I grew up in the suburbs. Pretty chill life. I wanted for nothing. I had friends of all races and backgrounds but, its no secret that we HAVE to know how to flip that “switch” on and off. You know, the “switch” that changes your speech, your interests, your hobbies. When we step into work it’s business, that’s common sense. I knew being a journalist would be hard, but what I didn’t know—I would have to put my culture aside to be considered workplace appropriate.
Let me walk you through some of my experiences as on-air talent.
On-Air talent is expected to look prim and proper at all times. Sometimes, prim and proper mean fitting into a cookie cutter mold of what a news anchor is “supposed” to look like. If you watch the news, and I hope you do, can you name a news anchor you currently watch or grew up watching that has changed their hairstyle or even stepped out of the box and wore a hairstyle you didn’t think was suitable for a news anchor? Kind of hard to think of one, right? That’s because we’re programmed to think that what we see is what a news anchor should look like. Its that type of thinking that many news directors stick to. So, to fit the mold we’re expected to do the same hairstyle and makeup. EVERYDAY. Except, when you’re just starting out your career, you start out at the bottom in the news business, and the bottom means no hairdressers or makeup artists. That “beat face” and perfectly placed curl are at the will of your own two hands. A $200 sew-in and style isn’t exactly in your budget…so why not rock your real hair? Well, It’s no secret natural hair is still frowned upon in most work places, so to protect my type 4 hair I weave it up by myself at times or I throw a wig on. But there are days I wonder why its not acceptable for me to wear my own hair. My own curls. My own tresses. Its mine…why isn’t it good enough. Will my natural kinks ever be enough to be seen on local or national TV? Being in this profession has shown me how far we haven’t come and how little many people in the news industry are wiling to go because everyone is o.k. with the norm and sticking to what a news anchor “should” look like.
So, when you’re watching your favorite news program and you fall in love with the anchors and on air talent, you just love how well they mesh together and the jokes they tell, and the desk-love amongst the group. Would you believe me if I told you that a lot of that isn’t real? This goes back to the light switch analogy I mentioned earlier that I know many of you can relate to. Picture being on-air with people you just don’t gel with. You don’t have the same interest, beliefs, humor, nonetheless, you have to fake it until you make it. A workplace relationship is work and a lot of anchors don’t put in that work. Social Media is everything in the media industry and often times I am asked to do a social media post to show my personality… except they don’t really want to see my personality. They want to see this façade—a person they think people want to see. I can’t wrap my head around why people hire people based on what they saw in the interview, but yet want a totally different person to fill the job. This isn’t my first rodeo in a professional environment and this isn’t the first time I’ve experienced this. I just want it to change, is that too much to ask?
Money ain’t the motive
Okay, it really is, but if you’re getting in this business for the money you might want to find the esc. button, this field is all about passion, wanting to tell stories, and truly being a personality. By the way this one isn’t just for black girls, be prepared to struggle. Ya girl balls on a budget and I’m not ashamed to eat chicken flavored oodles and noodles when well-balanced dinners are unaffordable. The terms: grind and hustle, aren’t just good words to use in rap songs, and inspirational quotes, they are life in this business. Success isn’t handed to you, you create it, and making contacts helps. I learned to map out my expenses, due dates, and amounts to properly budget my money. Being business saavy is one thing but being financially smart is one thing that can set you a part from your competition.