AJ Walker, a television news reporter for West Palm Beach, Florida’s CBS 12 News, wore box braids for the first time in her more than decade-long career.
“There are many limitations placed on on-air personalities when it comes to our look,” Walker told Yahoo Lifestyle. “Your station makes it clear that they are within their rights to have control over how long or short your hair is, and hair color, whether or not you can wear extensions, braids, or natural hair.”
The anchor said although at her past jobs she was never outwardly told not wear certain style, the culture of the companies was seemingly not inclusive.
“When I discussed the possibility of wearing braids on-air with stations, the answer was, ‘Let’s keep your hair the way it is,’ ‘We like your hair the way it is’ and ‘That’s too dramatic of a change,'” Walker explained to the online outlet. “To me, that was still a ‘no,’ although it wasn’t worded that way.”
She felt so intimidated that braids would hinder her ability to get jobs, that she would take them out before interviews with potential employers. After the death of her mother, however, Walker asked CBS 12 if she could wear the hairstyle in honor of her memory.
“It is a skill my mother taught me,” she stated. “When she died a few months ago, part of me felt like wearing my hair braided was preserving a part of her.”
Walker later discussed how “African-American and other women feel and often are forced to wear hairstyles that the company or news station deems acceptable.”
She added, “The freedom to wear my hair in a style that is a part of my culture and a skill handed down to me from my mother gives me a stronger sense of self-esteem, self-worth and confidence as a person and as a woman. This is a hairstyle I chose for myself. It reflects who I am.”
“Let us be ourselves. We are still professionals even if our hair is different,” the reporter continued.
Her hope is that the representation will make other girls who look like her know that anything is possible.
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Christina Santi is a news and culture writer for EBONY.com. Born and raised in the Bronx, New York, she considers herself a well-read, not so traditional feminist with a heavy interest in music, fashion and pop culture. Christina currently lives in New York City, where she refers to her Cuban & Jamaican descent often while writing about her experiences as a first-generation Afro-Latinx in America. She also devotes time writing personalized reading material for her tutees and turning ideas into words for streetwear brand, PUER By Noel Bronson.