01/24/2014 02:42 pm ET | Updated Mar 26, 2014

I'm Paranoid That Braids Are 'Too Black' for Corporate

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There used to be a time when I changed my hair every time I got paid. I've rocked a short curly natural, weaves, wigs, a precision razor cut, and have dabbled in every variation of brown in the hair dye spectrum. My hair has been short, long, real and fake, and I wore it all with pride. I even wore blonde box braids in the '90s when that sort of thing was in... you know... with the black lip liner and gold lipstick, ha! I kept my friends and coworkers guessing for years and then something happened: I went corporate.

I would occasionally sport a weave in the winter (because it's warm), but soon I even stopped doing that. I had a standing six-week relaxer and cut appointment with my stylist and my Malinda Williams-esque haircut became my uniform. When I was laid off in 2010, I dyed my hair light brown, but as soon as that color grew out (and was snipped off) I was back to my dark brown hue with zero variation. I never really paid attention to it until recently when I decided I wanted to get braids to make life easier while taking swim lessons. I quickly found an affordable braiding salon near home, read the reviews, looked at the photos and made an appointment -- and suddenly started having anxiety.

It's Q1, recruiting season, and whereas I don't have any job interviews lined up right now, I was suddenly apprehensive about having an "ethnic hairstyle" in front of people who would be scrutinizing everything about me, not only my professional qualifications. I felt silly. I mean, my first and last name start with the letter "Q." The proper pronunciation of my name is "Kia Charisma." I'm not fooling anyone about the fact that I'm non-white. Besides, a quick Google search will remove any mystery of what I look like. Still, I always felt like my dark brown, short hair was safer than braids, locs or a natural that didn't look like Francheska.

My rational side chided me for my thinking. I know plenty of black women who have straight-laced corporate jobs and "ethnic" hair. What the heck is wrong with me? And then I spoke to a few friends about my feelings, one of whom made her career in human resources. To paraphrase what she said: Heck yeah braids are too black when you're interviewing! It's jacked up but that's just how it is.

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Quia Querisma is a digital marketer by day, freelance writer by night, and a traveler by nature. Get her latest insights on travel and fashion on her blog,

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