I quickly became my dad’s favorite person to brag about because of who I worked with in the NFL. Whether it was top players from the LA Rams, Tennessee Titans, San Francisco 49ers or Dallas Cowboys, and so many more. My love for sports PR began early in my career. It was unexpected, exciting and something completely out of my comfort zone. Fresh out of college, I began working with household name brands that partnered with NFL athletes year-round and I immediately fell in love with the gig.
Over the past six-plus years, I have enjoyed working in sports. But, honestly, I find myself one of the few women in the industry—let alone brown skinned. We don’t hear or even see enough stories about BIPOC women working in sports PR, which is known to be overwhelmingly male and white. Earlier in my career, I felt discouraged and didn’t quite understand how the majority of the players in the league are Black/African-Americans (57%) yet there were so few of us representing them.
Today, I see it as an opportunity.
I first realized the power and indispensable perspective I bring to this space when I worked on a campaign for a multicultural hair care brand at another PR agency. We were considering a Black/African-American athlete as our spokesperson for the campaign and my white colleague listed his “good hair” as one of the reasons why we should work with him.
While these two words — “good hair” — may seem innocent to some, the connotation of “good hair” goes far back in the Black/African-American community. “Good hair” stems from Eurocentric beauty standards, dictating coily, coarse hair as unattractive and inferior to “good hair” which is more similar to European features characterized by straighter hair, implying beauty and acceptance. This damaging mentality of “good hair” has been passed down for generations and it still influences many people’s perceptions of natural Black/African-American hair today.
I didn’t expect my white colleague to know the sensitivity around “good hair” and knew she was genuinely complimenting the athlete. She didn’t know because she didn’t have to know, it wasn’t part of her world. But it was deeply rooted in mine. It was then, I saw the power and necessity of having diverse voices in the room.
Thanks to the CROWN act we can now proudly and unapologetically wear our natural coils and curls in the workplace without the fear of discrimination. The CROWN Act, which stands for “Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural hair,” is a law that prohibits race-based hair discrimination, which is the denial of employment and educational opportunities because of hair texture or protective hairstyles including braids, locs, twists or bantu knots. This law has been passed in 24 states with only 26 more states to go!
While hair may not seem like a big deal on why representation matters in the sports and entertainment industry, it is. In the Black/African-American community, we refer to our hair as our crown — an extension of identity and expression of who we are. Solange said it best in her song Don’t Touch My Hair with the phrase, “It’s the feelings I wear.” Our hair is our glory. So, when working with Black/African-American talent, it can also be a sensitive discussion on how their hair should be for media interviews, production shoots, etc.
Hair is deeply rooted in our culture and it makes it seamless when I’m chatting with Black/African-American talent about theirs. I am able to not only relate but create a safe space for them to feel comfortable to share their hair concerns with me. Together, we’re able to find a solution that allows them to show up as they are while remaining true to their authentic selves.
Look, as a Black/African-American woman in corporate America, I get it. I find myself being off camera during virtual meetings most days, simply because I didn’t deep condition my hair the night before or have time to lay down my baby hairs (if you know, you know!) before I hopped on an early morning call.
Whether my hair is straightened or in its natural curly state. I belong.
In the words of India Arie, “I [we] are not our hair!’ Join the movement and sign the CROWN petition today!