Modern Professionals

What does looking ‘professional’ mean now? – Today.com

Florida-based anchor and reporter Lena Pringle made headlines when she posted photos of her natural, Afro-textured hair with a tapered cut. While Pringle is by far not the first or last Black woman to rock a natural hairstyle in a corporate setting, her viral tweet sparked conversations about professionalism.

We spoke with Lena Pringle, business owners, work experts and everyday people to weigh in on what it means to act and appear professional in the modern age — especially during a pandemic.

The challenge to look professional

Pringle, whose look was always “different,” said the evolution of her professional style is powered by an ongoing self-love journey. When she first entered the newsroom at 23 years old, she wore a short, relaxed pixie cut. That look wasn’t standard or normal at the time. Now Pringle said wearing her natural hair on air is “nonnegotiable.”

Expanding the definition of professionalism might seem insignificant compared to major news stories right now. However, several sources interviewed for this piece confirmed that conforming to outdated standards causes emotional and physical distress. It also increases the potential for discrimination to people from marginalized groups.

New York-based content creator and licensed beauty expert Janera Rose acknowledges that the freedom to express herself in the workplace is still limited. “As a Black woman, I know the frustration of being unsure of how to present for interviews — as if my look would disqualify me from being a worthy
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