Credit: Edina Beal

Credit: Edina Beal

If it’s not our attitudes, it’s our hair or maybe even our attire that’s causing a fuss at work on nearly a daily basis and there isn’t one black girl on earth who hasn’t fantasized about what it would be like to step into the office without any pressure to conform to the corporate environment.

Endia Beal has turned those fantasies into a new photo series titled “Am I What You’re Looking For?” where she transports young black women into the old university I.T. space where she used to feel stifled when it came to her appearance to allow them to act out their ideal office persona.

The inspiration for the project came when the art professor at Winston-Salem State University realized how many of her students were having the same negative experiences during job interviews. She told The Huffington Post:

“My students were coming to me, and they were like, listen, Professor Beal, I went on a job interview and they told me that my hair was unkempt. Or they told me I needed to change how I looked,” she recalled. “Your heels are too high, your skirt is too short, your earrings are too long. This is the advice they’re given, and this is the advice I was given.”

When working in I.T., Beal said “It felt for me, when I was in a corporate space, that I was performing, kind of a theatrical performance.” The artist decided to translate that sentiment into her photo series, showcasing women in their own homes rocking stilettos, body-cons, wild ‘fros and anything they “would love to wear to an interview,” but with the same staunch work backdrop black women often feel trapped in.

“When you think about backdrops, you think about theater. It’s like a practice performance […] I wanted women to be completely vulnerable, to be themselves, and dress and wear and act.

“I asked the women to pretend you’re waiting for that [interview] moment. You’ve practiced. You’re ready. What do you think in that moment? Some of them were super confident. Others said, you know, I don’t know what I’m doing next.”

While we’re more than here for her project, Beal noted the response to the images on another blog demonstrate there’s still more work to do.

“Normally I don’t read comment sections, but it was interesting to see how people were like, ‘These outfits are all inappropriate!’ or ‘These heels are too high!’ — even though these women were wearing what they loved to wear and being their authentic selves.

“…What I found as a woman of color was even if I straightened my hair, put on no makeup […] in many cases it still wasn’t good enough. In this particular series. I’m asking people to question that more.”

Check out all the images in the series. What would you wear to an interview if you didn’t have to worry about being judged?

Credit: Endia Beal

Credit: Endia Beal

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  • AfroCapricornette

    Clutch wins again with another ridiculous article making us resemble victims. Are they implying that this is what we would really wear to interviews if allowed to be our ‘authentic selves’ or whatever that nonsense means?? I personally can only wear 2 dresses on there with a jacket, and even at that, they’re a bit too short to wear to a corporate interview, for crying out loud! The skirts the ladies above are wearing are clearly too short as they ride up when they’re sat. The outfits with pants are interview appropriate. The heels?! Let’s not even start. Even the ‘fros are not appropriate for a corporate interview.

    Now if it were a creative industry (i.e. fashion/design), most or all of these would be appropriate, but not when you’re trying to make a first impression. If you wore some of these short skirts and club heels and a woman was on your interview panel, kiss that job goodbye!

    • If this article bears anything truth, a black woman’s authentic self needs a major overhaul.

  • John Henry

    I love the 1st pic with the ladies with the Afro’s. They look powerful, strong, and beautiful. But the club wear through me off.

  • binks

    I agree with those who says some of these outfits are a no. I LOVE the natural hair pictures though with the Afro, twists and locs! And that is the only thing I would side eye a business/company about if they had discriminatory polices about black people’s hair. However, I think TV and the entertainment industry has warp some people’s minds of true business attire and professional wear. NOTE you can still be trendy and fashionable while being professional. I love high heels, the higher the better, but I know that is not professional shoes nor is it practical… just like wearing a crop top/short skirt isn’t appropriate business attire. You CAN be authentic in yourself and dress for your career at the same time. No offense but some of her students are coming off as bratty and entitled and seems like they haven’t made that transition from student to professional. As a professor she needs to prepare her students for the realities, trust me 9/10 you are not going to roll in your office looking like Joan Clayton or Carrie Bradshaw. Sure you can incorporate some elements of your personal style at work but at the same time you have to be mindful of the overall atmosphere… or work in an industry (or for yourself) that are liberal with the professional attire.

  • BillipPhailey

    HAIR =/= dress, shoes, earrings. Stop.

    Furthermore, you can put natural hair in a bun, French roll or braid, you don’t see people with long, straight hair letting it fly in the wind.