DeAndria Turner is a TV news reporter for WAFF based in Huntsville, AL. Her position requires her to be on-air almost every day. As an African-American with curly hair, she had to make a choice between keeping her hair natural, or not.
“Coming into school one of my mentor said ‘DeAndria you’re going to have to choose — you’re going to have to choose if you’re going to do straight hair on air or if you’re going to do curly hair, but you have to make that choice right now’,” remembers Turner.
Turner used to straighten her hair for pageants or cheerleading, but she decided to go with curly because she loves her natural hair. However, she realizes that her type of curls is easier to deal with than some other types.
“There is this natural hair movement, that all hair is good hair movement that is going on especially with the new law that is being passed — the Crown Act — and I never really thought about it but I would have to acknowledge my privilege on that because there’re so many different textures of curly hair, and the texture that I have no one would see a problem with,” says Turner.
Brianna Bynum, a news reporter for WTOK in Meridian, MS, explains how she had more issues with her type of hair, especially in sticking to one particular hairstyle.
“As an African-American woman, it’s challenging here, it’s challenging because typically in the news you want to stay with one look but everybody is different and sometimes that doesn’t work, we can’t stay consistent all the time because of our hair type,” says Bynum.
However, she recognizes that her hair and look are part of her job and that she represents her news company through her appearance.
“Going into TV, I knew my appearance would play a large role in my job whether I liked it or not. I’ve definitely received tips from superiors on my appearance, especially my first few months on the job,” adds Bynum.
Fortunately, she does not have to ask her boss for permission when changing her look, as long as her appearance remains professional.
“I recently wore braids on-air and had no issues about the style change. However, I know some stations have stricter policies when it comes to switching things like hairstyles or colors,” says Bynum.
Turner, on the other side, mentions when she decided to cut her hair a few months ago: she did ask her boss for permission prior to cutting it, just as a precaution. Sadly, she confessed not liking it short. As a remedy to that, she was advised to switch her hairstyle.
“My friends told me ‘DeAndria, why don’t you just straighten it?’ And I was like, no I’m not going to straighten it, I don’t want to give anybody any ideas that this is the way I’m supposed to look like and I look better this way, I’m going to keep it curly,” says Turner.
She supports natural hair and the fact that physical appearance should not have anything to do with professionalism. On the contrary, she believes it contributes to individuality and makes you stand out.
“I don’t think that dreads should be deemed unprofessional, or natural hair should be deemed unprofessional. I really think that you should look at the individual and their qualities,” says Turner.
Bynum also believes that the times are changing, it’s a personal choice to decide which hairstyle to go with depending on one’s personal preferences.
“It’s whatever works for you, you know whatever makes you happy. Whatever you want to do, do it. As long as it’s professional and it is, natural hair is professional, braids are professional, and strengthen hair is professional. Whatever you want to do,” concludes Bynum.
The Crown Act (Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair) is a new law banning discrimination against Black students and employees over their natural hairstyles as well as braids, locks, twists, and knots. Black women have been found 80% more likely to change their natural hair to conform to social norms and workplace expectations. The bill was adopted in California in June 2019 and several states are in the process of passing it as well.