Rhonda A. Lee Fired: Being A Black Woman, Hair and Beauty

Rhonda A. Lee is a Meteorologist with over 20 years of television industry experience.

Click here to see Rhonda in action as a Meteorologist

Meteorologist Rhonda A. Lee was fired from her job at KTBS-TV in Shreveport, Louisiana allegedly for responding to comments a viewer made about her hair.  Just a few months ago a White female reporter fired back on-air to a person who made derogatory comments about her weight; she was never fired.  But when a Black woman responds back to a veiwer via a Facebook post to comments about her hair, she gets fired.  Since the news broke out, various websites have been posting outrage and anger about this incident.

Oct 1: The viewer, who identified himself as Emmitt Vascocu wrote on the station’s Facebook page, “the black lady that does the news is a very nice lady. The only thing is she needs to wear a wig or grow some more hair. I’m not sure if she is a cancer patient. But still its not something myself that I think looks good on tv.  What about letting someone a male have waist long hair do the news about that (cg)”

On the same day Lee responded to Vascocu saying, “Hello Emmitt – I am the ‘black lady’ to which you are referring.  I’m sorry you don’t like my ethnic hair.  And no I don’t have cancer.  I’m a non-smoking, 5’3″ 121 lbs, 25 mile a week running 37.5 year old woman and I’m in perfectly healthy physical condition…..I’m very proud of my African-American ancestry which includes my hair.  For your edification: traditionally our hair doesn’t grow downward.  It grows upward.  Many Black women use strong straightening agents in order to achieve a more European grad of hair and that is their choice.  However in my case I don’t find it necessary.  I’m very proud of who I am and the standard of beauty I display.  Women come in all shapes, sizes, nationalities, and levels of beauty.  Showing little girls that being comfortable in the skin and HAIR God gave me is my contribution to society.  Little girls (and boys for that matter) need to see that what you look like isn’t a reason to not achieve their goals…”Conforming to one standard isn’t what being American is about and I hope you can embrace that.”

“Thank you for your comment and have a great weekend and thank you for watching.”

In reading what was said it’s clear that she wasn’t rude nor did she come across in a manner that a company could justify firing her.

The man who commented responded to what she said by saying she was right in being proud of her heritage but, “this world has certain standard…If you’ve come from a world of being poor are you going to dress in rags?…”

We live in a world that says don’t judge a book by it’s cover.  But the truth is people judge people every single day.  What’s even worse is that when a person is of another race where culture and natural things about another race’s beauty are called into question it can sometimes be deemed as not attractive.  Instead of trying to understand each other instead people criticize.

Personally I work in the media and the question of hair is one that I have been dealing with for many years.  It actually began during the days I was pursuing a career as a fashion model.  Ironically my first modelling job was advertising wigs.  But there came a point when I chose to allow my hair to go ‘natural’ as they say.  I remember my agent telling me that I’ll never get work as a ‘black girl with natural hair’.  At that time the only model wearing natural hair was Roshumba Williams.  But over the last 15 years the industry has embraced more people with natural hair.  I stopped using the chemical straighteners in 1996.  Since then I have noticed different treatment because of my hair in some instances.  I get more responses (or interviews) when I blow-dry and press out my hair with a flat iron or ‘hot comb’.  Even though there have been leaps and strides, clearly there are still people uncomfortable with the natural Afro hair.

As Lee mentioned in her response, Black people (African-American), African, Black Caribbeans etc., genetically have a different type of hair than any other race.  Naturally the hair of Black people grows upward and not down and straight like Caucasian (White), Indian, Asian or Latino/Hispanic hair.  Our hair typically (if you are not of mixed race), grows in what is known as an Afro.  Thick, supercurly (often referred to as wiry) and puffy.

Lee, who previously worked in Austin, Texas for NBC affiliate station KXAN, also has a discrimination lawsuit outstanding against her former employer.  According to reports in Mediabistro.com, she said she was “repeatedly subjected to crude and insensitive remarks about her race.”

It will be interesting to see what the outcome of both incidents in Lee’s professional career will bring about.

What do you think?

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