We Still Have a Long Way to Go — Despite the CROWN Act and many other steps moving in the direction to eliminate hair discrimination, we still have a ways to go. Many of my dear friends who are news anchors and in media are still having to press their hair everyday or if they choose to go natural, deal with viewers taunting their social media feeds or contacting the station about their hair. As I mentioned before, how they choose to wear their hair is their preference and when worn natural is not “unkempt” or “unprofessional”, so just as we attempt to unwind the systemic thought processes of many within the corporate structure and hiring when it comes to hair, it needs to happen on an individual level as well. Above all things, we all need to realize that we are human beings, that love our hair, the way it grows and how it feels. No one wants to experience hate or discrimination for a part of their body that is the core of their very essence. We just want to 100% be who we truly are.
As a part of our series about “Five Things You Need To Understand About Hair Discrimination”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Leah Frazier.
Leah is a 2-Time Emmy Award-Winning entrepreneur and is the CEO and proud owner of Think Three Media — a creative marketing and communications agency focused in the areas of content marketing, social media marketing, communications (specifically in the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion landscape) and public relations services for brands spanning the industries of fashion, beauty, food, lifestyle, and more. Leah is also a professional model who has been featured in major national campaigns, runway shows and commercial marketing projects. Above all, Leah has rocked her natural hair for the last 8 years and is loving it!
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a bit of your childhood backstory and how you grew up?
I was born and raised in Dallas, Texas. Education was very important for my family so I made sure that I worked hard and studied constantly to maintain good grades in school. Sports was always a favorite pastime of mine growing, from playing foursquare with my brother or the other kids in the neighborhood, to playing kick ball or soccer, to pickup basketball games at the court. In the sixth grade, I really honed in on my basketball skills by joining a summer recreational league, and that then escalated to me playing year-round basketball from that point on through the 12th grade for the school team, the AAU league, BCI, Hoop-It-Up 3-on-3 tournaments in the summer and more. My life was consumed with education and basketball growing up and I thank my mother for that focus because it afforded me the opportunity to attend Roberts Wesleyan College on both an athletic and educational scholarship, and I still carry that focus into my daily life now as an entrepreneur.
Can you tell us a story about what inspired you to become a natural hair advocate?
When I first began my natural hair journey, I remember being super excited about the possibilities and binge-watching so many natural hair blogger Youtube videos. As I was transitioning my hair from being chemically processed to being relaxed, I began to see my curl pattern for the first time. It was beautiful and it was coily, and yet so foreign to me. As my hair continued to grow and I began to see more curls and more of my hair in its natural form, I began to grow more and more excited about the process and how much healthier my hair would be. At the time, I was a practicing attorney and was advised that it was best that I slick my hair back into a bun because that was deemed “professional.” Heaven forbid that I wear my fro out and become a “distraction” in court. It was at this point that I became angry — angry that after 28 years (at the time), I was just now seeing how beautiful my real hair was. Angry that I was fashioned to believe that straight hair was more beautiful than my coily, curly hair. Angry that the way my hair naturally grows, was deemed by society as a “distraction” and “unprofessional”. It was at this point, that I knew I had to become an advocate and to champion those women who looked like me who were wanting to go natural — to support them, to root them on and to let them know that their natural hair was beautiful.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
I began my career as an attorney in private practice and really felt as though this was going to be my career path for life. I began taking the steps necessary to eventually become a judge or maybe even partner. Two years into practicing law, I began having dreams of fashion and styling women. It was bizarre and I didn’t think anything of it — until the dreams became more persistent and would not go away. I finally decided to take a fashion and personal styling course, and received my personal shopping certification thereafter. From there, I began my personal shopping business, which turned into fashion blogging and fashion journalism for Examiner, CBS Local and many others, to TV appearances on fashion and style, appearances at New York Fashion Week, invites to Paris Fashion Week and the list goes on. In 2015, I left my job as in-house counsel for a major financial institution to pursue my fashion ventures, which has led to me opening my own creative marketing and communications agency, Think Three Media, along with numerous awards, two Regional Emmy’s, and the list goes on and on.
As an influencer, you have been blessed with great success in a career path that many have attempted, but eventually gave up on. In fact perhaps most people who tried to follow a career path like yours did not succeed. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path but know that their dreams might be dashed?
