Being a woman of color on television isn’t for the faint of heart. You probably need thick skin to take any kind of comment that gets swung your way. That’s especially the case for women who work on TV news programs. They’re particularly vulnerable to negative comments because they’re so accessible and are seen daily by everyone. We’ve heard of female reporters getting judged for their bodies, being ridiculed for pronouncing words correctly, and now simply for having curly hair.
While this story occurred two months ago, it’s only now that we’re hearing the story of Corallys Ortiz, a weekend meteorologist and multimedia journalist at WBBJ 7 Eyewitness News, an ABC and CBS affiliate in Jackson, Tennessee. Ortiz is a proud Puerto Rican from Massachusetts, who one day decided not to straighten her hair and wear her natural curls to work. She said she wanted to give her hair a break from the heat and humidity. She also said that this was only the second time she has worn her hair naturally in the ten months since she’s been living in Tennessee.
On Facebook she said that while most people have been positive about her natural curls, she had one viewer call in and verbally assault her with the most offensive word ever. Here she explains what happened: “In my case early Sunday night, a viewer who goes by Donna felt that my hair wasn’t up to ‘her standards.’ The following video just reflects back to everything I just said about criticism and dealing with what is considered ‘cultural or racial ignorance.’ Racism for short. It is very clear you can hear what she says and it’s something I don’t condone.”
The video has Donna telling her not to wear her hair like that, and that it doesn’t look good, to “change it back to something more normal,” and she ends her message by saying the N word. Click here to watch the video.
“I hope a post like this brings to light the constant criticism a person of color might face just for being themselves. I hope it serves as a lesson to people like Donna and to remind her that we are living in a new century, in a nation filled with people of different backgrounds, cultures, ideals, colors, shapes and sizes,” Ortiz writes on Facebook.
One of the most amazing aspects to this story is how much incredible support Ortiz has gotten from viewers and new fans. When she went back to wearing her hair straight, supporters expressed how much her natural curls have inspired them.
“So my fiancee has curly hair and she has faced some similar challenges,” one viewer said. “She’s an anchor as well. However, her station supports her curly hair. Your natural hair is WONDERFUL and I hope that you continue to rock it!”
“My daughter and I love your curly hair. I wish I had some,” another said. “We think you are a beautiful and smart woman. I know you will do well in your career. There are stupid people everywhere. We are both loosing our hair. People act as though hair is all a woman is. Go for it. I would have my hair so big it will not fit on the tv screen. Love you.”
Thank you Corallys for sharing your story and showing Americans what true beauty looks like.