As Black women, we’re often pressured to do a lot to our hair to manipulate it into a form that will be viewed as socially acceptable. We chemically straighten it, blow dry it, dye it. All in the name of social conformity and acceptance and all the while knowing full well that damage can be done to more than just our hair. It’s manipulation, which cannot only be damaging but tedious, ultimately leaves us vulnerable on the occasions we decide to give it a break and let it heal, do its own thing and be its own self. Wearing braids, weaves, and protective styles (all of which will almost always end up drawing comments) can help us to achieve this, but for so many of us, one of the best ways to ensure our hair’s healing is to wear it naturally.
Corallys Ortiz is a Tennessee-based Afro-Latina meteorologist and reporter who has grown accustomed to straightening her hair but decided in recent years to learn how to manage it in its natural state.
On Sunday, after footage of Ortiz doing a weather report aired, a viewer called the reporter to criticize her hair.
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You’ve probably noticed that I’ve been rocking my natural curls all week! Brittany Hardaway is also rocking her natural hair today! It’s nice to give our hair a break, especially in this hot and humid weather! ☀️ . . . #teamnatural #naturalhair #curlyhair #naturalsistas #WBBJ #meteorologist #reporter #broadcaster #tvnews #newsreporter #newsies #melanin #tvpersonality #curlygirl #3chair #4ahair #tennessee #westtennessee #jacksontn #weather #weathergotmelike #womenintv #womeninmedia
Ortiz, who is of Dominican and Puerto Rican descent and has been living and reporting out of Tenessee for 10 months, says that she has worn her natural rizos on air all of two times. On the second occasion, a viewer by the name of Donna, called into the reporter’s station to express her opinions about her hair. In a video posted to Ortiz’s Facebook account, Donna can be heard telling the reporter that her hair looks n***ery.
“This is for the weather girl tonight, please don’t wear your hair like that anymore it just doesn’t look good at all. Please don’t. Change it back to something more normal, not something that’s all n***ery looking,” Donna said in the voicemail before hanging up.
As Ortiz points out, this viewer’s call to have her look more “normal” and less “n***ery” has been perpetuated by mainstream media outlets for decades.
In the Facebook post on her account about the incident, Ortiz admits that her hair as always been a huge part of her identity and that 90 percent of the time she wears it straight. “It’s the way I was accustomed to wearing it growing up. The last few years I’ve grown to manage and love wearing it in its natural state, the big curly fro or ‘poof’ as I call it. No it’s not a wig like some people have thought, but because of my racially ambiguous background my hair texture itself is versatile, meaning I can wear it and style it many ways.”
In the same post about the phone call, Ortiz wrote that when it comes to the world of newscasting and TV, women of color are often pressured into presenting themselves, particularly their hair, in a way that is more palatable for white viewers. For the most part, they and so many other Black women in the workforce and academia attempt to do this by heat styling and manipulating their hair. All this for the sake of appearing “professional.” Which by the way, any Black girl who has ever been faced with a dress code policy that wouldn’t allow them to wear braids or locs (two styles that can be decadent and professional as all get out) knows to really just mean “white.”
“For years on end women of color have always been told their hair wasn’t professional or ‘neat’ enough for the workplace, and for years women of color would have to adhere to ‘white beauty standards’ in order to get ahead,” Ortiz wrote in a post about the incident to her Facebook page. “Slowly but surely over the years those standards have been changing in this field and we see more and more women of color being able to present themselves with their natural hair on TV.”
Ortiz says she hopes that her post about the voicemail will encourage her audience to be more accepting of other people, their cultures and appearances.
Where do I even begin.There are many ways I like to define myself as a person. I am a woman of color. I am of Caribbean descent directly from the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. Multilingual. I am a college educated woman with two degrees. Most importantly, I’m someone passionate about science and arts and I’m happy I get to work in the field that I’ve loved since I was young.Being from such a racially ambiguous background, it’s not uncommon that people ask me where I am from. Coming to this region of the United States from the North I always had my own perceptions how living in this different environment would be.To many, I look either like a black/mixed woman or a brown woman. I understand many people here haven’t seen a variety of other cultural groups or might not know the difference between being “Mexican” or Hispanic… none of which I would ever put people down for. I always appreciated the genuine curiosity that came from some people whenever they ask me these questions.One thing that has always been a strong part of my identity is my hair. About 90 percent of the time I wear it straight. It’s the way I was accustomed to wear it growing up. The last few years I’ve grown to manage and love wearing it in its natural state, the big curly fro or “poof” as I call it. No it’s not a wig like some people have thought, but because of my racially ambiguous background my hair texture itself is versatile, meaning I can wear it and style it many ways. What many people may not know is that being in the TV industry there is a “standard” in which people are made to have their hair worn. The issue with this is that it always targets and pressures women of color to present their hair in ways that are unnatural just for the sake of having their hair look “professional.” For years on end women of color have always been told their hair wasn’t professional or “neat” enough for the work place, and for years women of color would have to adhere to “white beauty standards” in order to get ahead. Slowly but surely over the years those standards have been changing in this field and we see more and more women of color being able to present themselves with their natural hair on TV.I write this because these past few days I’ve been giving my hair a bit of a break from this heat and humidity and not having to straighten it so often. This is only my second round wearing it the 10 months I’ve been in Tennessee. I’ve received so much positive feed back from viewers about the brief hair change I have going on and how they enjoy seeing my curly hair. Many people appreciate the representation I’ve given to those wanting to wear their hair in their natural state.Unfortunately, working in the TV industry there is always going to be criticism as well. We’ll focus all day in trying to get a report or forecast in, but to just end up getting criticized for wearing a certain clothing or having a certain hairdo from viewers at the end of the day.In my case early Sunday night, a viewer who goes by Donna felt that my hair wasn’t up to “her standards.” The following video just reflects back to everything I just said about criticism and dealing with what is considered “cultural or racial ignorance.” Racism for short. It is very clear you can hear what she says and it’s something I don’t condone. I hope a post like this brings to light the constant criticism a person of color might face just for being themselves. I hope it serves as a lesson to people like Donna and to remind her that we are living in a new century, in nation filled with people of different background, cultures, ideals, colors, shapes and sizes.
Posted by Corallys Ortiz on Monday, September 17, 2018
“I hope a post like this brings to light the constant criticism a person of color might face just for being themselves. I hope it serves as a lesson to people like Donna and to remind her that we are living in a new century, in nation filled with people of different background, cultures, ideals, colors, shapes and sizes.”