By Sheryl Estrada
Angela Green, weeknight anchor for WNCT in Greenville, N.C., stands by the advice she gave an intern to straighten to her natural hair “just to please everybody.”
In acell phone videoposted on her Facebook page last week labeled “Natural hair or nah” Green askedviewers to weigh in “for the sake of helping some of our young people” on whether or not natural hair is appropriate in the workplace. Madison, a 19-year-old intern at WNCT, asked Green for career advice in regards to her hair.
“The topic is natural hair in the workplace,” Green began. “Very sensitive to a lot of people. I’m natural. As many of you may or may not know, I’m biracial. My mother is from Thailand and my father is Black. See my hair Straight. Y’all comment about it all the time. Now if I were to go natural, my hair would be curly. But for right now, we’re not going to do curly hair because my bosses like it that way, so that is what we are going to go with,” Green said.
Green then asked Madison, a college sophomore who will soon begin broadcast production work for a school project, what she was told about her hair by someone not affiliated with WNCT.
“Too big and I needed to straighten it,” Madison said. “Straighten it out. It would be distracting is the word they used.”
“Distracting, well that is a very interesting word,” Green responded. “But in the world of TV we see it all. It just depends in what market, what audience you’re looking for right now. And really [it’s up to] your bosses and what they allow you to do. My advice is straighten [it] for the sake of the school project.
“Depending on what market you get in, when you’re older, that’s something that you have to deal with. But in the workplace, just for this one, my suggestion was to just straighten it out just to please everybody. But everybody won’t roll with that answer.”
Green posted her Facebook video to YouTube on Sunday:
The Facebook video has received almost 1 million views and prompteda heated debate on social media.Green said thather personal advice is based on her experiences in the TV newsbroadcasting industry.
“My advice isone that I completely standby,”she said. Sheadded her advice was not a statement on what hairstyles are allowed or not allowed oraccepted or not accepted in the workplace.
Natural Hair and Corporate Culture
The broadcasting industry is notorious for making mandates on the appearance of on-air journalists. However, in recent years, there have been noted instances in which Black female broadcastjournalists have decided to wear their natural hair and have been supported by management.
“Natural hair on the news is and can be a reality,” Rochelle Ritchieadded in the comments section of Green’s Facebook posting.
Ritchie is currently the director of communications for Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby. In 2010, when Ritchie was a multimedia journalist at WPTV News Channel 5 in West Palm Beach, Fla., she made the transition to wearing her natural hair andproduced a segmenton her experience.
“The world of broadcast journalism is extremely superficial,” said Managing Editor of DiversityInc’s Best Practices, Tamika Cody, who spent some time in front of the camera as a local news reporter. “All on-air talent, meaning reporters and anchors, are subject to the cookie cutter look. It’s just part of the broadcast newsroom culture.
“When I decided to go natural I was working in an online/print financial newsroom where the editorial staff was majority white men and women,” she continued. “I struggled with going natural not because of what my colleagues would say but how my sources and interview subjects would react on Wall Street.
“My concerns were stemmed from natural hair news trending on social media, what I read in magazines on the topic, and stories of co-workers who were fired for wearing their hair natural in corporate America.
“Needless to say, the reception of my natural hair was positive.I would like to say that it was received well because of my confidence I showed on the outside. I have to be honest; I really thought that going natural in corporate America and in my newsroom was going to be an issue but I’m still here.”
Hair texture has no connection to talent or ability. Yet some companies negatively judge Black women on the basis of their choice of a natural hairstyle.
“There’s no doubt in my mind thatBlack people have been overlooked for promotionsbecause of natural hair or darker skin color,”DiversityInc CEO Luke Visconti wrotein a column “Ask the White Guy: Do Blacks Need to Relax Their Natural Hair to Get Promoted.” “Companies that manage past bias and hire, mentor and promote equitably have better talent. They are also better prepared for the future as our country becomes more diverse.”
“For some, wearing our hair natural is an affirmation and presentation of our authentic selves,” said DiversityInc’s Vice PresidentofConsulting Anita C. Ricketts. “To have to question whether or not doing so will slow or halt hard-won career progress is really about questioning the inclusiveness of our work environments.”
Onthe premiere episode of the CBS TV showThe Talk, which aired on Sept. 14, cohost and comedian Sheryl Underwood debuted her natural hairstyle.
“I cut my hair off. I cut the perm out,” she told the audience. “I still wear wigs because I like variety, but what I really wanted to do was engage women.”
Underwood also apologized for abad jokeshe made in 2013 about Black natural hair.
“I made some statements that were not only wrong, they hurt our community” she said. “In my comments and trying to explain, [which] was juxtaposed against statements that were very, very hurtfuland to come out of the mouth of a very proud Black womanI was wrong, and I wanted to take the time to apologize, especially in the forum that this discussion occurred.”
Do you think Green telling the young intern to straighten her hair is good career advice