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Tonya Mosley: A transitioning TV news reporter tells her story

Avatar • Jan 16, 2010

***UPDATE***

On September 1, 2009 I profiled Tonya Mosley, a Seattle-based TV news reporter who was transitioning from relaxed to natural. Well, Tonya has gone ahead and done the big chop! I posted my recent interview with her above the original post

When did you decide to stop wearing a wig and rock your afro on TV?
T:
I wore the wig for about a month and that experience was torture for me. During my transition I’d gotten an awful heavily layered cut, which made my hair look like a big poof! I thought a wig would allow me to grow my hair out for a few months, before making the big chop…but fear got the best of me, I was often afraid a big gust of wind would come and blow the wig away! So in late September I went to a stylist for the big chop but she refused to do it. I went home and did it myself! The rest is is history!

DSCN2369.JPG

How has it been? What kind of reaction have you gotten from viewers?
T: The response has been overwhelmingly positive.
I’ve gotten mail from viewers praising me for my decision or complimenting me on my new look. I have to also say that Chris Rock on Oprah really helped! People on the street will say, “I saw Oprah! Good for you!” Believe it or not I also feel closer to “me” — more comfortable in my own skin, and I thought I was already pretty comfortable!

What is your word to black women trying to make it in journalism?
T: I say BE YOURSELF. Journalism is changing at rapid speed and the broadcast side is so competitive…but the one something that no one else can do is you.
News directors in a market like Seattle get dozens of resume tapes a day all of which are really good. Play up what sets you apart from others. Only YOU can DO YOU. With that said this business is also fickle, one news director may love you, another may tell you you’ll never make it. You must have a strong since of self. Elizabeth Vargas with ABC News was told early in her career that she had no future in this business. Oprah was told her eyes were set too far apart. Just think if they had listened to that nonsense!

Why did you decide to launch your own natural website?
T:
In September I feel like I cut off more than my hair. That big chop was the beginning of a metamorphosis for me. I grew up on fast food — I went on my first diet at 8 years old. No more fad diets or quick gimmicks. My site will delve deep into all things natural for women of color. Food, fitness, family, fashion and focus. We’ll have entertaining and informative info from experts, your favorite celebrities and successful inspiring women! Readers will also follow me as I take on some fun but unconventional forms of exercise, like skiing, bikram yoga and swimming. (I’ll be taking my first swimming lesson in January!)

Check out Tonya’s site @ www.newnaturalista.com

********


Natural hair in the workplace has always been a hot topic on BGLH (see here and here). I’ve written previously that, in my opinion, TV news reporting is one of the few fields where natural women are actively encouraged to straighten their hair, but I only knew this anecdotally. So I was glad when I got an email from Tonya Mosley, an actual TV news reporter, speaking of her decision to go natural.

My name is Tonya Mosley and I’m a reporter for KING 5 News, the NBC affiliate in Seattle, WA…

I’m transitioning; I haven’t had a relaxer since June — which isn’t really a long time, but for me it is! For me, relaxed hair is what’s “expected” since I’m on television. At the same time, I often think I and (our culture) imposed these standards, no one ever told me I had to relax my hair.

Several years ago a photographer commented on my relaxed hair and wondered why I went through such pains…and although I could understand what he was asking me, there was no way I’d stop! Then, I had a daughter…and everything changed.

Tonya’s daughter Audrey

My daughter is two years old, and was born with a head full of hair. From the moment she was born I heard comments like, “She had good hair.” The comments continued on — my family would often wonder if I was going to “do something” about her wild natural curls. I thought they were beautiful…and I wondered where on earth she got this wonderful hair! I realized one day while looking at a photo of myself as a baby, that maybe she got this beautiful hair from me. It made me sad to think that I honestly don’t know what my real texture is like. I started getting relaxers when I was 8…and the longest I’ve ever gone is two months without one. 

Today, I’m taking the leap. Your website is wonderful, it keeps me inspired. Who knows what the reaction will be among my viewers, but now that I’ve turned the tide, I just can’t go back.” ~Tonya

I asked Tonya some additional questions to get the full story.

