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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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