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!
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.
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.