Dana Whyte, a news reporter for TV station WLNS in Lansing, Michigan, made news herself this week when she tweeted that she was wearing her natural hair on a broadcast for the first time.
“This has been an internal battle that I've been struggling with ever since I decided to become a reporter,” she tweeted. “Finally feeling true to myself #blackgirlmagic.”
Whyte, 21, said she was inspired by the recent National Association of Black Journalists' convention in Detroit, and the idea that it would not only be better for her own hair's health, but for the mental health of women in the industry as a whole, to have more acceptance of natural appearances.
“My decision to go natural has been something that I've been wanting to do for a long time,” Whyte told TODAY. “I just started as a full-time reporter in May, and I would straighten my hair literally every day. It was super damaging and my hair was starting to fall out, so I knew I had to make a change.”
Whyte said everyone at WLNS has been “super supportive,” and that she is thankful. “My friends and family have been wanting me to do this for a while, so they're standing behind me as well. It was almost like I was the only one thinking it wouldn't turn out well, so I'm happy I could finally get over my insecurities, both for myself and to inspire others.”
Even with the increased level of awareness of gender issues today, beauty standards have remained fairly constant on-air, though Whyte says she can “definitely see that changing”: “Ultimately, I'm a reporter so I can share other people's stories and create change — not to look cute.”
“For African-American women, it's even more difficult, because only 12.6 percent of television journalists are women of color,” Whyte said. “Promoting diversity is one of the reasons I wanted to go into this field, and by wearing my hair curly it shows little brown girls watching at home that they don’t have to straighten their hair to be beautiful.
“I do have hope for beauty standards changing, but it's going to take the effort from everyone around these reporters as well so they don't feel uncomfortable trying to be themselves,” Whyte added.