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How My Hair Drove Me From Cable News to My Dream Career

“One friend referred to the hair, makeup, and colorful sleeveless dresses that helped me transform into my on-camera persona as my News Barbie costume. The costume took its toll.”

4/14/2021 4:03:00 AM

'Whether we want to wear our hair natural, relaxed, in braids or in extensions, it is ultimately our body and our choice—and how we wear our hair should have nothing to do with how we are judged in our jobs.'

“One friend referred to the hair, makeup, and colorful sleeveless dresses that helped me transform into my on-camera persona as my News Barbie costume. The costume took its toll.”

in 2019 after revealing she was finally permitted to wear her hair in braids after more than a decade on air. When I saw these beautiful young women, I cheered. Years before, my own hair drama played a role in my decision to transition from a career as a journalist appearing on cable news to my current career as a screenwriter, producer, and playwright.

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I had never given much thought to my hair or makeup before 2007. That was the year that, thanks to my book about younger voters and the Obama campaign, I began appearing on television regularly. I soon went from someone who didn’t know how to put eyeliner on and usually wore my short hair pulled back to someone who could get my face camera ready in under 10 minutes. I also became someone who wore long, flowing hair extensions. One friend referred to the hair, makeup, and colorful sleeveless dresses that helped me transform into my on-camera persona as my News Barbie costume. A guy I was dating once saw me right after a cable-news appearance and actually did a double take. He said it wasn’t that I looked like a completely different person as much as I looked like my glamorous evil twin.

The author in her cable-news daysPhoto: Courtesy of Robert CaldaroneThe costume took its toll: I experienced breakouts thanks to all of the TV makeup, and since I had extensions that were blended into my real hair, my own hair began to break off due to the constant heat it took to get it camera ready. My dermatologist finally sat me down for some tough love, explaining that my hair was thinning. If I kept wearing tight extensions, she explained, I would end up with traction alopecia, a form of baldness Black women with extensions are particularly susceptible to. I told her I would consider removing them, but it wasn’t an easy call. After all, I wasn’t wearing them for fun but for my career. headtopics.com

Then something unexpected happened. After my stylist removed my extensions, I decided to go without them for a bit; I wasn’t scheduled to be on TV for a few days anyway. But my TV agent called to inform me that one of the most powerful people in the news business wanted to meet with me the next morning. I didn’t have time to get the extensions put back in. I took the meeting. While I didn’t look exactly like Keli Goff, News Barbie, I was still me, and I realized that was all that really mattered.

That meeting was the beginning of the end of my News Barbie persona. I slowly eased out of wearing extensions on air. Not everyone approved. An older male friend once referred to my previous on-air look as more ladylike. Some network hairstylists gently nudged me to return to what they called my more glamorous look. But instead of looking back, I found my true calling. Mara Brock Akil, the creator of classic shows like

Girlfriends,had followed my work as a journalist and offered me a job as a writer on her TV series,Being Mary Jane.So I went from being a Black woman on cable news to writing for a character portraying a Black woman on cable news. Not a single person on

Being Mary Janecared what my hair or makeup looked like, and I realized I’d never been happier.Today, I am writing for the Read more: Vogue Magazine »

Israeli airstrike flattens high-rise building housing AP offices in Gaza City

Israeli airstrike flattens high-rise building housing AP offices in Gaza City

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