I Got My Dream Internship Without Changing Who I Am

You told me that being presentable meant having my hair heat applied and a full face of makeup. You told me I had to be presentable to wear your letters and represent your organization. You told me my naturally curly hair was not presentable. You told me that, if I wouldn’t go to a job interview looking like that, I shouldn’t wear letters. You told me that, if I went to a job interview without my hair heat applied and my face caked with makeup, I would never get a job. You told me that standing up for who I am and speaking out against your twisted rules around appearance was ‘unacceptable’ and ‘would not be tolerated.’ Without even saying a word, you told me that I was not enough.


But you were wrong.


Walking away from your organization and the toxicity associated with it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. You claim to support women and promote confidence, but you don’t. You break women down. When I finally left, I was an empty shell of a person. You broke me down, made me feel inadequate – you judged me for being me. My decision still haunts me because you won’t let me forget. Everywhere I go, your members shoot dirty looks and whisper to each other. I have spent the last year trying to put myself back together – trying to pick up the shattered pieces – but here I am. I am still healing and trying to wrap my head around this new life in which your members look at me with disgust in the dining halls, but I survived. I survived and I am so much stronger for that because, even though I hate you for everything you put me through, you helped me grow. 


Part of my healing process happened over the summer when I embraced my naturally curly hair and began following the Curly Girl Method. I taught myself to love my natural hair again, after you did everything in your power to make me feel embarrassed by it. When the school year started, I joined a different organization that accepts me for who I am and never tells me that I am not enough. I also have had the privilege of running my other student organization, which means the world to me and has helped me rediscover my worth. I hate that I still look away when I see your letters around campus, but it’s not because I am ashamed or embarrassed – I look away because I know that the hatred your members have for me exceeds any hatred I have for you.


This winter, I applied for my dream internship – Food and Beverage Hospitality Intern with Hershey Entertainment and Resorts in Hershey, PA. When I was asked to submit a video interview, your words loomed in my mind. According to you, I would never get a job if I left my hair natural for an interview. I pushed those thoughts away and submitted that video interview without straightening or curling my hair and putting on layers of makeup. I assumed that would be the end of the road. But it wasn’t. I got invited to stay in Hershey Lodge to attend their internship interview weekend in January of this year. Not only did I attend this interview weekend, but I did so with my naturally curly hair out there for every manager to see. Before I even left Hershey, I knew I had the job – it wasn’t an official job offer, but it was clear that they had already decided to hire me. A few weeks later, I received my official offer and accepted immediately.


In this past year, I have moved on and grown. I don’t think I will ever forget what you did to me, but I’ve learned to stop caring. I don’t care what you and your members think of me because the only thing that matters is that I love myself. It has taken a while to achieve it, but I do love myself. I am proud of myself for everything that I have accomplished this year and how much stronger I have become because of what I went through in your organization. You tried to break me down but, instead, you empowered me.


You told me that I wouldn’t go to a dream job interview without applying heat to my hair and caking on makeup. You told me I would never get a good job if I didn’t try to make myself presentable – which, according to your standards, meant changing my appearance.


But guess what?


I did. 


I got my dream internship without changing who I am.