Knoxville TV Anchor Tabitha Bartoe faces discrimination over natural hair | World News - Hindustan Times

Knoxville TV Anchor Tabitha Bartoe faces discrimination over natural hair, sparking outrage and support

May 19, 2023 11:24 AM IST

Discover the inspiring story of US TV anchor Tabitha Bartoe, who bravely challenges beauty standards in television by embracing her natural curly hair.

Tabitha Bartoe, a recent United States college graduate, thought she had found the perfect fit when she landed a job as the weekend morning weather anchor at WATE, a TV station in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Tabitha Bartoe's journey to embrace natural hair. (Image Credit: Tabitha Bartoe/Instagram)
Tabitha Bartoe's journey to embrace natural hair. (Image Credit: Tabitha Bartoe/Instagram)

However, her excitement quickly turned to disappointment when she faced criticism from her supervisors about her appearance, specifically her naturally curly hair. Despite the best efforts possible, Bartoe was ultimately let go on May 9 due to her hairstyle not aligning with the company's policy.

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"It doesn't even sound real," Bartoe expressed to the Knox News Sentinel, the USA TODAY Network. "The whole thing just sounds like a joke. And I wish it was."

The issue of women on television facing senior’s scrutiny and discrimination based on a narrow beauty standard is not new. Last year, renowned Canadian television journalist Lisa LaFlamme was fired after she chose to embrace her natural gray hair instead of dyeing it.

Back in 2019, Brittany Noble-Jones, a news anchor from Mississippi, was let go after a senior complained about her natural hair. As a Black woman, Noble-Jones chose not to straighten her hair or wear extensions, which led to unjust treatment. She was even instructed to use a closet to pump milk for breastfeeding after she returned to work following the birth of her child.

It is worth noting that Noble-Jones' former station is owned by Nexstar Media, the same company that owns WATE, further highlighting the connected threads of these incidents.

“Had no say”

The college grad’s ordeal did not end with the initial hair appointment. Months later, she found herself facing yet another request from the station—to visit another stylist with the vague intention of softening her curls.

"At first, I didn't see it as a problem because I assumed they were genuinely trying to help me improve my professional image," Bartoe explained. "I was open to taking advantage of the opportunity. However, it was when they asked if I would consider getting my hair relaxed or straightened, with the notion that my natural curls would eventually fall out over time, that I realized it wasn't aligned with what I wanted. I wanted to embrace my natural hair."

Wate TV anchor Tabitha Bartoe. (Image Credit: Tabitha Barote/ Instagram)
Wate TV anchor Tabitha Bartoe. (Image Credit: Tabitha Barote/ Instagram)

The meteorologist, who had experienced bullying due to her curly hair since childhood, had since learned to embrace and love her natural look. She felt she had no control over how her hair was supposed to be styled during these appointments. The situation left her feeling uncomfortable and unheard.

She expressed her lack of knowledge regarding her supervisor's approval of the new looks, only being asked to smile for a photo to be sent to the station's general manager.

"I had no say in how my hair was supposed to be done for both appointments," Bartoe shared. "It was solely based on what they wanted. I did not feel comfortable in either of those situations."

One size doesn’t fit all

The controversial situation has generated significant public outcry and an outpouring of support for Bartoe, which she experienced firsthand when she shared her story through a social media post, explaining her absence from television.

The response to the weather anchor’s post was overwhelming, with various media outlets such as the New York Post, USA Today, and Daily Mail reporting on her termination.

Some of the reports focused on a specific part of her message that emphasized the importance of embracing one's beauty and professionalism, regardless of any physical attributes.

Tabitha Bartoe sticks with his media career

During the course of her employment, Bartoe found herself facing a pivotal moment when the station's general manager reminded her that she was still within the initial 90 days of her contract. She recalls being presented with a clear ultimatum, either bowing down to the station's demands or facing termination.

"The message was essentially, comply with our expectations, or it's time for you to leave," she recounts.

Ultimately, the rebel college grad was let go due to her style not aligning with the company's policies. She vividly remembers being informed, "Your style isn't in line with our company and its policy, so it's time for you to move on."

As she was escorted out of the building, staff members retrieved her belongings on her behalf. Bartoe expresses her deep sense of shock and disbelief, recounting how she wasn't even granted permission to reenter the newsroom to collect her personal items.

Despite the distressing and hurtful experience, Bartoe remains determined to forge ahead with her career in the media industry.

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