[Photo credit: Shot by Kelley]
I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Joetta Little, the owner of Hairfood Junkie Beauty Supply in Bellflower, CA. While Joetta made sure to inform me that she is no “expert” in natural hair, I myself find her to be quite knowledgable. Make that…notably knowledgeable. 🙂 In addition to being a beauty supply owner who assists male and female clients at different points on the haircare spectrum, she is also a naturalist when it comes to her own hair.
I find Joetta’s transition from the corporate world to being an entrepreneur in the beauty industry to be very interesting. Where hair, particularly natural hair, and the workplace intersect can be quite the topic. Considering the rapidly increasing number of African American women sporting natural styles on the daily, curiousity from colleagues of various backgrounds is accompanied.
Note: While this interview is approached from the perspective of the African American woman, it is not limited in that regard. Each gender of various ethnic backgrounds undergoes appearance changes at some, if not many, points in their career. This may come in the form of a haircut, hair color change, new makeup- the list goes on. Though the common outcome is always going to be perception and perhaps even some degree of curiousity amongst colleagues. While it should not matter how others perceive us, the fact remains- they are looking. And quite naturally, questions will arise.
9toFlyGirl: Please tell me about your professional background.
Joetta: I have a background in marketing and advertising. I was the Marketing Director for an educational brand. For about 10 years I worked at a college which was a very corporate career path. Before that I worked for other agencies dealing with media placement and buying.
9TFG: What are your thoughts about natural hairstyles, specifically for African American women, in the workplace?
Joetta: It depends on if you’re in the process of getting an entry level job or if you’re in a more seasoned position. It also depends on the type of job. You have to understand the culture of the environment you’re entering. Understand the department you’re working in also. For example, marketing is a more creative environment.
It is good to wear you natural hair. Though I wouldn’t recommend interviewing in braids or colored hair. Always make sure you’re polished, manicured and neat.
9TFG: What was your experience like wearing a natural hairstyle in a corporate job?
Joetta: I had been employed for quite some time so that helped. Sometimes you just have to have conversations with your co-workers like “One day my hair may be short, the next day it may be long”.
Be open to the questions they may have. Don’t be offended. Other cultures may not know. This is why it’s important to know your audience.
9TFG: Let’s talk about your new career path as a beauty supply owner. How do you plan to support women in similar positions through your new business venture? What advice would you give to the woman who wants to wear her hair natural but is reluctant about how she thinks she will be perceived in the workplace?
Joetta: It’s a choice. People know where they stand with their jobs. They have to know the culture and what types of things would jeopardize them. Be observant first. Make small changes before making a big change. Or if you do decide to just go for it – be confident!
9TFG: I repeatedly hear African American women express frustration regarding the comments they get about their hair. Particularly from those who may be less familiar with certain natural styles. What is your feedback on this topic?
Joetta: Usually people are just curious. Whether you allow people to touch or feel your hair is a personal space thing. It’s up to each person. I’m okay with it but some people feel different because some people see their hair as an extension of their body. It’s all about how you handle it.
9TFG: It’s interesting to hear your take on this. I often hear the opposite – that many women take offense. Often quickly. I can understand why but it’s never been a big issue for me. I’ve gotten comments and questions myself but I’ve never been offended. In my experiences, it’s come off more as curiousity from their end.
Joetta: Right. Though you never know, those women could have had a bad experience.
9TFG: Switching gears a bit, what made you go into the beauty industry?
Joetta: For freedom. I worked in a corporate environment for quite some time. When you go up the ladder, you can only get so far. Also, in a corporate environment it all comes down to money. Decisions are made for money. I felt like the decisions weren’t genuine. I speak up when I feel things aren’t right. It got to a point where I was like “this is just unbelievable!”. People in the workplace (often) don’t like to speak up because they’re afraid to lose their job.
Joetta: [As a business owner] I’m in control of my own destiny. I have no fear because no one else can control my decisions.
I’ve always loved the beauty industry. I asked myself what I’d do for free and this was it.
9TFG: Can you share more information about your beauty supply?
Joetta: I am located at 9251 Alondra Blvd. #C Bellflower, CA 90706 . I can be followed on Facebook and Instagram under the user name “hairfoodjunkie”.
If you have any comments or questions for Joetta, please feel free to post below. Also make sure to stop by her social media pages to check out her latest posts on everything haircare and beauty. And last but certainly not least, head over to Hairfood Junkie Beauty Supply to stock up on your favorite products!