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My-Cherie

My-Cherie

Last weekend, I arrived at Hotel Alden in Houston, TX, for my fall season photo shoot. I walked into the hotel room, confident and kinky. The stylist, who will remain unnamed, gave me one stern look with a pointy finger and said, “You are not going to keep your hair like that, right? You know you can’t make any money with your hair like that. I mean, you do want to work in this fashion industry, right?”

I got called out! How did I get myself in this complicated situation?

For every season in the fashion industry, there are new photos to be taken and new looks to be achieved. For this fall, I was in desperate need of new photos. My agency in Houston set me up with an internationally known stylist and photographer. I was very excited about getting new photos, especially because clients like to see fresh faces and new looks.

My-Cherie

My-Cherie wearing her hair straight at the Houston photo shoot.

Living in Austin, I can walk into a room with my kinky hair and get nothing but love. So what was I to do with this blunt stylist, who took it upon himself to call me out. This stylist has been in the industry for 18 years, and has worked with everyone from Tyra Banks to Heidi Klum to Iman, and the list goes on and on.

He broke it down for me like this: “In the fashion industry, if you want to make REAL money, you wear your hair straight. It doesn’t matter how you do it. Whether it’s weave, wigs, perm or press, the straight look is high fashion.” He then professed, “Tyra Banks is the biggest money maker right now. She may wear her straight weave, but she is going to let you know that she has corn-rolls up under all that hair. Now that’s a strong black women. You can still be nappy, black and beautiful when you are at home, but when you are working in this industry, it’s a totally different story. Beautiful to 'them' is a white girl with a tan and straight hair, which equals an African-American. You are not African, like supermodel, Alec. You are African-American. If 'they' want African, they will get a real African. Girl, take it from me, it does not pay to be stubborn in this industry. It is what it is.”

Wow! Hmmm . . . I had to pause for a minute and really ponder all this information that had been bestowed upon me. Boy, did I get a reality check. I was heartbroken. My kinky hair is so endearing to me. But when it comes down to it, I know that I am cheating myself by refusing to wear my hair straight. I’ve gotten a lot of work with my kinky hair, but I’ve also missed out on a lot of work. I hear it from my agents all the time, “Can’t you straighten your hair, please. The client really likes you but won’t book you unless your hair is straight.”

My-Cherie

My-Cherie wearing her hair kinky at the Houston photo shoot.

Why do I always feel like I’m in a Catch 22? I want to stay true to me. But does it mean that if I wear my hair straight I will be losing my identity. Or is it an honest compromise? I mean, isn’t that what life is all about — compromise and sacrifice for the good of all? I don’t want to sacrifice my hair for more money, do I?

There aren't that many guarantees in life, but one thing is for sure — change. Change is inevitable. So after heartfelt prayer and mediation, I’ve decided that I’m going to bring change into my life. The straight wig has retired, but that doesn’t mean I can’t invest in some “Tyra” hair. I can wear my straight look whenever I’m doing high fashion work.

For my commercial look, clients are all about the natural these days, so I can sport my kinky hair. That’s the best of both worlds. I’m still being true to myself; I’m just adapting to the situation.

No matter what, I’m still My-Cherie — natural, truthful, strong and free; full of life for all to see.

0 Comments
I'm not surprised at the stylist comments. The only thing that will fix this dilemma is a mass rebellion, from African-American models and us-the African-American consumers. If we use our spending power to tell the industry that the "straighthair = beauty" no longer flies then and only then will things change.
Your natural hair is gorgeous! I understand the personal dilemma you face, but the modeling world makes me so upset. While the stylist sees it as the way things are and simply what you have to do to get ahead in that profession, I think the implications are far greater. For every black model that is forced to wear straight hair for a shoot, black women across the country are subtly being told that their natural hair is not beautiful, that they too must straighten their hair to fit in. It makes me angry that that brand of racism is so openly accepted and supported.

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