How long have you been in TV? How did you get your big break into TV journalism?
TM:
I’ve been in television for 12 years. I started off behind the scenes as a producer and in 2001 crossed over into on air work. I’ve worked my way up through several small markets before ending up here in Seattle.

If there was no person explicitly telling you “you must relax”, why did you still feel that pressure?
TM:
I felt (feel) the pressure to relax because I haven’t seen anyone on TV “natural.” When I was in college I remember being floored after seeing Farai Chideya as an ABC correspondent; she had braids and it was the first time in my generation that I’d seen someone on TV like that. Even back then I thought, “She’s Farai, an author and well established, SHE can do that.” 

How do you plan to complete your transition? Will it be gradual or will you do a big chop?
TM:
I wrestle with this question everyday. I’m currently wearing my hair in cornrows and wearing a wig on television. As a rule, I’ve never been into fake hair or weaves, (I’ve always said I have a bohemian spirit) so this part of it bothers me. I sort of feel like I’m wearing this wig as a way to “buy time” and sort out my thoughts on how exactly I want to go about it.

You hear the ‘behind-the-screen’ conversations black female TV presenters have. What are their concerns/thoughts when it comes to hair?
TM:
I don’t think I’ve ever had in depth conversations about hair, but I can tell you one of the first things a black female reporter does when she moves to a new city is find a hair dresser. My first TV market was Fort Wayne, Indiana, and I used to drive to Chicago every 8 weeks to get a relaxer! 

It seems TV reporting is one of the last walls to tumble for professional natural women. Do you think change is possible in this field?
TM:
I sure hope so. I’ve heard stories in the past of news directors telling black reporters to get relaxers and weaves..and while this has never happened to me, I fear it, especially with my new decision. On the same token, I’ve already had the discussion about my hair with my current boss, and he gave me his blessing and said quote, “I would never want you to do something that was unhealthy for you and from what I hear it (relaxer) isn’t healthy. I’m all for it.” That was all I needed really, just the affirmation that I wouldn’t get fired!

I think overall this profession is slowly getting to a point where natural hair will be accepted. For so long television news was dominated by white men. Women (of all races) as well as minority men and women have had to undergo a lot over the years…slowly we’re seeing changes. 

Thank you, Tonya, for your courage in sharing your story. For more of Tonya check out her professional bio here.

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Black girl with long hair
Black girl with long hair
11 years ago

Tonya.. from one reporter to the next, I think your decision is AWESOME! A clear path needs to be paved for natural women in TV news and I’m excited that you want to be a part of that.

Vixen
Vixen
11 years ago

Good luck Tonya…you can do it!@

Da Jadedpoet
Da Jadedpoet
11 years ago

Great interview!! I look at my daughter’s hair and wonder where she gets her texture from since her hair is really fine. I’ve heard that good hair stuff about her hair too and I quickly correct people that nothing is wrong with natural hair. I’ve had one ignorant comment from a hair stylist who wondered if I was letting her stay natural like me after he pretty much butchered my scalp and I just politely smiled. Yes. * he snorted like,” I can’t believe you’ll put your child’s hair though that. >_>

*Tonya looks beautiful without that straight hair too*

SistaOpinion
SistaOpinion
11 years ago

Okay, I’m gonna be really real here:

If she goes natural and she finds out she DOESN’T have her daughter’s hair texture — specifically, if it’s nappier than she thought — will she go back to the relaxer?

Speaking generally here (not to pick on Tonya): We need to discourage this unspoken notion that only certain women “can” be natural.

Shari
Shari
11 years ago

Loved the interview! Tonya, I went to Mizzou, too!

