A Black woman is showcasing her natural hair pride to the world after posting her newly taken professional headshots on LinkedIn.
For the first time ever, Koai Martin, a Vidant Health administrative fellow, was photographed wearing her afro, a black blazer, and pearl earrings.
“I have always taken my professional pictures with straight hair because that has always been deemed the ‘professional’ look,” Martin told Good Morning America. “Over the past year or so I have become more comfortable rocking my natural hair in professional settings and I could not feel any better.”
Martin started her natural hair journey in 2019, but didn’t feel comfortable wearing her curly fro in professional environments. So, she opted for straight protective styles like box braids.
“I was the most comfortable this way because I have always been told and taught that straight hair is ‘more professional’ or ‘more acceptable.’ So when I started my professional career and I saw practically none of the Black women I worked with wearing any natural hairstyles, I assumed all the things I had been told were right,” she told Good Morning America.
Martin said over the past two years, she’s evolved into a better person and wearing her hair is large part of her transition.
“I thought this is who I am and how I show up to work every day so my new professional headshot should resemble that as well,” she said.
Martin was photographed in early August, GMA reported. The morning of, she stuck to her typical routine of steaming her fro out—a tip she got from her sister.
When she saw her final photos, she was overwhelmed with joy.
“Honestly, I really don’t like when people bring attention to my hair, but something was different this time,” she said.
“I have not had the most positive experiences when it comes to my afro in both professional and personal settings and felt that I wanted to share the joy I was feeling despite negative past experiences with LinkedIn,” Martin continued. “I felt like it was just LinkedIn so a few of my connections would see it.”
To Martin’s surprise, hundreds of thousands of people liked, commented and felt inspired by her new headshots.
Following the tons of engagement, she edited her post to highlight initiatives that seek to change the stigma surrounding natural hair in the workplace.
“Because this post is getting a lot of attention I would like to bring awareness to the CROWN Act and the important work that is being done by the CROWN Coalition, Dove, National Urban League, Color Of Change, and Western Center On Law & Poverty to end race-based hair discrimination,” she wrote. “Do your part and check out their website to sign their petition at the link below.”
Martin’s advice to others who desire to wear their natural hair in professional spaces is simply to “do it,” she said.