As a millennial African-American woman navigating the pressures of corporate America while also toggling between highlighting my truest self in the workplace, I created #MediaMayvenn series in hopes to showcase women within the digital, PR and entertainment industries who are boldly representing their unique hairstyles and owning their hair journeys within traditionally white spaces.
Unfortunately, it’s entirely too common that African-American women feel siloed and isolated within the workplace due to their hair choices. However, more black women are owning their natural tresses, waist long braids and twist-outs, looking past judgemental faces and ignoring the constant and intrusive questions about how their hair “works.” Instead, black women are empowering themselves to just be, regardless of how their hair is styled.
To kick off our #MediaMayvenn series, we sat down with Monique Mitchell, CEO of MoMitchMedia and known ATL-based television publicist. We spoke with Mitchell about her career and hair journeys, how she fiercely loves her braids, 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 entertainment and television public relations and communications?
Monique Mitchell: Ever since I was a little girl I’ve known that I wanted to work in television. It was always just a matter of how and when. From grade school through college, television had always been my main focus. I auditioned and was accepted into award-winning television arts magnet programs from elementary through high school and then went on to major in broadcast journalism at Florida A&M University. My greatest desire was to follow in the footsteps of TV powerhouses like Oprah Winfrey and my late father, Michael Mitchell, who saw my gift of gab early on and brought me my very first microphone.
Once I graduated from FAMU, I kick-started my career in entertainment through the NBCUniversal Page Program in New York City, a professional development pipeline for recent graduates interested in working in television. To say it was life-changing would be an understatement. I had special assignments with Oxygen Publicity, NBC News Marketing, the TODAY Show and Saturday Night Live to name a few. Initially, I wanted to be a news reporter, but after I got my first taste of public relations and connected with heavy-hitters within the industry, my career path changed. The rest is history.
The Page Program paved the way for my current role as a publicist for a major television network where I help launch new animated programming, spread the word about immersive digital spaces, implement social media strategy and create memorable viewer experiences.
Fluker: Discuss your hair journey. When did you fall in your love with your hair?
Mitchell: My hair journey mirrors that of most young black millennial woman. I still remember being a little girl getting my hair braided with beads, sitting down with my grandmother and her sizzling hot comb for my ceremonious candy curls for Easter Sunday, getting my edges pulled for box braids and that infamous tingling sensation of a fresh perm. All of these hair styles were kind of like a rite of passage for me. They all indicated that I was getting older and creating my own self-identity.
It wasn’t until my teenage years that I fell in love with my hair. My mom decided that I would get my hair done every two weeks and everything changed. My hair was draping the middle of my back, it was super healthy, and it gave me free reign on how I wanted to look . When I turned 16, my mom let me try out new hair colors, where I pivoted between jet black and cherry cola red. You couldn’t tell me anything. It gave me a sense of pride and confidence because I became known as the chocolate girl with the “pretty hair” and was my first step into womanhood.
While I was in college, I jumped on the bandwagon and went natural. It was the best decision I ever made. It’s been 10 years and I continue to fall in love with my hair over and over again. Being natural gave me a new level of confidence because I learned how to do my own hair, it taught me to take risks and forced me to try different things. Not to mention, I saw myself in another way. I was so enamored with the state of my natural hair. My curl pattern was gorgeous. It was thick and healthy. Plus it helped me form an even greater connection with my friends and family because all we did was talk about our hair and new products. My hair became my crown and even helped my inner beauty shine through.
Fast forward to today, I am still natural and lately I’ve gone back to my first love- braids. Though I am known for rocking killer blonde bobs, I’ve found myself wanting to keep my hair braided for the convenience and beauty factor. I’d been rocking braids since the 90’s way before Moesha, so it was natural for me to circle back thanks to people like Beyoncé, Tiwa Savage and other beautiful West-African women making it a trend again. It’s helped me to rediscover and appreciate my unique physical aesthetics and connect me to my ancestors. Ultimately, braids are a timeless style that I’ll always come back to and wear with pride.
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?
Mitchell: As a black woman in corporate America, I always try to show up as my true authentic self. I’ve had some experiences where I’ve been the only black person in the room, so in most cases, before I even open up my mouth my hair does all the talking.
Thankfully, I work in television and entertainment and having different hairstyles, colors and lengths is acceptable. So for me it’s been kind of easy. At the start of my career, I used to rock lots of natural styles like twist outs and Dominican blowouts. I currently work in a creative environment where self-expression is encouraged and adds to the flavor of your work. My amazing colleagues have incredible styles with elaborate tattoos and colorful hair, so I am in good company.
I am known within my team to sometimes rock blonde hair, a bob, long braids, short braids, a ponytail, curly hair or a slick back. So it’s expected of me. I change my hair based on how I am feeling and what look I want to achieve. I have my own personal style and my hair is the first stop when I want to try something new.
Fluker: What’s your favorite style to rock inside and outside of the office?
Mitchell: Hands down my favorite hairstyle is braids. Box braids. Cornrows. Fulani brains. Pig tails. You name it. I love it! I am a certified gym rat so having braids is always convenient. They are the perfect style to get up and go! I like my braids in different colors and as long as possible. Over the last few years, they’ve become a signature look for me. The install takes a long time, but they are worth the wait.
Fluker: Share your plans for your next hairstyle with us!
Mitchell: My next hairstyle will be medium length, jet black extensions with a side part. There is something so beautiful and classic about dark tresses against my dark skin tone. Some of my hair muses that have inspired this look are Kelly Rowland, Brooke Valentine, Tammy Rivera, Joie Chavis, Toya Wright and Yandy Smith.
Fluker: What’s one piece of advice for a millennial woman struggling with owning their truest selves while embracing their hair?
Mitchell: As I get older, I’ve learned the value of self- love. It’s the best love. If you don’t love and appreciate yourself, no one else will. My late father used to always tell me “ Don’t die a copy, die an original.” That has helped me throughout my life. I’ve learned to love and embrace every single thing about me and that includes my mind, body, spirit and HAIR!
When it comes to hair, find styles that make you beautiful and own it without apology. Take risks and try different things to help discover parts of you that you’ve never seen before. That’s the best way to arrive in place of unshakable confidence.