty Word?

Should. A word with only six letters but such far-reaching implications. Lately, I’ve been asking myself why I do the things that I do. Far too often, my answer is “because I should”. Not “because I want to”, “because I like this”, “because it’s a good thing to do” but “because I should”. Hmm. For some reason, that’s just not getting it for me anymore.

How is this related to hair? Well, I think that many people sport their current hairstyles because it’s what they think they should do to please their Momma, Daddy, friends, boyfriends, girlfriends, bosses or some invisible “they” lurking out there in general society. I recently interviewed several college students about this very issue. The discussion revealed that they, and likely many others, spend at least an hour a day so that they (and particularly their hair) can look like they “should”. Sometimes they don’t want to, sometimes they don’t feel like it, but yet and still, they rise earlier from their beds to ensure that they look the way that they “should”.
I am not saying that “should” doesn’t have a place. BUT, doesn’t it feel better when you go running because you want to feel the wind in your face versus when you feel obligated to go?Think about that! Ask yourself, when was the last time that you did something because you truly enjoyed it NOT because it’s what you should have done?
Isn’t enough, enough? Let’s say we all start spending more time doing things because we want to rather than because we should. I know I’m looking forward to release from the bondage of “should”.
IMAGE: http://bit.ly/MmuLWZ
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Henna: It Should NEVER Be Black

In my blog post “Dying to Dye” I talked about the fact that henna and other plant-based dyes don’t contain PPD. Well, did you know that there is something called “Black Henna” that does contain PPD?

Henna is not supposed to be black (here is a resource that answers quite a few questions about henna: http://www.hennapage.com/henna/ppd/index.html). I learned that henna is not supposed to be black during a recent, local international culture fair. A henna tattoo artist was there and so my children and I all got tattoos (they last about a week). During the application, the tattoo artist implored me to NEVER use Black Henna because it is poisonous and contains harmful irritants. She added that if I did use Black Henna I’d likely get terrible skin issues. This kind woman’s advice coupled with website information I’ve found have convinced me: folks, stay away from black henna on your skin and hair.
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Dying to Dye

I used to dye my hair when I had dreadlocks. I wanted to lighten my locks so that they looked “sun-kissed”. I loved the look; however, I quickly stopped dyeing my hair because it didn’t make any sense to spend that amount of money on my hair when I was living on a meager graduate student stipend in New York (well, I WAS married at the time and my husband was my Sugar Daddy! But, you get my point!). I no longer dye my hair and a recent flurry of events make me even happier with my decision to stop the dyeing habit. In fact, I’m now afraid to use do-it-yourself hair dye kits.

I used to dye my hair when I had dreadlocks. I wanted to lighten my locks so that they looked “sun-kissed”. I loved the look; however, I quickly stopped dyeing my hair because it didn’t make any sense to spend that amount of money on my hair when I was living on a meager graduate student stipend in New York (well, I WAS married at the time and my husband was my Sugar Daddy! But, you get my point!). I no longer dye my hair and a recent flurry of events make me even happier with my decision to stop the dyeing habit. In fact, I’m now afraid to use do-it-yourself hair dye kits.

Several weeks ago a British teen eventually died in a hospital after first collapsing minutes after a do-it-yourself hair dyeing episode (Read more here). The teen, Tabatha McCourt, was apparently an avid hair-dyer who loved to experiment with different hair colors. It appears that Ms. McCourt had a severe allergic reaction to Paraphenylenediamine (PPD) a chemical widely used in hair dyes (this article talks about the teen, another woman who had a severe allergic reaction and provides detailed information about PPD. Here is some information on PPD from the Center for Disease Control (http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/ipcsneng/neng0805.html).

I am not a chemist, but it sounds like this stuff is noxious though it’s been deemed safe as long as it doesn’t touch the scalp. Wait a minute? How in the world can you dye your hair without any of the hair dye touching your scalp? That seems IMPOSSIBLE! Aren’t the roots the main target of hair dyeing? It seems like we need to look into the safety of hair dye. I’m not the only one who thinks this is fishy. According to the British Medical Journal (2007): “Wider debate on the safety and composition of hair dyes is overdue—among medical and scientific communities, the public, and legislators. Cultural and commercial pressures to dye hair and, perhaps, the widespread obsession with the “culture of youth” are putting people at risk and increasing the burden on health services. It may not be easy to reverse these trends, however, as some patients have continued to use such dyes even when advised that they are allergic to them and risk severe reactions”  (http://1.usa.gov/NzlOsF).

Severe reactions that can lead to death. Folks, if you dye your hair or know of anyone who does, please be careful. I understand that natural henna and other plant-based dyes don’t contain PPD. Again, I’m not an expert so please, check with your stylist, better yet your doctor.

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The North More Hospitable to Natural Hair?

Over Thanksgiving, our family had the pleasure of hosting two Southern Belles, both residing from Tennessee. During one of our many conversations, we talked about our hair. I was curious to hear about what folks in their hometown thought about their natural hair. “They don’t like it”, they chorused, “especially the men”. I’m not surprised, but I was intrigued by their musings that it’s more acceptable to wear natural hair in the North than in the South.

