Kristian Henderson cut her hair, divorced her husband, quit her high-profile job and moved out of her expensive three-bedroom townhome into a one-bedroom apartment, and now she’s on a mission that she says even a Donald Trump presidency cannot stop.
The George Washington University teaching instructor who lives along the U Street Corridor said it’s the kind of mission that shouldn’t stop other young African-Americans either.
She’s ready for a new year and prepared to confront anything that results from being a black millennial in the District in 2017 and beyond.
“I was recently on Fox News talking about my decision to cut my hair after the Donald Trump election,” said Henderson, a self-described serial entrepreneur, lifestyle expert and health enthusiast who embodies the passion, fearlessness, and uniqueness that fuels her generation.
“On the show, I talked about fear and how fear was such a big driver in our election,” said Henderson, who holds a bachelor’s degree from Yale and a doctorate from the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health.
“I am on a journey to freedom, which resulted in me … leaving my three-bedroom townhome for a one-bedroom apartment and quitting my high-paying executive job to follow my dreams.”
Henderson was one of several District women recently profiled in New York Magazine following the election. Each expressed a measure of anger and disgust over the election results, but Henderson said she decided to make the kind of change many thought would occur only if Hillary Clinton would have broken that glass ceiling and became first woman to preside at Oval Office.
However, the election did prove to be the catalyst for her to cut her hair, she said.
“The election results felt like an attack on minorities, women, and marginalized people in general,” Henderson said. “Having long hair was my attempt to fit into society, so after the election, I felt a need to exert my uniqueness and not tie my femininity to the length of my hair.”
She joined others such as vegan chef Mya Zeronis, who said she’s a “minority in almost every way possible — immigrant woman of color and LGBQT person.”
Zeronis clipped her brown hair to send a message to the Trump presidency. It also signaled the release of the fears many have expressed since Trump’s victory in November.
Regardless of ethnicity, religion or political leaning, everyone has fears, Henderson asserted.
“These fears range from the fear of failure, to the fear of being able to feed your family, to the fear of being prosecuted because of the color of your skin or your religion,” she said.
“This election used a lot of rhetoric rooted in people’s deepest fears. Many people voted out of this fear which resulted in our country being more divided that it ever has been before.
“For me, cutting my hair was symbolism for me releasing fear,” Henderson said. “My fear of not being perceived as professional or feminine enough. At some point, we will all have to cut our hair. And I do not mean literally cut our hair, but figuratively, we must cut away our fears if we want to heal our divided nation.”
Marion Jacobs, a former professor of psychology at UCLA and the author of “Take-Charge Living: How to Recast Your Role in Life … One Scene at a Time,” told New York Magazine that she believes the hair-cutting phenomenon is a way for women in D.C. to feel powerful in a moment where a stranger has seized the steering wheel.
“When people experience a change that is so opposite from their value system, that’s very unnerving,” said Jacobs, who has a private practice in Laguna Beach, California. “People will use all kinds of coping mechanisms, and cutting their hair and changing their look is one way to show or feel that they are doing something over which they have control.”
What makes fear particularly dangerous is that it is driven by beliefs and not by fact, Henderson said. Beliefs are inherently biased, flawed, and situational and they are shaped by an individual’s experiences, culture and community, she said.
“Even those we deem fearless experience fear,” Henderson said. “The difference is that they don’t let fear stop them from making bold decisions. I cut my hair, quit my job, divorced my husband, and admitted I was wrong more than once.”
“And, I am still on my path to becoming more fearless,” she said. “I am still working on not letting comments on my blogs send me into a whirlwind of self-doubt. But I don’t let the fear that someone will disagree, criticize or judge me stop me from writing. Although fearful, I still write. I still talk. I still debate. With every decision to face my fears, I am one step closer to being fearless. To being free.”
The most challenging times she’s faced have resulted in some of her most profound personal growth, Henderson said, noting that tough times, failures, and mistakes have bred some of her greatest moments of success.
Now, as she looks ahead even as Trump stands to be inaugurated on Jan. 20, Henderson prepares for a future that she’s determined to not let be dictated by a president who has sent alarmingly troublesome signals to women and minorities ahead of his presidency.
“It is a time for self-reflection, self-analysis, and self-growth,” Henderson said. “It is a time to get really clear on who you are, what you want, and what makes you happy. Each of us needs to focus on being the best version of ourselves, living fearless, living authentically, and living in our truth.”