There's been extra pressure placed on us to conform to more "palatable" ideals. "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," Ortiz wrote on Facebook. "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 workplace, and for years women of color would have to adhere to 'white beauty standards' in order to get ahead.
As Ortiz mentioned, she joins a growing number of on-air reporters who have recently made the decision to wear their hair natural. "I wear my hair in several ways on air, but I feel the freest when it's in a natural style," says Kimberly Shine, a TV reporter and anchor from Indiana. "Until recently, I’d always been scared or discouraged from any other style than straight.
For so many women of color, wearing their natural hair on air means so much more than a hairstyle; it's setting the precedent and paving the way for other journalists in the making. "In this business, wearing natural styles forces diversity—and conversation," says Shine. "But more than that, it shows black youth and black aspiring journalists that 'we' matter.
Ortiz is of Caribbean descent and explained why she decided to wear her hair natural on air that day. "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," she wrote on Facebook. "This is only my second round wearing it [natural] the 10 months I’ve been in Tennessee.
Doing so shouldn't have to be "brave," and yet, as Senait Gebregiorgis, multimedia journalist and fill-in anchor at Fox Illinois News, points out, that's exactly what it's taken for women of color to get to this point. "I can write a novel sharing my journey and what it took for me to have the courage to wear my hair the way it is on television.
That was years ago, and I was younger then, so I did what I was told. " Since then, she says she's grown more confident in herself and the work she does—thanks partially, in fact, to social media. "It was a big help," Shine says. "I started following some journalism ladies who wear their hair natural on air, and that encouraged me even more.
That's why, criticism be damned, Ortiz says she's going to continue to wear her hair natural on air. "I wear my hair straight 90 percent of the time, so when I wear it curly, how does that even impact the way I do my job?
The comment is especially loaded because, for years, natural hair has been deemed as "unprofessional" and has a big impact on how women of color are viewed in the workplace.
And thankfully, on a larger scale, women like CNN commentator Angela Rye are using their positions at national news outlets to champion both natural hair and protective styles. "I thought wearing my hair on CNN in cornrows wasn't a big deal.
Change it back to something more normal," the caller says, followed by what sounds like inaudible slurs. "When I heard her say I should wear my hair 'normal,' I just rolled my eyes.
As first reported by The Jackson Sun, a viewer called in and requested that Ortiz wear her hair "more normal," followed by an alleged racial slur.