The corporate space doesn’t intimidate me. As I look to my right and my left there is no competition; my only barrier is myself. Over the years, I had to learn that I have a greater purpose in life than to feel oppressed by someone or something. I walk with my head held high and my mind full of positive thoughts because I know my hard work will pay off. I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.
I feel nervous about entering the corporate environment, but I will not let that change my attitude towards success as a black woman.
To create her Am I What You’re Looking For? series, Endia Beal photographed young women in their living rooms. Both Dominica and Melanie were Beal’s students at Winston-Salem State University, a historically black university in North Carolina. In preparation, Beal asked both women to wear what they felt would increase their chances for success during a job interview. Their sentiments about the workplace, recorded during conversations with Beal, are shared above. Inspired by these conversations, Beal uses a backdrop of the Yale University IT office, where she worked part-time during graduate school. For Beal, the office was a space where she first felt that her dark skin, bold fashion, and iconic Afro alienated her from her white coworkers.
For many contemporary black women, wearing clothing that conforms to traditional standards of appropriate femininity is not a personal choice; it can often be the determining factor in whether a company believes she is worth hiring. A neatly done updo, conservative pumps, pearls, and stockings may not be the look that makes these young professionals feel most confident, but it is what experience has taught them will increase their chances of success. As globalization continues, and the frequency with which we encounter individuals who do not look like us increases, it is imperative that we broaden our acceptance of beauty and personal style that differs from our own. As we progress toward a more inclusive environment, individuals will be empowered to express themselves and achieve their goals.
From the exhibition: New Ms. Thang (May 4 – May 18, 2019)