Let’s be clear whether you agree with her political views or not Joy Reid, Harvard Alum, and NY Best Selling author is the only black woman on Primetime television right now with her new breakout show “The ReidOut” on Cable network MSNBC.
We say it all the time, we stan a dope queen and it is not lost on us the sheer weight of hosting a show right after dinner when more eyes are on you AND you happen to be a black woman.
Joy knew upfront that not only would she have to continue to deliver excellence on every show but that her aesthetics would be in question before she even turned on the mic to greet her audience.
In the words of our forever first lady Michelle Obama:
“It is what it is”!
Eboni K. Williams, national TV host, attorney, and bestselling author wrote a piece in Forbes called: Joy Reid: A Black Woman’s Hair Politics.
In the article Joy shared “making it to primetime [meant] that some little girl looking at a TV in her parents’ or grandparents’ house can say to themselves, ‘I can do that.’
With a high profile spot in primetime, and the ability to influence the next generation, Reid knows everything matters — including how she shows up on air. She decidedly debuted a new hairstyle for her show’s premiere, embracing her freedom of choice.
“I think that Black women have come into our own in every aspect, including in insisting that we will be ourselves, including in the way we wear our hair.
There’s no reason we shouldn’t be able to embrace our hair as it is, or how we reimagine it, and it’s an affirmation of our full arrival as citizens and cultural leaders. And yes, our natural hair is a political statement,” said Reid.
This topic is of particular interest to me, because in 2017, I wrote a book titled ‘Pretty Powerful: Appearance, Substance, & Success’.
It explores the role aesthetics can play in a woman’s career ascension. The policing of Black hair in particular has deep roots in our country.
In fact, a brand new Duke University study in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science shows Black women with natural hair are less likely to get job interviews. For Black women on network television, there’s almost a right of passage, that I too have experienced.
We’re all subject to the television network’s hair and make-up teams. Those teams are often unfamiliar and inexperienced with styling Black hair textures. This is a byproduct of not having enough Black women on television in the first place.
It results in our hair being burned out by curling irons and flatirons that are too hot for our hair types. Reid described seeing her hair come out in clumps during her early days on air. “I was traumatized,” she said.
“So traumatized, I spent hundreds, actually thousands of dollars on specialists, treatments, wigs and weaves to try and save my hair. All things I’d never done before,” said Reid.
As ‘The ReidOut’ was launching, Reid just happened to be coming out of braids (a style she frequents during summer months).
She wanted to give her edges a rest, a common practice among Black women everywhere when we step away from tight styles to allow the perimeter of our hairlines to rest.
Instead of opting for a blowout, or other standard looks seen on TV, Reid decided her new show presented an opportunity to lean into a new look — a crown of beautiful coils. “If it’s going to be a new show, a new moment, let’s go with a new visual too,” said Reid.
It was a new look for a new moment and it was by design. Reid affirmed a reality that Black women in America know from birth — choosing to wear our hair in styles that are natural to us is not always considered “professional.”
We are often encouraged to opt for hairstyles that emulate our white female counterparts. Those more “allegedly professional” styles include chemical relaxers, keratin treatments, and thermal treatments such as blowouts, flat ironing, and other heat-intensive processes.
These processes almost always lead to breakage, burns, and other tremendous damage to our hair and spirit. However, this is changing.
It’s why Reid decided her history-making new show was an opportunity to be intentional with her choice of hairstyle. It was indeed a political statement. Actually, her choice was a revolutionary act.
Reid says in the 1970s her mother at one point rocked an afro. A hairstyle is widely seen to represent Black pride & protest. Reid is simply continuing a generational value system, by enacting a protest of her own.
“My husband recently showed me side-by-side pictures; one from my Instagram and one I have on my desk, that kind of blew my mind because at present I’m wearing my hair the way my mom did,” she said.
Reid is exercising intention that rejects conforming to mainstream expectations of a straight, white-adjacent aesthetic.
She’s choosing to show up at work on her own terms, because she finally can, drawing her hair inspiration from her mother and stars like Diana Ross.
“[Ross] has worn her hair in every conceivable style, from a short or long Afro to a straightened look and has always looked amazing,” said Reid.
Reid says at one point in her on-air hair journey she went to Tamron Hall (who was her NBC News colleague at the time) about a hair experience. Reid says Hall emphatically told her it was unacceptable.
Reid says herself, Hall, and Jacque Reid (fellow NBC journalist and Reid’s good friend and play cousin) took action. NBC News now has one of the most diverse teams of Black hairstylists, and non-Black hair stylists, proficient in styling and protecting Black talent’s hair.
The team built by Reid and her two Black women colleagues spanned from the network’s New York City and D.C. bureaus. Reid emphasized the importance of diversity on camera as well as behind the scenes.
Joy Reid says she insisted on this geographical scope, because it wasn’t enough for her to be the only beneficiary of this new experience.
“I needed to ensure that my show contributors and guests, everyone on my show, got the same opportunity that I did to feel good, look good, and just be fabulous,” she said.
Reid represents the top of a Black women collective that has decided to fully prioritize ourselves, the health of our hair, and our right to show up at work as our authentic selves. FOX Sports’ Joy Taylor has recently joined this political movement to emancipate the Black woman’s aesthetic on TV.
Joy Reid exemplifies Black women’s right to show up at work fully on our terms. Reid is making a political statement of being fully Black, fully representative of her audience, and fully herself. And by doing so, she empowers every Black woman to make that same choice to exist in all spaces as our most authentic, confident, and beautiful selves.
“Showing up as my authentic self at work means having the flexibility to get as dressed up as I want to be, I say what I think, hopefully diplomatically but unapologetically, and I walk through the world deliberately as a Black woman who is determined to represent my community in every aspect and to build and encourage diversity wherever I go,” said Joy Reid.