This might also qualify as the beginning of the Pissed-Off Princess series.
You might recall my documenting my natural hair journey back in October. While I am not fully comfortable with all of the style possibilities on myself, I have seen other women wear them fabulously. Such is the case for weather reporter Rhonda Lee. Unlike myself, being perfectly content to work behind the scenes in the television industry as I contend with this hair, Ms. Lee is right out in front of the camera wearing a close-cropped cut (known as a teeny-weeny Afro or a TWA).
There is at least one viewer who did not agree with her standard of beauty, and he felt compelled to comment on the station’s Facebook page:
-“the black lady that does the news is a very nice lady.the only thing is she needs to wear a wig or grow some more hair. im not sure if she is a cancer patient. but still its not something myself that i think looks good on tv. what about letting someone a male have waist long hair do the news.what about that (cq).”
Ms. Lee chose to respond to the “well-meaning” viewer with the following:
“Hello Emmitt–I am the ‘black lady’ to whom you are referring. I’m sorry you don’t like my ethnic hair. And no I don’t have cancer. I’m a non-smoking, 5’3, 121 lbs, 25 mile a week running, 37.5 year old woman, and I’m in perfectly healthy physical condition.
“I am very proud of my African-American ancestry which includes my hair. For your edification: traditionally our hair doesn’t grow downward. It grows upward. Many Black women use strong straightening agents in order to achieve a more European grade of hair and that is their choice. However in my case I don’t find it necessary. I’m very proud of who I am and the standard of beauty I display. Women come in all shapes, sizes, nationalities, and levels of beauty. Showing little girls that being comfortable in the skin and HAIR God gave me is my contribution to society. Little girls (and boys for that matter) need to see that what you look like isn’t a reason to not achieve their goals.
“Conforming to one standard isn’t what being American is about and I hope you can embrace that.
“Thank you for your comment and have a great weekend and thank for watching.”
A very straightforward, polite response to a very insulting comment. Her reward? She was fired.
Now several months ago, when Jennifer Livingston was ridiculed by a viewer for being overweight, she came out ON THE AIR with a five-minute commentary…and was lauded as a heroine and a champion against bullying as the video went viral. The story was aired on many local and national news outlets, and she was even invited to be interviewed on Good Morning America. So if Ms. Livingston standing up for her image is to be applauded, why then was Ms. Lee fired for doing the same thing? It’s not OK to tell a television news personality that they’re fat, but it IS OK to say a perfectly healthy, attractive, well-groomed woman looks like a cancer patient and needs to wear a wig? And what if she HAD been a cancer patient? What does the length (or presence) of hair on her head have to do with her skills as a weatherperson? I’m pretty sure it was not her hair taking notes and passing tests and earning that meteorology degree.
Frankly, I’m more insulted by Ms. Livingston’s situation being classified as bullying. Don’t get it twisted: the “concerned viewer” was as wrong as two left shoe for calling her fat–in fact, I believe the word used was OBESE. And while she looks like she may be over her optimum weight, all I saw was a beautiful woman who was quite capable at doing her job. That being said, I take issue with her comparing those viewer remarks to bullying. Yes, they were certainly insulting, sexist and condescending–but I can’t agree with them being lumped into the bully pile. If anyone was bullied, it was Ms. Lee–and sadly, THAT was by her own employers.
I spent a few good years up in Central Louisiana, and left a lot of family and good friends I would like to visit. You can be sure when I visit, that station will NOT be on my list of things to watch. Not even if it’s exclusive coverage of the Second Coming.