Over Thanksgiving, our family had the pleasure of hosting two Southern Belles, both residing from Tennessee. They are beautiful, Black young women who’ve both decided to don their natural tresses. I love to spend time with young women, they are so fresh, full of life…wait, I am too! Still, they remind me of myself 20 years ago and I love the fact that my profession allows me to so readily connect with such wonderful people.
During one of our many conversations, we talked about our hair. The three of us silently acknowledged that we’ve all chosen a path that, though increasingly accepted nowadays, can lead to resistance. The three of us also share Southern roots. I grew up in Alexandria, VA. Technically that is the South but anyone who’s been there knows that it feels different than the Deep South. My Southern roots were gained from my parents, my Father grew up in Arkansas and Tennessee, my Mom in Georgia and Florida. This explains my penchant for hot sauce (yes, I’ve been known to carry a bottle of hot sauce in my purse in order to doctor up meals that salt and pepper cannot salvage).
Okay, back to my conversation with the young ladies. I was curious to hear about what folks in their hometown thought about their natural hair. “They don’t like it”, they chorused, “especially the men”. I’m not surprised, but I was intrigued by their musings that it’s more acceptable to wear natural hair in the North than in the South. This thought had flitted through my mind in the past but I’d never allowed it to nest. Could this be true? What do you all think? I realize that people all over the globe encounter issues of hair acceptance when it comes to natural hair. If you are not from the United States, I’d love to hear your perspective as well about your own hair experiences.

Image found at: http://www.tableof4please.com/2010_02_01_archive.html

  • Shakena.Renee

    Hmm I find that crazy!! Also a VA native (however from the central/southern area) I rarely know anyone that doesnt have natural hair anymore! With that said….it wasn't until I went to school in MD/DC (which is only about 2 hours away i know lol) that I saw the FLOOD of the natural movement. Ive been natural for about 3-4 years now, although I don't have the thicker hair texture. I personally find it annoying anywhere that I go that people refuse to believe that I'm black because my hair isnt as much kinky as it is curly and soft. Furthermore….I get the side eye regardless *shrug*

  • topie

    Hi Shakena.Renee, thanks for your comment! I know, isn't this crazy? Sorry to hear that you've encountered the, "You're not black if you…" attitude. Whether it's hair, skin tone, speech (proper English rendered me "not Black enough") there are so many things that folks use to categorize. Glad to see you standing up for who you are and not falling prey to others' definition of you. Bravo! Please keep coming back and commenting!

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Tim Okamura’s “Loading” BLEW ME AWAY

If you are anything like me, you are blown away by this image. My picture doesn’t do justice to Tim Okamura’s painting called “Loading”. For more information on Mr. Okamura, please see his website and his FaceBook page. Yesterday, I took my daughter and her friend to the Davis Museum at Wellesley College. WOW!! If you are in the Boston area I strongly encourage you to visit.

If you are anything like me, you are blown away by this image. My picture doesn’t do justice to Tim Okamura’s painting called “Loading”. For more information on Mr. Okamura, please see his website and his FaceBook page.
Yesterday, I took my daughter and her friend to the Davis Museum at Wellesley College. WOW!! If you are in the Boston area I strongly encourage you to visit. When I first saw “Loading” I gasped. First, I’ve never seen contemporary art depicting African-American women with natural hair in a museum before. Not in this way. I thought, “HEY!!! That is me!”. What an exhilirating feeling to see world class art that depicts people who look like you. Second, the twin’s hair is absolutely GORGEOUS! Can you say chunky twist-out and afro from heaven?!
Mr. Okamura, I haven’t yet met you but I need to! :)
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Skin, hair/pencil test and other crazy proof needed for acceptance

I am watching “Skin” a movie starring Sophie Okonedo (she plays the main character Sandra) that takes place in apartheid South Africa. In a poignant scene from the movie, Sandra is taken before government officials and subjected to inspection to determine her ethnicity. What is the first thing the inspector does? Takes his fingers and rubs her hair between his hands. The second thing he does? Puts a pencil into her tresses and asks her to shake her head. The object of this pencil test? To determine if the pencil would fall out; thereby identifying her as white. Wow!


I am watching “Skin” a movie starring Sophie Okonedo (she plays the main character Sandra) that takes place in apartheid South Africa. Here’s a link about the movie: http://www.skinthemovie.net/site/and here is a brief description of the movie that I found on Amazon.com:

Despite being born to Afrikaner parents, Sandra faces prejudice from her community due to her dark skin and African features. Torn between her family and the man she loves, Sandra must overcome the racial intolerance of her society in this uplifting true story. Starring Sophie Okonedo and Sam Neill. Based on the best-selling book “When She was White” by Judith Stone.

In a poignant scene from the movie, Sandra is taken before government officials and subjected to inspection to determine her ethnicity. What is the first thing the inspector does? Takes his fingers and rubs her hair between his hands. The second thing he does? Puts a pencil into her tresses and asks her to shake her head. The object of this pencil test? To determine if the pencil would fall out; thereby identifying her as white. Wow! I couldn’t help but be reminded of the paper bag test (allegedly used by historically black sororities to determine if members could join; those with skin darker than the paper bag could hang it up: NO admission for darker-skinned people).
I am literally watching the movie at the same time that I’m typing this post. My heart is breaking as another scene shows Sandra powdering her face with what might as well be baby powder. Even her mother says, “You look as white as a ghost”. Oh my dear. I hope that we once come to appreciate beauty of all shades, sizes and curls. Maybe one day.



  • topie

    Oh boy, I'm getting to the point where I think she's about to fall in love with a Black man. Wow! This movie is DEEP!!!!!!!

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DrTinaOpie.com about to launch! Stay tuned!

Hello everyone,
I wanted to share that I have been working on several things related to my research on hair and identity. I am excited to say that over the coming weeks I’ll be migrating from Blogger to my own website: DrTinaOpie.com. Whew-hew!!!! The website will house my blog, research, news relevant to hair and identity and other topics of interest. Please stay tuned. Thanks to all of you for making this blog such a success. I cannot wait to see what the future holds.
P.S.: A week later, I am still rocking my twist-outs that I styled with Doris New York (DNY) products. I am thrilled because my hair is soft, moisturized and pliant. Perhaps my old straw hair has gone bye-bye?! I do believe that my sisters and Mommy will be getting DNY products for Christmas! Ok, enough on my hair.
My twist-out a week later
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