I’ll speak from the perspective of being an entrepreneur in general. My advice would be to hone in on your “why” and always keep that at the forefront of your mind. Even at the end of the day, with all the money that could be made, if you don’t know “why” you’re doing something, when the going gets rough, you will quit. Entrepreneurship is full of ups and downs, and is like being on the rollercoaster ride of your life on a day to day basis — so you have to just stay consistent, build a network of likeminded people around you (or of those who will ascend you higher), and try to drown out all of the unnecessary noise and distractions. If you can stay focused, consistent and remember “why” you’re embarking on this journey, you will succeed.
Can you share 3 ideas that anyone can use “to feel beautiful”? (Please share a story or example for each.)
1) Meditation — Beauty is truly an inside job, and is a characteristic that radiates from within. Feeling beautiful should not be a feeling that comes from anyone else but yourself. It’s a self love that can not be duplicated or emulated. Once I dove deeper into meditation and took the time to truly get to know who I was, I began to feel more and more beautiful because I knew exactly who I was. I enjoyed getting to know me and the little facets of myself that made me unique. Through meditation, I was able to connect with my wants, desires and dreams on a deeper level, so that in life I could live genuinely, authentically and unapologetically as me. Because of this, people can see my beauty from within as I speak, as I interact with others and as I go about my day to day.
2) Treat Yourself — Feeling beautiful is a derivative of self love. I know that I feel even more beautiful when I begin to do the things that I truly enjoy and that really bring me joy. That can be anything from dancing in the living room to my favorite tunes to bathing in my favorite scents, salts or oils. It really is a matter of preference, but remember to continuously do the things that make you feel alive.
3) Take Care of Your Skin and Your Body — when you feel good, you undoubtedly look good. Making sure that you’re taking proper care of your skin and body will definitely help in making you feel beautiful. When I’m slacking or not being as mindful as to what I’m eating, working out or doing to my body, I tend to feel down. However, when I’m making sure to stay hydrated with water, eating healthy and working out consistently, I tend to have a better view of myself. Just recently, I began transitioning my beauty and skincare products to mostly natural and “green” brands. Knowing that I’m not putting chemicals on my skin is one benefit, but there’s something about knowing that I’m using what’s natural to the Earth feels more beautiful to me.
Can you share with our readers some of your techniques to style natural hair?
One technique that I have when I’m several days past my wash-and-go is to make a faux-hawk. I’ll leave out the front section of my hair and then divide the other sections from front to back into 4 parts. I lightly wet each section and also put on leave-in conditioner and light gel. I put each section into a ponytail (using black hair ties) and then spread out the curls and fan them out. Once you’ve done this for all four sections, it’ll look as though you have a mohawk. With the front section I typically wet the hair and comb through with gel. The curls will really pop and I either swipe them to the side or wear them as a bang. It’s a really quick and easy style, but can look really cool.
Another simple technique I have is to buy Marley Hair, and after slicking back my hair into either a top, side or bottom ponytail, I affix the Marley Hair to the ponytail and then wrap the hair around the ponytail hair tie. I secure the hair with bobby pins and then I’m good to go. The Marley Hair matches my hair texture so it really comes off as an effortless and natural look.
Can you share some of your techniques about how to best maintain natural hair?
The best way to maintain natural hair is to reduce the amount of chemicals you’re putting in it so this means looking thoroughly on the back of haircare bottles and packages. “Water” should be one of the first ingredients — so if it’s not, you’ll need to proceed with caution or find another product that has more natural ingredients. Keep yourself and your hair properly hydrated and reduce the amount of time that you use manipulating it. Try to apply heat to your hair sparingly or have a professional do it so that you don’t mess up your curl pattern.
Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Can you help articulate to our readers your “Five Things You Need To Understand About Hair Discrimination”. If you can please share a story or example, for each.
1) It’s Psychologically Damaging — Just imagine that every day you wake up and you’re not able to be 100% your authentic self or that you’re judged everyday simply for a characteristic that you were born with — such as your hair. For years, black women have been made to believe that the more Eurocentric style of hair is what is more acceptable and beautiful. For many others, like myself, who learned later on in life what their hair texture was really like after going natural, it came at a cost. Psychologically, we had to unwind so many years of untruths about our hair, and then re-learn about who we truly were as individuals and just how beautiful our texture and natural hair was. For many black women, the damage that was done to their hair to keep up with these unrealistic Eurocentric expectations were beyond repair. Hair discrimination is psychologically damaging and contributes to self-hate and the disconnection to one’s true self.