Jc
Jc
11 years ago

I have seen a succession of topics which I have not commented on. I guess I have stopped commenting because I have reached a point in my own journey where I don’t need to hear that it is ok to be natural or that natural hair needs to be accepted. This is not to say that this message is not necessary for others, it is simply not necessary for me.  In my opinion, if an employer would say to me that I couldn’t have a job unless I changed my hair, then I wouldn’t want that job anyway. My hair is… Read more »

Tourmaline2777
Tourmaline2777
11 years ago

Love this blog! Great interview! Good Luck Tonya! I am in the exact same position except for the reporter thing-lol. I am transitioning and have not had chemicals on hair since June. I am just starting to see what my natural texture looks like and I am excited.

Black girl with long hair
Black girl with long hair
11 years ago

@ Jc… I see where you’re coming from, but I also think you should consider the world of journalism. I’m in print journalism. We don’t have to be cute. Nobody sees us. And the same is true for radio and online journalism. But honestly, TV reporters (I should say FEMALE TV reporters) are chosen for their looks JUST AS MUCH as their abilities. And honestly, sometimes looks SUPERCEDE ability when news directors are deciding who to hire. Journalism, generally speaking, is a serious hustle. You start in a small market (maybe at a low-population county/neighborhood news outlet) and work your way… Read more »

Black girl with long hair
Black girl with long hair
11 years ago

@ Jc… i agree that an interview with an HR rep would be REALLY enlightening. I actually contacted a few HR companies several weeks back, but didn’t get anyone. I will reach out again and see who I can snag.

Thanks for the suggestion girl 😉

Marilie
Marilie
11 years ago

Great interview! I would be interesting in hearing the HR professional’s perspective as well. I’m also interested in the response to SistaOpinion’s question. I get so tired of hearing, “I can’t go natural, because I don’t/won’t have the right texture.” My sister is one of the main ones who says this to me, and I attribute it to my mom relaxing her hair at such an early age, and always telling her that her hair was too difficult to deal with, and that’s why she *had* to relax it. Meanwhile, my sister’s edges are getting thinner and thinner, but she… Read more »

FrancesK
FrancesK
11 years ago

(I’m French so i apaologize for my english ^o^)

It’s weird the way she says her daugther have “good hair “…
Is it “good hair “because it’s more curly than nappy ?
in my opinion it’s not the good way to embrace natural hair .

Jai
Jai
11 years ago

Great interview once again!!!

Tonya you said a mouthful here, “I often think I and (our culture) imposed these standards, no one ever told me I had to relax my hair.” The images we see on tv and the magazines don’t help either.

If/when you decide to do the big chop I hope you’ll let us know and take pics so we can see. 🙂 Kudos to your boss for supporting you as well.

Chloe Bee
Chloe Bee
11 years ago

That’s right Black girls with long hair in Seattle! Ilived there for !1 years adn I remeber her on teh news…It’s super cool she’s going natural adn I wish her allteh best…BTW I love you blog!!! Much love!

Tonya
Tonya
11 years ago

Hi everyone! Thanks for the comments. I’d like to respond to some of them.  @SisterOpinion — I guess I should have clarified my statement about my daughter. What I was trying to convey is that after having my daughter 1. I was overwhelmed by the constant comments about her hair and the need to “do something about it” rather than just letting it be. 2. Raising a daughter opened up my eyes to the fact that I never had the experience of knowing what my natural hair is like. Not only do I NOT want that for my little girl, but… Read more »

SistaOpinion
SistaOpinion
11 years ago

Tonya, thank you for answering my question. I completely understand where you’re coming from. It’s interesting how having children, especially little girls, can be the catalyst for all kinds of positive changes in women’s lives. I don’t necessarily believe that it’s impossible for a mother who’s relaxed to instill love of natural hair in her child, but I can’t help but think it’s a good thing when daughters (and sons!) can see their #1 role model being proud of the hair they were born with. Good luck!

feecollins
feecollins
11 years ago

I live in Seattle and I see her on the news all the time. VERY nice to see she came on here to express herself and did a GREAT interview! I am ‘rooting’ for you Tonya. My daughter was my inspiration to go natural as well.

