Black TV reporter reveals natural hair on-air: 'I had to build up the courage’

Elise Solé
Virginia news reporter Brianna Hamblin decided to wear her natural hair on camera, which she said took "courage." (Facebook/Brianna Hamblin News)

Wigs, weaves, and hair straighteners are now low priorities for one black television reporter, who decided to wear her natural curls on-air.

Brianna Hamblin, 23, a journalist at CBS19 News in Charlottesville, Va., experimented with her hair in college, but when she landed her first post-graduate gig in January 2018, her black colleagues began warning her of the “natural thing.”

“At industry events, I was hearing people say, ‘You shouldn’t wear your natural hair,’” Hamblin tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “I was surprised by that. My news director had never once commented on my hair.”

According to Hamblin, in the television industry, there is a bias towards hairstyles customarily worn by white women and a consistent aesthetic so viewers can trust a familiar face. “That’s hard when you have bigger, coarser hair,” she tells Yahoo Lifestyle.

Brianna Hamblin, a reporter at CBS19, decided to wear her natural hair on camera. (Photo: CBS19 News)

In the past, Hamblin had straightened her hair or had worn wigs and weaves — styles that were time-consuming, costly on an entry-level salary, and required regular upkeep. For example, Hamblin got her hair professionally braided before wigs were able to fit onto her head. And the prep was inconvenient — Hamblin traveled to crime scenes and sporting events in humid and rainy weather, either fastening her hair into a last-minute ponytail or dashing into the nearest fast-food restaurant with a hair straightener, which she kept in her purse.

“During the summer, I knew I needed a new wig, but I couldn’t bring myself to pay for it,” Hamblin tells Yahoo Lifestyle. So, in September, she asked her boss for permission to look natural, a request he immediately approved with enthusiasm.

On Wednesday, Hamblin revealed her curls in several Facebook selfies. “...So to make my on air hair journey complete I had to build up the courage to try my natural hair,” she wrote in a post. “My coworkers and everyone have been so encouraging telling me they love it and I’m so grateful to live and work in a community open to something a lot of the country is still against... That being said, there is nothing easy about my natural hair lol. I love it, but one unexpected rain during a Live shot and I’m done for. Enjoying it on the weekend and vacations might be what’s best for me.”

She added: “I’m still figuring it out, but, I would never be able to come to a conclusion and truly figured out what works for me if I never tried. So to any curly haired reporters out there reading this, if you have a news director as great as mine, don’t be afraid to try everything to truly find your look! If you’re at your first market, do it now so you can be completely confident in how you will present yourself throughout the rest of your career!”

Hamblin tells Yahoo Lifestyle: “I was nervous how I would be perceived on television, especially in a smaller market. But I haven’t received any hate mail.”

She says a Facebook group called Curly Girls On-Air inspired her to be herself at work, and coworkers and viewers rave about her look. Facebook commenters wrote, “I'm sorry this is even an issue. Of course you look perfect!” and “You are so stunning, no matter what hairstyle you rock!”

“Newsrooms need diversity because the people watching are diverse,” Hamblin tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “We need to redefine what looks ‘professional’ so little girls with natural hair realize it.”

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