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?