One might ask, ‘is race-based hair discrimination a thing?’ Well, in her LinkedIn live on Bias Against Black Women with Natural Hair, Professor Ashleigh Rosette from Duke university’s Fuqua business school argues that hair discrimination is indeed a thing.

One might further ask whether this is not an isolated American or Western thing. In the University of Pretoria’s public lecture: At Crossroads: Reimaging Management Sciences and Inclusivity, Professor Stella Nkomo points out that with hair being a particular marker of a woman’s beauty, it is incredulous that race-based hair discrimination is a thing, particularly in Africa. The lecture was based on a 2020 Clicks advert for Tresemme haircare products which labelled black women’s hair as ‘dry and damaged’ and ‘frizzy and dull,While highlighting white women’s hair as ‘normal’ and ‘fine and flat.’ This certainly caused a nationwide outcry against the advert as this was not the first time that such disdain and classification was expressed towards black women’s hair in South Africa.

In 2016 black students at Pretoria girls high school recalled being told that their natural hair was ‘unladylike and ‘untidy’ among other things, which included writing exams if they did not ‘fix’ their hair. More recently, in 2021, black learners of Cornwall Hill College in Pretoria recalled a teacher saying, ‘your hair is unrepresentable, messy, and it is not the Cornwall way.’

I personally recall learning how to braid my hair in high school because a teacher told me to ‘make sure that your hair is neat when you come to school tomorrow’ all because I had gone with my small natural afro to school that day. I now don beautiful thick dreadlocks, but it took me some time to get confidence in how my hair naturally grows out of my scalp.

I imagine many others must negotiate between their ‘true self’ and what the mainstream deems ‘neat’, ‘tidy’, and even ‘professional’. Most of the scientific literature that examines race-based hair discrimination and hair bias against black women is conducted in the United States of America through empirical research, and increasingly in the United Kingdom through the lens of professional identity. Very few studies capture the lived experiences of black women to find out how this discrimination negatively impacts their perception of themselves and the strategies they use to overcome these deeply entrenched and persistent messages that their hair is not good enough. I wanted to fill this gap in my own research because when people share their experiences, they experience a sense of belonging which may lend a hand in what Dr Doyin Atewologun puts as ‘repairing and strengthening their stigmatized identities.’

Therefore, my PhD looks at black African women occupying professional positions in Corporate. The research examines their experiences of race-based hair discrimination, manifesting from the intersections of race, gender, and social class throughout their lives. The hair discrimination against them is attributed to the legacies of colonialism, apartheid, and patriarchy. The study uses a socio-political-historical lens to investigate Black African women’s professional and personal identities concerning their hair.

Similarly, my research in the U.S. builds on the CROWN Act. It explores hairstyle bias against Black women by looking at the connections between the societal forces which determine and sustain hair bias, work group dynamics which may act against black women and black women’s experiences of hairstyle bias on their identities.

This research lays the foundation for a path of study that responds to the negative impact on black women’s subjective view of their value in the world and the negative effect on how they navigate their schooling and, later, workplace systems and structures.

Hello 2023!

I forget how energised and inspired I usually feel at this time of the year following the much-needed family time at home in the Eastern Cape during those one-and-a-half month-long December holidays. This year was very different for me. I had a 2-week long ‘winter break’ where I spent the first week trying to recuperate in bed from exhaustion in frigid Nashville. I spent the second week touring around New York – thankfully during a visit from my partner, who brought a feeling of South African comfort that I desperately needed after five months abroad. Much of my New York adventures were on foot, and so while the experience was incredible, I was exhausted when I arrived back in Nashville. Not the same relaxing family time that I would normally have had over December back home.

One of the hallmarks of being a Fulbright visiting student researcher is the opportunity to engage in invaluable cultural exchange experiences; I am grateful to do that during this time nine months that I am spending in the USA. When I’m not travelling through the USA, and instead have to knuckle down and get some work done, an average day entails a strict morning routine, block times for research throughout the day, and relaxed evenings. This vlog depicts an honest glimpse into a day in my life as a Fulbright researcher living in the USA, my apartment, my morning routine, and the stressful but exciting deadline leading up to my first international article submission.

The schedule on January 5th evolved slightly from its typical; let me explain.

Morning routine

I usually set my alarm for 05:45 in summer and 06:00 in winter and follow a strict routine until around 08:30. I always put my phone on the furthest table away from my bed because it forces me to get out of bed to switch the alarm off. I have a 10–15-minute quiet time first thing in the morning. As a former track and field athlete, I love doing a 30-minute or more home workout while listening to the radio. It’s a great way to energise, inform and prepare me for the day. I then drink my vitamins, shower, and make a straightforward breakfast of oats and coffee, which I eat while listening to a podcast episode. My current go-to is the Goop podcast. Once ready, I head to the library to start my work which is usually divided into set blocks of time. That makes my day significantly more productive.


The first slump of the day is at 12:30, so I usually go back home to eat and take a 40-minute nap. At 14:00, I wake up, drink a final cup of coffee for the day, and proceed to get through more work till 17:00. I prefer doing this work from my apartment, mostly out of habit, but also to maintain my workflow in cases where I have to continue working till later than expected.


At 17:00 I usually attend an extramural activity like choir, or a walk at the centennial park. When I’m in South Africa, these extramural activities also include pottery classes. Once I get back, I prepare a light dinner and binge on some YouTube videos, which over the last week has included the ‘day in my life’ vlogs of my fellow SAYAS bloggers. I begin winding down at 21:00 by gratitude journaling and filling out my planner for the following day, and once that is done, I head to bed.

Amongst all this structure, I have had to update my routine to make my transition to the States easier. I anticipate reshuffling and adjusting it once again upon my return to South Africa.