I had the honor of serving as this Beautiful, Kick @$$ Queen's Sisterlocks™ consultant as she passed through the Northern VA area for training at the Marine Corps Base, Quantico. We had splendid conversations during those sessions. I was amazed at her strength, perseverance, and ability to conquer any challenge she encountered. I hope you all enjoy this interview as much as I did!
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
My Name is Nancy. I'm a first-generation American, born to two Haitian immigrants. I am the youngest of two daughters. I was born and raised in New Jersey. Since entering adulthood, I have lived and traveled the US and the world. Fitness is a passion of mine, and I enjoy trying new things.
Tell us more about being a Marine!
In high school, I spent four years in the Junior ROTC program. Initially, I chose to enlist in the Air Force. However, I ultimately decided on the Marine Corps Reserve. I was shipped to recruit training right out of high school. The plan was to attend college upon my return from training and become a dental hygienist. Once I returned home, I realized that dental hygiene was not what I wanted to do, and I wanted to pursue active duty. I was able to serve in California, Virginia, Germany, Japan, and a deployment to Iraq. I made unique connections and friendships with other Servicemembers each time I reached a new duty station. When I achieved Staff Non-Commissioned Officer status, I realized the impact and influence I had amongst my peers, senior leaders, and subordinates. After four years as a Staff NCO, I decided becoming a Warrant Officer was the best way to influence change and take care of my Marines. Becoming a Warrant Officer meant testing my mental, physical, and spiritual fortitude for 18 weeks. It was the most difficult 18 weeks of my career, but it was worth it. Knowing that I now have my Commanding Officer's ear at every command, I can help implement policies that positively affect my subordinates. I think my choice to enlist and later commission was the best decision I could have made for myself. It shaped me as a woman, a leader, and a mentor.
What would you say if you could provide advice to yourself when you first began (your civilian and military job)? I would say to speak up for yourself. I grew up very timid. A child is to be seen and not heard in a Caribbean household. I took that with me into young adulthood. It then became "a woman is to be seen, and not heard." While in the junior ranks, I never spoke out for myself or others. Even while experiencing verbal abuse or harassment, I remained silent. As a 34-year-old woman, I would never allow that to happen to me or anyone in my presence without addressing it. Getting to this place took some time, but I'm glad I'm here. If I could provide myself with advice as a young woman joining the workforce, it would be to take your time. There is no race to win, so plan what you want out of a career.
Tell me about your experiences as black, female, and Marine- relating to your hair.
Hair has always been a point of friction for me. It was always a "problem" to be solved. As a woman with 4C-type hair, I was in a constant battle with the regulations set forth by the institution. Words like "neat" and "professional" were keywords used to describe how women were to style their hair. I mostly styled my hair in box braids to avoid issues at the expense of experiencing traction alopecia. However, during my deployment in Iraq, I did not have the luxury of relaxing or braiding my hair. I suffered massive breakage and hair loss. When I returned stateside, I cut my hair and went natural. I continued with the braids or sew-in weaves because I had no idea how to "be'' natural. When I found a trustworthy stylist in VA who had "growing hands," I became much more comfortable with my hair. One day, I decided to show up to work with comb-coiled twists and received enough stares and negative attention to never want to try it again. I returned the next day with a blowout, and my boss told me, "I like your hair better that way;" he was an older Caucasian male, and I did not receive that comment as a compliment. Since he was an officer and I was a junior enlisted Marine, I smiled and returned to work. His statement never left me. I felt uncomfortable that my natural hair was not accepted nor considered beautiful.
Talk to me about your hair journey. What drove you to locs? What has been your greatest challenge and triumph? After the incident with my comb coils, I decided never to allow people to make me feel uncomfortable about how my hair grows. I wore different natural styles; from shaved, tapered cuts, twist-outs, and using spin brushes on my afro. In 2015, the Marine Corps became the last service to allow twisting and locking styles. It was the most emotional day for many of us who have struggled to find styles acceptable, yet non-damaging to our hair. As much as I wanted to start the locking process, I was uncomfortable with what the early stages would look like. I was traumatized by how I felt when I did the comb-coils. I did not want to experience that again. It took me watching several other women with my texture transition and embracing their new lifestyle to encourage me to do it. I was tired of the daily manipulation of my hair to style it for work. I wanted a low-maintenance, sophisticated style that made my fine 4c texture look fuller. I researched Sisterlocks™ and decided to do it. My greatest challenge was getting over the "baby locs" stage. I knew that phase would not last forever, but some days, I struggled with how tiny they looked and how much scalp was visible. Although uncomfortable, I had to outwardly seem happy and excited as people commented that they did not "like the look on me" or "why would I get them so small." Now that I am over the two-year mark and my locs hang, swing, and have multiple styling options, those same naysayers now comment on how beautiful my hair looks and ask if they should do it too! My only regret in this process is not starting sooner. I LOVE my hair; this is the first time throughout my hair journey that I have felt this way. I think my hair suits me and makes me so much more confident in myself than I have ever been before.
Please tell us the top three (3) lessons you have learned (related to your journey in your civilian and military job) I will pass these three lessons to everyone in both my civilian and military orbit: 1) Treat every employee, from the cleaning staff to the boss, with the same respect. 2) Take care of your subordinates, and they will take care of you. 3) You earned that leave (vacation). Take it! Never forfeit accumulated leave.
What would be your advice to someone coming up in your field?
Write your plans and goals down to hold yourself accountable and to track milestones. Also, always seek self-improvement!
What do you want to leave us with?
Do not be afraid of change. Change is uncomfortable initially, but ultimately, it can be great for you; this applies to personal and professional endeavors.
How can we connect with you?
You can follow my loc journey on Instagram!