Anonymous
Anonymous
11 years ago

Good stuff…BGLH!!! Another inspiring story

Lovelei
Lovelei
11 years ago

OMG I learned more about my hair from my children too who came out with this slick, curly hair and people have been saying that I have “that good hair” since I was little. Someone said it today infact.  When I tell some people about my decision to grow my hair out they do a hair analysis like:“Hmmm can I accept your level of nappiness?”  Then, based on whatever they have seen like the length of my hair, previous times when I needed a touch up or sometimes even my complexion; they give me the green light or they make… Read more »

Natasha
Natasha
11 years ago

I’m natural and a broadcast journalism major so this is something i think about b/c I could end up in front of the camera so day. I’ve met potential employers in the broadcast industry and they have no probem with my big fro.

jenteel
jenteel
11 years ago

great interview! best of luck to you tonya!

Heidi
Heidi
11 years ago

It seems like you may have done the big chop because I just saw you on the news and had to google to see if you cut your hair! Good for you for going natural.

I always used to love seeing Alison Stewart reporting the news on TV (MTV, CBS, etc.). She never chopped, but she was always sporting the natural curls.

feecollins
feecollins
11 years ago

Tonya I just seen you on the 5pm news reporting! You look so cute!!! I love it! Love Love Love the hair. It’s refreshing to see a natural look on the news. Joyce and Angela and the NWCN lady have the same ‘look’. You stay with that new look!

Yoshi3329
Yoshi3329
10 years ago

I hate when stylist refuse to cut hair, they do it all the time. Mind your business. Ugh.

Anywhoo, congrats on the big chop enjoy your journey!

Angel
10 years ago

I love these inspiring interviews, Tonya, you and your daughter are beautiful.

Jc
Jc
10 years ago

Great update, she seems quite positive.

kadiane*francophone
kadiane*francophone
10 years ago

This is a case of natural hair ”drawing up” the features. Prettylicious. Bravo !!

Dreamlover225
Dreamlover225
10 years ago

Leila, maybe this is something that you can address. Too often, I hear natural women complain about how there is a lack of representation of natural hair in the media. I wholeheartedly agree that this is true. However, we as natural women cannot look to the media for affirmation. I’m learning that in the entertainment industry, there won’t be many women that look like me. Regardless, I have to just be about it. Like for instance, Amber Rose. How many bald women are paraded as sexy and feminine? I personally can’t think of any except for this woman. If a woman… Read more »

Tonya Mosley
10 years ago

Dreamlover225, I completely agree with you — but I think at the same time it’s so important to have representation in mainstream media. Here’s a related example of why. I can remember vividly the day I saw Oprah on television. I was 8 years old and a commercial came on announcing her new show. The commercial had people on the street saying “Orpha, Oka, Ophie?” Then Oprah’s face popped up and she said, “It’s Oprah! Starting this fall at 4pm” There she was brown-skinned, full figured and full of energy. She reminded me of myself…and I honestly think that was… Read more »

Dreamlover225
Dreamlover225
10 years ago

Tonya, I agree with you as well. It’s very important for young girls to see someone that looks like them. However, Oprah did not wait for someone to give her permission to be in the public eye. It was her dream and she simply pursued it. She did not hold out for the media ’embrace’ of women with her physical features. I feel like as naturals we sometimes wait for the media to say “Oh, now it’s okay for a natural woman to be successful in such and such pubic arena.” I just need to DO IT and stop looking… Read more »

LBell
LBell
10 years ago

CONGRATULATIONS Tonya! You look fabulous. Although I believe that natural hair shouldn’t be limited by market, I can’t help but think that Seattle viewers won’t get too upset. I know I’m generalizing based on the one time I visited…lol…I just loved how cool the people were. And I completely co-sign with Dreamlover225. The world (okay, mainstream media and the people who are stupid enough to go along with it) has told us that we’re not good enough as we are. I’m really over black women hanging their heads…I need more of us to hold them up high without apology. I… Read more »

Serurubele
Serurubele
9 years ago

She has a pretty face with the TWA. Cute

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