TV reporter Lolita Lopez was interviewing for a job at a New York television station when the discussion veered away from her journalism experience.
"They thought I was great, they loved my work, but they wanted me to straighten my hair," says Lopez. "I said 'This is who I am.'"
Although she doesn't know if her curls were the reason, the station told her she "isn't the right fit for us."
Lopez got a job at New York's CW11 News, where both her reporting talents and her curls are more than welcome.
"I wear my hair down and keep it curly, and I've never been questioned about it," she says. "My news director has been so supportive. She embraces my curly hair. She feels like it's a part of me. That's Lolita."
Christo of Christo Fifth Avenue, right, cuts TV news reporter/anchor Lotita Lopez' curly hair.
Lopez is one of a handful of TV reporters and anchors who dare to wear their natural curls on air. Most are told they must straighten their curls and kinks, whether they want to or not. In one case, an anchor in the Northeast wore her hair curly one night only to be deluged with calls from unhappy viewers who preferred her with a straight bob.
Because few curly TV personalities wear their hair curly, straight hair is what viewers have become accustomed to. Women like Lopez are doing what they can to change that.
"I don't shy away from who I am," Lopez says. "I hope I send the message that you can be your own person, from the way that you talk to the way you wear your hair."
|Christo of Christo Fifth Avenue, right, cuts TV news reporter/anchor Lotita Lopez' curly hair.|
Lopez says she has always been comfortable with her curls, even when others haven't. She was born in Santurce, Puerto Rico, where most curly headed women get their hair set in rollers and don't wash it again until they go back to the salon.
"Wearing your hair naturally curly is almost unheard of there," Lopez says. "There is a perception that straight is better and classier."
Growing up in Houston, Lopez says she dreamed of working in television. She was a video camera junkie, who would play host on camera at birthday parties. She loved watching the news.
When she was younger, the Harvard graduate wore her curls long and one length, with the front pulled back. She never thought twice about her hair.
"It wasn't until I got my first job that my hair became an issue," Lopez says. "People would say 'We really like you but we want to see you with straight hair."
At one job, she had to continually fend off bosses who wanted her to straighten her hair.
"Nobody was writing in to complain and nobody was giving me any good reason why they wanted to do it," Lopez says. "I felt like they wanted to give me a cookie-cutter bob, and that's not me."
Lopez joined CW11 as a general assignment reporter five years ago, and has worked on everything from politics to entertainment. She was appointed weekend sports anchor in 2005, and she covered the Mets as an on-field reporter for games broadcast on the station. She also works as a news anchor at the station.
Lopez gets her hair cut by Christo at Christo Fifth Avenue and wears it in long, face-framing layers. She says she wakes up, sprays in a little Curlisto Protein Boost and is out the door.
"I wear it down and keep it curly," she says of her hair. "It's never been an issue here. In fact, the idea of straightening my hair popped up once and my news director said 'No. This is the way she is. I love the curly hair.'"
And she's gotten plenty of positive feedback from viewers. When she's been out on a story, she hears from young curly women who tell her how much they love seeing "one of us on TV."
"In a small way, I hope I show people that you can look professional for any kind of work with curly hair, whether it be Corporate America, TV or Wall Street," Lopez says.