Even if you are NOT an avid sports fan, as black women with even the mildest interest in hair then I’m sure you have heard about the controversy surrounding Pam Oliver’s hair. My father has been expressing disbelief regarding what he deems as a lack of grooming and “bad weave” all football season – even jokingly saying to me “Ebony, Pam needs your help; Send her to your blog!” I’ll admit, once I caught my first glimpses of her, I had to agree. The sistah’s hair looks awful.
Fast forward a few months and it seems Pam Oliver’s hair caught nearly everyone’s attention. People weren’t just talking amongst themselves like my father and I, in this day and age of course not, they took to Twitter and other forms of social media. Similar to the merciless criticism of poor Gabby Douglass during the 2012 Olympics, fans were brutal in their remarks. And now with the popularity of Instagram, of course there are a few meme’s floating around…
Let me back up a minute, for all our non-American readers, and bring everyone up to speed. Pam Oliver is an American sportscaster, known for her sideline reporting for the National Football League (NFL) on FOX network and NBA playoffs on TNT network. Pretty accomplished, right? After all, aside from her the only other female sportscaster of color I can think of is Cheryl Miller – and while awesome at her job, Cheryl has an unfair advantage. She is sister of NBA Hall of Famer, Reggie Miller, and many regard Cheryl as one of the greatest female basketball players of all time. Pam Oliver on the other hand, worked her way up the sportscasting ranks in a more traditional path beginning with her degree in broadcast journalism from Florida A&M University in 1984.
Another note, most newscasters are responsible for their own hair and makeup. Even some of the largest, nationally syndicated on-air personalities do not have a glam squad, contrary to popular belief. So Pam is responsible for doing her own hair and makeup. Coupled with the fact that she is a sideline reporter outside in the elements, it is only natural that she is not perfectly coiffed at all times while working. I’m not taking anything away from her accomplishments, her reporting capabilities, or her job performance. However, Pam can and should do better with her hair.
Perhaps it is a lack of knowledge – maybe she didn’t realize it looks THAT bad. Maybe this season marks her first foray into the wig wearing realm. Perhaps she is being misled by her stylist – it has happened to some of the prettiest celebrities. But with the popularity of YouTube, blogs, and other forms of social media sharing information and step-by-step tutorials…I find any excuse to be just that, an excuse. You can find a good stylist and view their work simply by searching the appropriate hashtags on Instagram! It isn’t as if she is wearing her real hair – the whole point of wigs and weave is that they look good while you are able to protect your real hair. There really is no reason for Pam Oliver to appear on television looking as if she just left Bum-quisha’s kitchen getting her weave tightened up. The color, the hair quality and the overall craftsmanship are all wrong and way below the standard for any professional woman, let alone one whose responsibilities include appearing on national television.
I disagree with the way critics chose to express themselves, and while I love social media and the ability to have free speech, people use it as an excuse to be unnecessarily mean. However, I do agree that Pam Oliver’s hair looks awful. It is unfortunate that Black women face issues most women of other races do not have to consider when it comes to our hair. Fighting frizz, feeling pressured to wear our hair straight on top of the challenges we have in trying to grow our hair and keep it healthy makes maintaining a professional look much more difficult. I myself have lamented about the challenges I’ve faced in constantly looking “interview-ready” so I get it. But it is what it is – yes, we do face unique challenges but we must conquer them. Still in 2014, in many professional fields, there are only a handful of women, and even less women of color. So we have to be at our best at all times. Yes it is a double standard but again – it is what it is.
The issue with being overly opinionated via social media is that the message often gets lost. People dismiss the uproar as silly and overly critical and Pam Oliver is no exception. She told Jenice Armstrong of the Daily News: “It’s comical. This whole thing is just comical.” and that she did not plan any changes to her appearance for Super Bowl Sunday. It is my opinion that people are not overreacting to how badly Pam Oliver’s hair appears and while their delivery may be harsh, I hope someone close to Pam will persuade her to make some changes before the NBA playoffs begin. Better hair, a custom wig, and perhaps even taking a few private classes from a celebrity stylist to teach her techniques that will keep her looking camera ready.