2) It’s Economically Damaging — So many black men and women have been declined employment because of the texture of their hair — based on an unrealistic ideology of what is deemed to be “professional.” Way too many qualified individuals have been turned away time and time again because of their hair and it has contributed to economic damage and negative financial impact to these individuals and their families. On the other hand and in my case, it cost me more money to continuously have to chemically manipulate my hair to keep up with the standard, than I budget for now with my natural hair. I actually save more money and because my hair is healthier, I have to do less treatments to repair any damage.
3) It Has Woven It’s Way Into Many Facets of Society — hair discrimination spans beyond just corporate employment instances — it is woven into many other facets of society as well. It can be explicit on its surface or implicit. As a professional model, there have been more instances than I can count, where I have arrived on set for there to be a “hair and makeup team” and not one stylist who was able to do my hair properly. I’ve either had to do my hair myself, or feel like a puppet as they pulled and stretched my hair in order to claim that they “styled” it. It was always disheartening for me to watch as the other models received the “full” treatment, and I did not because of my hair texture. For influencer and media events that I’ve attended in the past, where we were invited to either get a hair treatment at a salon in exchange for a write-up, more often than not, there were no stylists available who could do natural hair or the “one” stylist that could, was not experienced with it. As a journalist, I’ve been told on numerous occasions that the top cosmetology schools do not teach or require students to learn how to do natural hair — therefore, so many salons that are labeling themselves as inclusive, are actually exclusive because they are unable to do black hair. I have also discovered within this, that many do not care.
4) It Comes with Implicit Biases — Review your own biases as it pertains to hair. Review your reaction when you see a woman with a fro versus straight hair, or with a wash and go versus loose curls, or with locs versus twists. Some hairstyles invoke biases among the public without people even knowing it. I always found it annoying when I was in corporate America when my peers weren’t aware that my hair was soft because it was coined as “nappy” and a “Brillo pad” for so long. It was also just as annoying when it was longer to have people shocked at its length because they assumed that black women could not grow longer hair. These biases and micro-aggressions are damaging and need to be evaluated and rectified — and if nothing else, please don’t ask to touch our hair.
5) We Still Have a Long Way to Go — Despite the CROWN Act and many other steps moving in the direction to eliminate hair discrimination, we still have a ways to go. Many of my dear friends who are news anchors and in media are still having to press their hair everyday or if they choose to go natural, deal with viewers taunting their social media feeds or contacting the station about their hair. As I mentioned before, how they choose to wear their hair is their preference and when worn natural is not “unkempt” or “unprofessional”, so just as we attempt to unwind the systemic thought processes of many within the corporate structure and hiring when it comes to hair, it needs to happen on an individual level as well. Above all things, we all need to realize that we are human beings, that love our hair, the way it grows and how it feels. No one wants to experience hate or discrimination for a part of their body that is the core of their very essence. We just want to 100% be who we truly are.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“When you learn, teach. When you get, give.” ~ Maya Angelou This quote is relevant to me because I truly believe that you get what you put out in life. I try to teach others as much as I can when I learn new things or if it’s principles that I know that they need. It does me no good to hold onto the information when I know that it can be necessary for someone else’s growth — whether that’s on a personal or professional level. I also believe in the art of giving. Often times we have a scarcity mindset where we want to hold onto so many things in life because we’re afraid that it won’t come back to us. However, I’ve found that I’ve gained the most in life when I have given from the heart and without expectation, and continued to give — whether that’s financially, my time or my services. It has always returned to me tenfold.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world with whom you’d like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this. 🙂
I’d love to have a private breakfast with Tamron Hall. As a media professional myself, I’d love to learn from her, and to listen to her experiences within the industry that has helped her to get to where she is at right now. She has such a dynamic and powerful presence, and is truly a woman that is unique and unmatched at this time. I’d love the opportunity to learn from her.
How can our readers follow you online?
You can follow me at LeahFrazier.com, or on all social media platforms @TheLeahFrazier. Be sure to also listen and subscribe to my podcast, PR Yourself with Leah Frazier, now available on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Stitcher and many more!
Thank you so much for this. This was very inspirational, and we wish you only continued success!