There’s lots of pressure for television anchors to look perfect on camera, but black women have an additional hurdle: They’re often forced to meet strict beauty standards that define straight hair as the ideal.
WJTV News television anchor Brittany Noble-Jones is bucking that trend by refusing to straighten her hair and embracing her natural hair texture. On Tuesday, she posted an Instagram photo of herself manning the news desk and wrote, “This month I met the first black woman to anchor the news at WJTV. It was 1973 and she was rocking a big fro. She said her boss wanted her to ‘straighten her hair because it wouldn’t fit on the 19 inch screen.’ For the first time in my 8 year career, I decided not to straighten my hair!! Thanks to countless episodes of #blackgirlmagic on #Blackish for giving me the strength to rock these braids on TV. Happy Last day of #blackhistorymonth 2017.”
In only two hours, the photo received 400 likes and dozens of comments. “Your hair was the first thing I noticed this morning!” wrote one Facebook fan. “You rocked those braids!” A user on Instagram commented: “I remember my first natural shoot. I hated the pictures, even cried. I look back at how beautiful I was and in my natural skin not conforming to other standards for me. It’s empowering. You are inspiring others!” Another wrote, “Be the change you want to see! Inspiring our future brown girls!”
Noble-Jones’s gesture is significant, given history. In 2015, Angela Green, a WNCT reporter and a black woman, was featured in a YouTube video telling her 19-year-old intern, also a black woman, to straighten her curly hair, explaining that her own boss preferred her hair straight.
In 2014, after losing her hair to stage II breast cancer, Memphis news anchor Pam McKelvy removed her wig, a straight bob, on camera to reveal her new curly hair underneath. “A woman’s relationship with her hair is sacred, her hair is her crown of glory. And for women in TV, it’s intensified,” she told viewers.
In 2012, meteorologist Rhonda Lee said she was fired from her job at KTBS 3 News after she responded to racist comments about her hair that were posted to the station’s Facebook page. A viewer had suggested that Lee wear a wig or “grow some more hair,” and Lee responded by writing, in part, “I am very proud of my African-American ancestry which includes my hair. … I’m very proud of who I am and the standard of beauty I display. Women come in all shapes, sizes, nationalities, and levels of beauty. Showing little girls that being comfortable in the skin and hair God gave me is my contribution to society.”
A month later, Lee responded to another racist comment on the station’s Facebook page and says she was ultimately fired for violating the station’s social media policy. “There really does come a breaking point when either you’re going to accept me as I am and how I do my job, or you’re not,” she told Huffington Post Live in 2015. “Apparently my station of KTBS chose not, and I was quickly fired for… two different comments that got me in trouble, both times defending being black in general.”
And as Ava Thompson Greenwell noted in the Huffington Post, “When New York television news reporter Melba Tolliver came to work with a short afro in 1971 planning to cover the wedding of Richard Nixon’s daughter, panic broke out in the newsroom. Her bosses told her to put on a wig. She refused. Editors deleted part of the story where she appeared on camera.”
Noble-Jones, who was named the 2015 Emerging Journalist of the Year by the National Association of Black Journalists, did not respond to Yahoo Beauty’s request for comment. However, she noted to one Instagram commenter: “I felt like the little awkward girl in elementary school…. but maybe that’s the point. I want little girls to feel beautiful in their skin, too. Change starts with me.”