Meet Laurise McMillian, the Content Strategy Editor for the Refinery29 Instagram team. As a founding member of @r29unbothered, the company's Instagram channel for black female empowerment, Laurise is an industry leader in all things audience development and digital growth. Prior to R29, Laurise has done social media for Fox Searchlight, MTV, ELLE Magazine, Seventeen Magazine, Girls' Life Magazine, Urban Outfitters and more.
To continue our #MediaMayvenn series, we sat down with McMillian and spoke to her about her career and hair journeys, the big chop and transition from relaxing her hair, her next hairstyle and her best piece of advice for millennials with owning their truest selves while embracing their hair.
Dominique Fluker: Share your career journey. What led you down the path of content and social strategy?
Laurise McMillian: I'm a very weird, lucky person because my journey was a lot more streamlined than most peoples'. I knew I wanted to be a magazine writer back when I was in the 7th grade. I'm not exactly in that role now, but because I knew the industry I wanted to work in, it helped me at least be in the right spaces at a young age. My first internship was at Girls' Life magazine. It was 2013, and I was responsible for managing the company's Twitter and Facebook. Because of that, I'm able to say I've been working in the industry for almost 7 years, and I've only been out of school for three.
Fluker: Talk to us about your hair journey. When did you fall in your love with your hair?
McMillian: I fell in love with my own hair at age 15. I actually wrote a personal essay about it here: Growing up, relaxers were all my sister and I knew. I don’t blame my mom — having two girls is hard — but, I don’t even remember having a choice. In fact, I didn’t even know that my hair curl until I was 14ish. I did a big chop when I was 15 because my last relaxer gave me an asthma attack.
Fluker: What has been your hair journey within corporate America? Did you ever feel like you need to alter your hair to fit in with the culture of the office?
McMillian: Working in media is a whole different ball game, but I didn’t know that at first. My second (and first really big) internship was at Seventeen Magazine. I had been wearing my hair in a fro, but for the duration of the internship, I got a straight-haired weave. I was young, self conscious and unsure about what I’d be walking into. I remember having a coffee with the Director of Marketing at the time, Howard Grier. He was a white man I’d met at a conference prior to getting the internship. I’ll never forget when I came into his office, he said, “Hey, I almost didn’t recognize you without your fro.” I then admitted to him that I opted for a weave prior to coming to New York because I didn’t want to be judged. He told me that my weave was bomb, but my fro was incredible too and that I should come to work and look however I wanted to look. Yes, that’s a lot easier for a white man to say — but nevertheless it stuck with me. After that, everywhere I went I showed up looking how I felt comfortable. When I came to refinery for my interview I had honey blonde cornrows. I don’t know what it is, but after I got the job and officially moved to New York, I just kept the blonde. It felt like a symbol of this next chapter of my life.
Fluker: What’s your favorite style to rock inside and outside of the office?
McMillian: Blonde box braids. Lately I’ve been doing a bob look. The shorter length is really great for yoga because it’s not too heavy when I move around.
Fluker: Share your plans for your next hairstyle with us!
McMillian: I really want to try knotless braids. And eventually I want locs!
Fluker: What’s one piece of advice for a millennial woman struggling with owning their truest selves while embracing their hair?
McMillian: Look how you want to look; whether that’s in a wig, weave, fro, braids, or whatever. You have autonomy over your own body and appearance.