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Journalist Jana Shortal is breaking the unspoken dress code for on-air reporters

The news anchor with NBC's KARE 11 in Minnesota, now wears clothes that reflect her authentic self.
/ Source: TODAY

When journalist Jana Shortal landed her first on-air reporting job in the early 2000s, she wore the unofficial “uniform” of many female news anchors: makeup, straightened hair, manicured nails and high heels.

Inside, Shortal was struggling. She had recently realized she was gay, but she wasn’t publicly out yet. She feared that if she dressed how she really wanted to on camera, viewers wouldn’t accept her.

“I didn't know anybody in television that was an openly gay woman,” Shortal, 41, told the 3rd hour of TODAY. “So I best keep my mouth shut. Right?”

For a while, Shortal continued to play the part of a traditional female TV journalist, dyeing her hair blond and wearing jewelry and heavy makeup.

Sven Sundgaard and her colleague, Sven Sundgaard
Shortal (right) felt pressure to maintain a certain look to keep her on-air job.Courtesy Jana Shortal

Meanwhile, off camera, she was slowly coming out to friends and family, and wearing clothes that better reflected her authentic self: ties and pocket squares, jeans and sports coats.

“At some point, at least for some people if they're in the right community and they have people who love and care about them, slowly but surely, you start to come out,” she said.

Still, for years, she maintained her more traditionally feminine style on camera, worried that if she switched up her look, her TV career might suffer.

That all changed in 2016, when Shortal landed her own show, “Breaking the News,” on NBC’s KARE 11 affiliate station in Minneapolis.

When she began hosting her own show, Shortal decided to make a bold move. With the support of her station, she began dressing in a way that made her feel truly comfortable, beginning on her first day of hosting.

“I wore a David Bowie T-shirt, a pocket square and a black blazer with curly hair and glasses,” Shortal told TODAY. “And not because it's a look and I'm trying to be somebody. That's what I wear.”

Current Jana Shortal headshot
Shortal hopes to be an example for others to proudly wear the clothes that suit them best.Courtesy Jana Shortal

After she debuted her new look on air, Shortal said many viewers wrote in and thanked her for “showing us that there’s a different way that women can dress.”

Some viewers have even been sending her vintage handkerchiefs that she can wear as pocket squares.

Now, Shortal hopes to inspire people struggling with their own identities. She hopes people will watch her and realize they don’t have to present themselves according to rigid societal norms.

“Maybe because of me, somebody will watch and say, ‘I want to do that,’” she said. “And they won't think that they have to be somebody else because they saw me.”