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WFAA Anchor Tashara Parker Wants to End the Debate About ‘Professional’ Hair

After going viral for wearing a natural updo on air, Tashara Parker sparked a national conversation.
| |As Told to Kathy Wise
Tashara Parker, WFAA anchor
Courtesy Tashara Parker

“The person you’re talking to now is not the person in 2014 trying to get a job. [laughs] That confidence has come along the way. I like to think that I was confident back then, but looking back—oh, absolutely not. I absolutely felt a sense of pressure to wear my hair straight. I can remember back when I was in grad school, I just didn’t feel like I was ready with my reel, my tape and all that stuff, when it came to applying for jobs. So when I went to grad school for journalism, I remember I had a professor—and I’m just going to say this off the top: I love this professor to death, but he was a White male—and he said, ‘Look, I’m just going to be honest with you. Basically, you’re going to have to straighten your hair in order to get a job in this industry.’ And the thing is, when I look back on that conversation, I understood where he was coming from. I had my straight hair on my reel, and about a year later or so, I ended up getting a job, and it just so happened that the job was back in College Station. 

“It wasn’t until maybe two and a half years later that I started getting a little bit more comfortable in general being on air, and being a Black woman on air. About three years into the business, I started wanting to rock my natural hair. In 2018 or 2019, I started wearing braids, which was also a thing. And then, in 2019, I started wearing my natural hair on air.

“Without being able to express yourself in the way that you show up, you don’t show up as your true self. And when you try to put on this façade, so to speak, you don’t get a chance to truly express yourself. And I really feel like that doesn’t give you a chance to do the best work that you can do. 

“I get all kinds of reactions when I wear Bantu knots on the morning news here in Dallas, but I love Bantu knots—it’s kind of like these balls that are all across your head. I just absolutely love those. The bun is very different. With the four buns going down the middle of my head [photos of which went viral when she first sported the style on air in 2020], that was a very different type of hairstyle. I think the reaction was because a great majority of people are so used to seeing a certain person, a certain look, a certain hairstyle, a certain vocal range—they’re so used to seeing a certain person on TV. And so when they saw that hairstyle—mind you, I hadn’t worn Bantu knots or anything like it; all I had worn up until that point, I believe, is my ’fro and maybe braids—but when they saw that hairstyle, it was almost a shock to the system, because the system had been this ideal image of people coming in with straight hair. You have to look this way; you have to talk this way. So when you see somebody that goes against the grain and does something differently, then of course it gets that type of reaction.

“When I would go home with my afro from college, my grandmother would look at me and say, ‘What is that? What are you doing?’ She’d say something like, ‘I like your hair the other way.’ She meant straight. I think it took my grandmother a little while [to come around]. Now she’s quite more accepting, especially seeing how her friends and family and people have responded in support of what I’m doing. When it comes to the older generation, they had to overcome a lot of things that some of us will never ever have to deal with or see. And so I understood where she was coming from. That didn’t make it right, but I understood where she was coming from when she would say certain things like that. 

“She’s come a long way. She loves how I wear it now, no matter how I come home rocking it—the buns and all.”

This story originally appeared in the March issue of D Magazine. Write to [email protected].

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