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The Funny Business of TV Hair

Monday, 11 Apr 2011 | 3:43 PM ET

Television is a funny business. "It's all about the hair," my CNBC colleague Sue Hereraalways jokes.

I've been very lucky. I've survived in this industry 28 years, no thanks to my hair. I just don't have great hair, which has led me to personally expand the hole in the ozone because of all the spray I use. Sorry. I'm not going green on that front and never will.

I used to think that my writing and reporting skills, my ability to produce a visually compelling story, was all I needed. That was good enough when I was young.

Then, in 1995, I started covering the O.J. Simpson criminal trial for WNBC-TV. New York! The big time! After doing my first live report, I got a call from the executive producer. I thought I'd nailed it. "Can you do something about your hair?" was all he said.

Hair matters, same with clothing, jewelry and makeup. You want to look pleasant on television. You don't want people ignoring what you're saying because they're distracted by your looks.

Tonight I'm speaking to a few hundred powerful women at the Pacific Coast Business Times' Top Women in Business Awards in Santa Barbara. I thought they might get a kick out of a video montage of my hair and style through the years. Anyone who's fretted over her appearance going into a pitch meeting might be inspired by the fact that it is possible to succeed against long odds. The videotape editor who put the montage together was laughing so hard that I've decided to share it with you.

The montage starts in 1983, when I was a 22-year-old news writer for KTLA in Los Angeles and making a practice tape to become a reporter. Then it moves on to my first on-camera job in Albuquerque, then Miami, then back to Los Angeles. Included may be the worst look EVER in television news, in one of the most widely watched live shots I ever did: the 1994 Northridge quake, when power went out in the predawn hours that morning, and all I could grab were my old coke-bottle glasses, a hat, and some hot pink lipstick. Yikes.

I promise you, next earthquake, that won't happen. I'm prepared for disaster this time...water, blanket, flashlight, full makeup kit and better hat.

Questions? Comments? Funny Stories? Email funnybusiness@cnbc.com

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  • Based in Los Angeles, Jane Wells is a CNBC business news reporter and also writes the Funny Business blog for CNBC.com.

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