So You Want to Be a Community College President? Be Yourself...

Beauty is an interesting phenomenon. The standard has consistently evolved over the years. Women are largely expected to conform to what the mainstream views as acceptable. Take for example Alicia Keys. In 2016 she stunned the world when she decided to go makeup free on her album cover. Her self inflicted No Makeup Movement grabbed the attention of major headlines for weeks! She authentically braved several high profile appearances without pounds of foundation, eye liner, blush, powder, highlighter, face primer, mascara, eye shadow, lip liner, lip gloss, eye lashes, and more. That takes courage. I'm talking some truly courageous stuff inside and out. She inspired other high profile celebrities to go without makeup, thought pieces on the topic was part of almost every blog, and social media went wild. Three years after her big debut, she is still makeup free. 


Michele Obama's 2009 official White House portrait showed her meticulously toned arms and folks had a field day. How DARE she do such a thing? The press literally dissected every inch of Mrs. O's style and body. Even her bangs became a topic of conversation. She wasn't alone. Hillary Clinton's pant suits was up for debate. Gabourey Sidibe has had to deal with fat-shamers, while Viola Davis rocked the headlines when she snatched off her wig, ripped the eyelashes off, and wiped away her makeup ON NATIONAL TV! Each of these women recognize and have had to contend with the mainstream standard of beauty. And each of them are so damn unapologetic. 


It has taken me some time to have enough self-confidence to do my own thing. Like it or not, no matter what you wear or how much makeup you put on, people want to see and know who YOU are. I started wearing makeup in 2015. It began when I interviewed for my second dean position, and I have never looked back. Instead of covering up who I am, I wear makeup to enhance my features instead of hiding them. Honestly, I enjoy wearing makeup at least during the week, while taking a break on the weekends. Sorry, Alicia, some of us won't go makeup free, but I support what you are doing 100%.


Besides the makeup, it did not take long for me to realize that I hated wearing stuffy blue and black suits. I find them boring and overly traditional. Heels make my feet hurt. No matter the size or the cost, I cannot imagine walking around campus on concrete in heels all freaking day. The closest I will get to heels is a sleek pair of black boots when the seasons change. If I must wear a suit, I may wear one of Isiah's ties to add a little spice. 


I enjoy my life without beauty salons and barber shops. While in Houston, I used to fly to Milwaukee to get my dreadlocks tightened. Seriously. Spirit Airlines had amazing one day deals that did not break the bank. It did not take long for me to get tired of that too. When I had my locks, TSA would always search me in the airport, no matter the circumstance. Or people wondered when I would get them cut. Now that I don't have hair, it is still a problem for some.  


I've had seasoned presidents and upper level administrators tell me to not wear my tennis shoes or glitter nails. It is not presidential. In honor of receiving such sage advice, I wore my glitter Kate Spade Keds with the matching glitter nails on my first day as a president. You're welcome.


Colleagues would have coffee room conversations with their direct reports about the way I dressed. Like the time I wore a sequined skirt to campus with a suit jacket. That apparently made some folks upset because I stayed away from the stuffy blue and black suits with the white shirt. When I interviewed for my current position, I wore a black dress, but I found a tweed jacket (thanks, WHBM) in school colors with a hint of sparkle.  I was determined to find a way to let the true Daria come out to play while conforming to the standards of professionalism. 


I remain optimistic when I come across extraordinary women like Dallas County Judge Amber Givens-Davis and her response to criticism over her shaved hairstyle. Quoting an article from Fox 4, she said "I don't separate my person from my job. But it just so happens that my person is being highlighted because of the audacity that I have to be myself." When I see these examples, it provides a little more inspiration for me when I walk into the closet in the morning and when I stand in the mirror to highlight my naturally beautiful features. So, I wear a pearl necklace without pearl earrings. I may wear my novelty jewelry pieces that features a fox, dog, pig, rabbit, or owl depending on my mood. I grab the clippers and cut my hair as low as I can go. No, I don't have cancer. I'm just sick and tired of people telling me what to do and how to look. If and when I decide to grow my hair again, it will be my decision.


When you start to put on the layers and hide who you truly are, hiring committees, your constituents, family, friends, and colleagues will see your unauthentic self coming a mile away. 


As Oscar Wilde once said, "Be YOURSELF. Everyone else is already taken."