Several years ago, I attended my first large-scale career fair as a recruiter where I screened a mass of aspiring lawyers for staff attorney positions at my legal organization. During our brief break from marathon interviewing, my white colleagues shut down their tables to enjoy their downtime and as I prepared to do the same, I looked up to find a critical mass of Black women excitedly converging upon my interview station. Forming a half circle around my table, they began exclaiming how enamored they were by my appearance and how it countered much of the counseling they had received on how to appear “professional” and “look like a lawyer.” They emphatically discussed the damage and financial expense they incurred to straighten and subdue their naturally coiled, gravity defying hair to appear “polished” and “professional” for their interviews. They shared how they spent several hours in several stores seeking a skirt suit that would complement their figure, but not emphasize or unveil their curves, and were ultimately forced to splurge on a tailor to appear feminine and physically appealing without being hypersexualized, since the average suit is not designed to fit their body type. They were told to wear these skirt suits with “flesh toned” stockings and “nude” makeup for a “polished” but “professional” look, and reflected upon their frustration running up and down retail aisles seeking “flesh tones” and “nude” colors that actually matched their complexion, since the “darkest” shade of most products still only reflect the darkest tone of white or light skin. They looked at me, a visibly Black woman with brown skin, wearing bold gold earrings, a large naturally curly afro, bright colored fitted pant suit, and bare-face except for a bright red lip, and questioned whether it might be possible to enter the legal profession without having to leave elements of their Black womanhood behind. They wondered if contrary to what they had been conditioned to believe, it is in fact possible to be successful in law, and to also be yourself, when your being does not fit the prototype prescribed by cishet white male patriarchy.



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