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News anchor rocks short, natural hair on the air — and fans are loving it

Lena Pringle says wearing her natural hair on air is "nonnegotiable."
/ Source: TODAY

A newscaster is embracing her natural hair in photos that are going viral.

Lena Pringle, an anchor and reporter with WJXT News4JAX in Jacksonville, Florida, rocked a short, natural hairstyle, and on Wednesday, she shared pictures of her look on Twitter.

“Shoutout to the people who told me I wouldn’t be able to get/keep a broadcast news job with a short natural haircut,” she wrote. “Jokes on you, huh?”

She also shared a video of her look.

Her original tweet has racked up more than 100,000 likes as of Friday.

Pringle, 27, has sported a short, natural hairstyle since 2018, but this is the shortest she has ever gone. She decided to try out the chic style to boost her mood.

"I have just kind of been in a mental slump lately and have been really trying to work to keep my spirits up, and I'm a true believer of when you look good, you feel good," Pringle told TODAY Style, adding that she snapped the photos of her new look during a quick commercial break on Wednesday.

Many fans praised Pringle on social media for wearing her natural hair in an industry that often discourages Black women on the air from wearing their natural, curly hair or other traditional African American styles, like braids.

“We have breaking news just in. You are slaying it,” one fan commented on Pringle’s Twitter post. “Much support to you.”

“I can’t imagine why anyone would think you are anything but gorgeous. You can broadcast the news regardless of hair style!” another person wrote. “I hope more come to honestly recognize that.”

“As a black man and a news producer... this is major and amazing to see!” another Twitter user chimed in.

Pringle says she never faced any opposition from her current employer for wearing her natural hair on TV, and in fact, she has worn a natural style on the air since she started working for the Jacksonville station last year.

For Pringle, wearing her natural hair was "nonnegotiable" when she was hired. At her previous station, she began by wearing a relaxed pixie cut, then got permission from her news director to switch to a natural style.

And after she made that change, she told TODAY, "I knew that ... moving forward, it was never going to be something that I negotiated."

Pringle has shared plenty of Instagram photos of her stylish cut in the newsroom.

She wore a slightly longer natural style last spring when she was hired last year.

After support poured in for her initial tweet, Pringle took to Twitter again to thank everyone for their positive messages.

“Thank you ALL so much!” she wrote. “I can’t express how much this support means to me. 🙌🏾🙏🏾💛 y’all are AMAZING and made my week. Thank you thank you thank you for the kind, supportive, genuine, beautiful comments. I appreciate each and every one of you!”

While Pringle didn't face any pushback from her current station for wearing her natural hair, she says she definitely felt pressure in the past from professors, mentors and internship coordinators to wear her hair straight.

"I remember being in college and I remember them saying, 'You have to have straight hair. It has to be long. It has to be spotless, it has to be colored ... natural hair isn't going to keep you in the industry. It's too distracting; it's too urban,'" she recalled.

When Pringle began her current role in Jacksonville, she was the only Black person at that time wearing her natural hair on the station. After she sported her natural hair on air, one of her co-anchors followed suit.

"Now you're seeing a lot more women in this market do it, really across the board," Pringle said.

In recent years, several news anchors around the country have made headlines for wearing traditionally Black hairstyles on the air.

Briana Collins, an evening anchor for Fox Illinois in Champaign, inspired her fans when she wore braids for the first time during a newscast, after being told by a previous employer that she couldn’t wear the style.

And AJ Walker, a reporter at CBS 12 News in West Palm Beach, Florida, also wore braids on the air for the first time after years of straightening her hair to conform with newsroom "norms."

"Within the last decade you've seen such a transition for women of color being able to wear their hair," Pringle told TODAY. "You've really seen women's fight to quite literally just be themselves on TV."

Pringle says that with her photos going viral, many young women in high school and college have been reaching out to her to thank her for her inspiring example, which Pringle said has made her emotional.

"I shed some tears because I was just like, I just can't believe that little old me, you know, an anchor reporter in Jacksonville, has been able to inspire people who I will never meet," she said. "And it just reminds me of how important and essential representation is."

CORRECTION (Sept. 11, 2020, 6:47 p.m.): An earlier version of this article said that Lena Pringle was the first Black person in the Jacksonville, Florida, TV market to wear her natural hair. Pringle was the only Black person to wear natural hair at her station when she joined WJXT News4JAX, not the first Black person to do so in the area.