The Soulhaus

Beauty and Black Identity in the Workplace

Belgium-based photographer Whitley Isa collaborates with Pouchka Duval Wille, a hair and makeup artist, on a photography series centering the beauty and professionalism of Black natural hair in corporate settings.

This corporate portrait series centers eight Black women in their natural hairstyles. Inspired by classical oil paintings, the studio set design — a brown backdrop and leather chair — was curated to compliment melanin-rich skin and natural hair styled by artist Pouchka Duval Wille. With this project, it was important to emphasize that Black hair in its natural state is professional, and beautiful. 

What is a professional hairstyle for Black women?

“The 2020 lockdown eliminated salon appointments and forced me to trade my signature box braids for my natural hair, styled by me for a hesitant debut at my corporate day-job. This got me thinking … what challenges are other Black women facing as they navigate the perceptions of their natural hair in the workplace. Pressure to wear a hairstyle that is more in line with Eurocentric standards of beauty exists because of the historic discrimination of Black hair. Navigating natural hair in corporate settings is complex. Through this corporate portrait series, we celebrate the intersection of beauty, Black identity and Black natural hair in the workplace.” – Photographer Whitley Isa