Black TV news reporter explains why she wears braids on air: ‘Working in TV shouldn’t ban people from experimenting with hair’

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The photographic illustration depicts a profile of a woman with braids and graphics such as checkmarks and eye icons associated with television production.

Braids are becoming more common in newsrooms across America. (Illustration: Aida Amer for Yahoo, Photo: Getty Images)

When Houston-based news anchor and reporter Brianna Connor went on vacation to Belize in March, she had no idea that her tropical vacation would lead to big breakthroughs in her relationship with her hair.

“Braids are common for black women’s vacation style, especially when vacationing at the beach. They want a protective style that’s easy and hassle-free. Hair is not a factor when you are,” Conner told Yahoo Life.

However, Connor felt he could not “invest” in such a style because of his on-screen presence as a reporter, which often resulted in his hair being in a curly bob. She compromised by opting for a method called “stitching,” which involves braiding her natural hair and stitching the weft of the extensions into the braid. Unfortunately, the style was at odds with her water activities, leading to extreme matting.

“I wanted to do what other black girls were doing: playing with my hair and experiencing my culture to the fullest just because I work in television.” should not be banned,” she recalls.

She made an appointment to get her braids done, and it was her first time showing the style on air. Ms. Conner said she saw other black women wearing hazmat suits on television before she did. good morning america Helped her take the plunge.

“It was getting hotter in Houston. I saw styles popping up all over the place to protect black women and I was like, ‘This is it, I’m doing it.'”

Now, Connor is on air, including ABC 11’s Akira Davis, who marked “Natural Hair Liberation” day in honor of achieving “hair freedom,” and Fox 13’s Johnny Lewis. Added to the growing number of black women wearing braids. A reporter from Tampa Bay, Fla., said she avoided such a broadcasting style because she encountered discrimination early in her career because of her hair.

“At one of my internships, a reporter came to work with her natural hair and one of the white managers said to her, ‘Hey, you gotta do something about that,'” Lewis recalls. She continued with that experience, and she said, “If she wants to get into this industry that’s already difficult for black women, she’s got to have the kind of look that’s acceptable to news directors.” It is said that he told “

black hairstyles for work

Because this line of thinking goes beyond the newsroom, Black women in every career field have dealt with some degree of anxiety around the perceived professionalism of their hair. According to the 2023 CROWN Workplace Study on Racial Hair Discrimination, Black women’s hair was 2.5 times more likely to be perceived as unprofessional than non-Black women’s. Black women with coiled or textured hair were twice as likely to experience microaggressions at work than black women with straight hair. About 66% of black women change their hair for job interviews, and 41% of them change from curly to straight.

But the parameters of what is considered “professional” have largely been shaped by criteria that exclude black hair outlines, says diversity and inclusion expert Chella Gage.

Janai Norman on the set of

Janai Norman’s set Good morning, America. (Michael Le Brecht II/ABC via Getty Images)

“In American corporations, there are many people in the executive seats. [are not Black]”This unfamiliarity can often lead to xenophobic behavior,” Gage told Yahoo Life. “I think that’s why our natural hair is so undervalued. [Black people] Be on top to wear it and make it mainstream. “

co-author Lori L. Tharps explains: Hair Story: Unlocking the Roots of America’s Black Hair Founder of Read, Write and Create, who created the ignorant standard for the nuances of dark hair in the professional setting.

“Diversity at all levels of business is really important because a lot of the discrimination that Black people perpetuate when it comes to hair is due to a lack of knowledge,” Sarps told Yahoo Life. “Expression is education.”

Without that, such workplace otherification is often facilitated by newsrooms that prioritize “consistency,” explains Lewis.

“How I represented myself on my resume tape is what they expect every day,” Lewis says, noting that this goes against the versatile nature of dark hair.

“The reality is that you don’t feel the same every day, you don’t look the same every day, so your hair doesn’t look the same every day,” she said, stating that she chose to live that reality. She started in the summer of 2020 when the combined effects of racism and racism forced her to change.

“I’ve seen a change in myself and my colleagues, like, ‘I have to say more in meetings. Let’s have confidence and go for it,'” says Lewis. “And I remember seeing so many black women across the country wearing braids on my Twitter timeline. And every time I look at the pictures, I feel inspired and confident. I felt empowered enough to do the braids.”

Both she and Connor explain that breaking down preconceived notions of what a reporter should be wasn’t easy.

“My mother actually went out of college and was a TV news reporter,” says Conner. Connor said she grew up wanting to be like her mother, down to her “traditional” reporter’s hair. “It’s a clean short bob with volume and height at the top, that classic female news anchor style.”

“When you enter the industry, you are told that you have to give a certain presentation about yourself in terms of speech, clothes and makeup. ‘ added.

Mr. Gage points out that there is still a “ long way ” to undo the damage caused by hair discrimination over the years, and the law “ Crown Act ” banning hair discrimination based on race has been passed in 23 states. and is still being passed. , it’s a start, but it’s a big step forward for public figures to adopt their protective style. “For those who want to be themselves, there are models for what that can be like in the workplace,” she says.

Lewis correctly perceives this sentiment, stating that positive messages from viewers convince her that she is doing the right thing.

“I get emails that say, ‘My granddaughter saw your news and said, ‘Grandma, you look like me,'” says Lewis. “The importance and power of expression, it’s something bigger, it’s beyond a single person.”

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