Bad Hair Days and Avoiding Appearances

4 min readMay 24, 2024
Photo by Alex Robinson on Unsplash

Vanessa Sefa, a black teacher in the United Kingdom, shared a story on social media in 2021 to highlight the need for more black teachers.

A 12-year-old black girl entered Sefa’s class. The student was in the rain. It caused her hair to tangle and shrink. With tears in her eyes, the kid told Sefa she wasn’t going to spend the entire day at school looking a mess and expressed her desire to go home.

Going home was not an option, so the student asked Sefa to braid her hair.

When the student was nine years old, her mother died, leaving her in the care of her father. The student informed Sefa that she did not know how to properly care for her own hair. Sefa expressed empathy for the 12-year-old, stating that she understands how important hair is to one’s self-identity. Black girls are acutely aware of what their hair reveals about them.

Sefa explained that the student was approaching her adolescence, which are some of her most formative years. Sefa went on, “Even if I thought she looked fine, I wasn’t going to turn her away, pat her on the back, and tell her she looked fine when her self-esteem was temporarily fragile. It wasn’t my place, and a pep talk wasn’t what she asked for. I doubt anyone would want that response instead of actual help if their dress or makeup, for example, had been ruined by rain.”

Sefa boasted that she had the girl out in under 15 minutes, with two rushed…




J. Pharoah Doss is a columnist for the New Pittsburgh Courier.