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I’m acclimated to anybody accepting an assessment about my appearance. TV executives, admirers and colleagues all ahead they apperceive which adaptation of me looks best. I active up for this analysis back I became an on-air announcer about a decade ago. And as abundant as I’ve abstruse to ahead the apparent critiques, they can be adamantine to shake.
“I like your beard bigger this way,” my above account administrator confessed. My artlessly coiled beard was pin beeline at the time, presenting the prime befalling for him to betrayal his own bias. To his credit, he didn’t try to adumbrate his affection for beeline beard back I accustomed the job at his base in Los Angeles. I cautiously agreed to his conditions. I would deathwatch up at 1 a.m., collapsed adamant my beard and transform into the classic I anticipation he capital me to be. It was the amount I had to pay to ample out my resume — or so I thought.
Eventually, this acquisition accepted bent up with me. My tattered, breach ends were absolutely destroyed, and so was my faculty of self. Here I was, one of the few women of blush on a top LA morning show, abatement a huge allotment of my biracial character alone to appoint with an admirers that was mostly minorities. It was all backward.
Trust me: I would adulation for anybody to focus on my assignment and what I accept to say instead of how I look. But if actualization charge be a factor, shouldn’t account personalities reflect the backgrounds, complexions and textures of the audience?
I chock-full straightening my beard at that job and noticed a shift. My curls were thriving, but I was no best accepting as abounding freelance opportunities as I had before. Was I actuality punished for activity natural? My approach was all but accurate back that aforementioned account administrator and addition macho administrator pulled me abreast at the Civic Association of Atramentous Journalists (NABJ) conference, of all places, to advance I revisit my beeline hair.
My acquaintance is not unique. Coiled beard and careful styles (aka twists, braids, cornrows, etc.) accept continued been absolved as unpolished or base in able settings. And Eurocentric adorableness standards are alone abstract through the cruel lens of the account industry.
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Close your eyes and ahead of a quintessential changeable account anchor. What do you see? Is it cottony straight, shoulder-length hair? That is a absolutely aberrant and unrealistic apprehension for abounding atramentous women and women of added ethnicities, too. It places an arbitrary accountability on so abounding accomplished journalists who feel burden to bounce for big-ticket wigs and actinic treatments aloof to accumulate a job.
“Some account admiral don’t understand; accustomed beard cannot be tamed. We accept altered textures and lengths,” aggregate Nia Harden, WRAL NBC in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Luckily, some added advertisement journalists accept had added absolute responses to their accustomed texture.
“My account administrator was admiring from the actual alpha and accustomed me to abrasion my accustomed beard with one caveat: He capital me to accomplish to it and not waver amid styles,” said Tiffany Tarpley, WKYC NBC in Cleveland.
Ashley Graham, WLNS CBS in Lansing, Michigan, had a agnate experience.
“My administration and coworkers accept been annihilation but supportive,” she said. “I’ve alike gotten a handwritten letter in the mail from a eyewitness who says I aggressive her to abrasion her accustomed texture. I’ve gotten letters from academy acceptance and added reporters adage my adventure has aggressive them.”
Whether they were encouraged or beat from all-embracing their texture, the act of cutting accustomed beard on-air takes a assertive akin of bravery.
“At the end of the day, it’s their botheration if they accumulate award distractions and you can alone be accurate in your actuality and be a abundant professional,” said Eunice Elliott, WVTM in Birmingham, Alabama.
I capital to acquisition a way to flash a spotlight on these beat journalists who are redefining what on-air adorableness looks like. At the NABJ appointment this year, I asked 25 storytellers to accompany me and angle ancillary by side, proudly adulatory our coils, braids and locs.
Many of us accept accomplished bigotry or abhorrent letters for artlessly all-embracing the arrangement we were built-in with. But now, we won’t apologize for admiring our beard and we will not ask for permission to alive and assignment authentically. It’s adamantine to call the joy we acquainted in actuality all calm for the aboriginal time, and we apperceive there are added of us out there.
Thankfully, our association is evolving. California and New York are demography a angle adjoin race-based beard discrimination. TV admiral and admirers associates are acceptable added accepting of altered hairstyles with anniversary casual day. But any boundless advance is alone fabricated accessible by a adventurous few who accident it all to claiming these adorableness standards.
“Women appear up to me and cry because they said they never anticipation they’d see the day a atramentous woman would be on the account switching up her hairstyles aloof as they in absolute activity do,” said Leah Uko, KTTV Fox 11 in Los Angeles.
“I appetite little girls to about-face on the TV and adulation the beard they accept instead of the beard association tells them to have. I adulation back admirers accredit to me as the ‘girl with the coiled hair.’ They may not apperceive my name, but they apperceive I angle out from the rest,” Harden said.
I proudly and consistently abrasion my accustomed beard now, and I’m advantageous to address for a civic aperture like NBC Account that has accustomed my curls from Day One. Every time I’m on-air, I contentment in alive that I may accept encouraged a little amber babe who’s watching to dream bigger dreams. Maybe I’ve acquired a account administrator to ahead alert afore sidelining a journalist, aloof because she stands out. And, hopefully, I’ve empowered one added anchorman to admission her best accurate self, kinks and all.
Simone Boyce is a contributor and host based in Los Angeles. She currently letters for NBC Account Now, MSNBC and the Today Show.