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News anchor wears braids to make a statement: 'Any hair is professional hair'

News anchor Briana Collins shares her experience of defying "the norm" and wearing braids on TV for the first time.
Lauren Kostiuk
/ Source: TODAY

This TV news reporter is celebrating a major milestone, and inspiring others in the process.

Briana Collins, an evening anchor for FOX Illinois in Champaign, Illinois, recently wore her hair in braids for the first time on air.

Collins recently celebrated wearing her braids on air for the first time. Lauren Kostiuk

It was a big moment for Collins, 26, who has always wanted to wear her braids while reporting the news.

“I’ve been in the TV industry for about four years now, so I’m still fairly new to the business. But one thing that I always wanted to do when I was in this industry was wear my braids,” she told TODAY Style. “Sometimes you just want to give your hair a break, or you’re tired of doing it every day.”

Like many African American TV reporters, Collins has faced resistance throughout her career for wanting to wear braids on television. When she asked her previous station if she could wear braids, the answer was no.

“They said, ‘No, we don’t think so. We don’t think that would be something that you could do,’” Collins told TODAY Style.

"I actually always wore weaves or sew-ins," Collins said. "That was what I always wore just because I didn’t feel like styling my natural hair every day."Briana Collins

Instead, she always wore weaves or sew-ins on air to conform to the “norm” for female TV news anchors: straight or wavy hair with no braids or signs of her natural texture.

"I know straight hair is the industry standard and you always take a risk when you do something different or against the grain," Collins said. Lauren Kostiuk

However, when she started a new job at FOX Illinois, Collins though she would ask again. She was inspired by the story of AJ Walker, an anchor at CBS 12 News in West Palm Beach, Florida. Earlier this year, Walker opened up about her successful campaign to wear her braids on air.

"She was my inspiration," Collins said of Walker, pictured here. "I wouldn’t have done it if it wasn’t for her." ajwalkernews/Instagram

“She was wearing braids, and I was like, well, if she can wear them, maybe that might be an option for me,” Collins said.

So she asked her news director about it, who passed along her request to her station manager, and “they were all on board with it,” she said.

Collins admitted she was nervous the first time she wore her braids on air on June 17.

Collins says viewer feedback has been overwhelmingly positive since she started wearing her braids on air.Lauren Kostiuk

“I was a little nervous because I know straight hair is the industry standard and you always take a risk when you do something different or against the grain or against the norm,” she said. “So I was a little nervous at first but … after the first two newscasts I felt really confident.

“I felt really good and they were well received and it just felt really nice, to be able to do that,” she said. “To be my authentic self and wear my hair how I want.”

Since she debuted her new style, Collins says women have been reaching out to her, thanking her for being a trailblazer and sharing their own stories of discrimination.

She has been inspiring other women to embrace their braids.

“I’ve had other women in other fields come out and tell me, ‘You know, I applied for a job here, and they told me you have to take your braids out,’ or, ‘Are you going to wear your hair like that?’ So it’s challenging the norm, that braids can be professional, and that really any hairstyle can be professional as long as it’s not distracting and it’s well kept.”

Collins hopes her story will inspire other African American women to feel confident about their braids or natural hair.

“I think for other African American women, it can send the message that any hair is professional hair, and that you are enough, and you can wear your hair the way you want to wear it, the way you feel comfortable,” she said. “You can still be professional, you can still work, and other people can adjust."

Collins also believes she is setting a valuable example for young girls.

“I also think that’s an important message for young African American girls ... who are still becoming comfortable with themselves, who may not see people who look like them on TV,” she said. “No matter what your hair looks like, if it’s natural or in braids or you wear it straight or curly, there’s a job out there for you. You can be ... professional, well-spoken, intelligent and do what you want to do, regardless of how you decide to wear the hair that grows out of your scalp.”