ABC Anchor Fired Over "Curly Hair" Says Management "Degraded" Her Natural Look
22-year-old meteorologist says she was fired because of her haircut and her clothes.
Tabitha Bartoe had only been on the job three days when trouble started brewing. The 22-year-old landed her dream job right out of college as the weekend meteorologist at ABC affiliate WATE 6 in Knoxville, Tennessee, and claims she immediately clashed with the station's management over her appearance.
According to Bartoe, the general manager and news director, both women didn't think her hair and wardrobe choices were a good fit, ultimately leading to her firing.
In an interview with the New York Post, Bartoe revealed how harshly management criticized her hair. "Have you looked in the mirror lately?" the newsroom's general manager allegedly told Bartoe. "There's one right over there."
The general manager "degraded" her natural hair, telling Bartoe, "it didn't make sense that my hair was naturally curly here but then my bangs were straight," she said.
Bartoe claims the management suggested she try a different hairstyle, and at first, she tried it. "It wasn't necessarily a problem in the beginning because I was just assuming that they were just trying to help me and trying to build my professional image," Bartoe told Knoxville News Sentinel.
"I was willing to take advantage of it, but I think it was right away when they asked me if I was willing ever to get my hair relaxed. Or, 'If you straighten your hair, the curl will fall out over time; that's what we're looking for."
Bartoe told the New York Post at the first hair appointment, "We went to a hair salon and both the hairdresser and news director jumped right in to talk about everything they disliked about my hair, specifically how my curls looked."
Her boss asked the stylist for a "softened" look, and suggested ways for her "curls to fall out over time," she added.
Bartoe went to the first appointment with an open mind but wasn't happy with how the station tried to make her look. "That's just not what I was looking for. … I'd like to have my natural hair," she told Knox News.
A few weeks later, Bartoe the conservation about her hair came up again, and she was asked to go to another salon. "I had no say in how my hair was supposed to be done for both appointments," she told the outlet. "It was just what they wanted. I did not feel comfortable in either of those situations."
According to Bartoe, the management took such an issue with her hair that she was taken off the air. "I was pulled out of my shows to do the weather and instead sat at a salon for nearly three hours," Bartoe told the New York Post.
"The news director left and came back after the appointment was over. She had no words, just 'Can you smile?' So she could take a photo and send it to the general manager."
Although mostly Bartoe's naturally curly hair was an issue for the station's management, the former weekend meteorologist said there was one consideration about her clothes. She told Knox News, "I mean, Calvin Klein is a pretty popular brand," she said, referring to the designer whose clothes she wore.
"When we went to go pick out clothing and everything, the news director asked me what size I wore. And I was like, 'Well, I'm a little bit of a curvier person, and these straight-down dresses, I can't just do that. … "So, I tell her my size and she just kind of looks me up and down, and we go about our time."
Bartoe, originally from Ohio, was fired from her job, but not because of her performance. She told the New York Post, she was "terminated due to my style not aligning with the company."
She told Knox News, "I wasn't even allowed to go back into the newsroom to grab my stuff," she said. "I left the station. I just cried because I didn't even know what happened. It didn't even feel real."
Women in news are held to different standards, with plenty of examples. Mississippi news anchor Brittany Noble Jones was terminated because a supervisor reportedly didn't like her natural hair. She told TODAY, "I hope that corporations will take a look at their policies and handbooks. I want to help news organizations diversify their product because America is counting on us. Our newsrooms should reflect the community we serve," she said.
"We've got to find ways to work together. My story is so much bigger than hair." In addition, Lisa LaFlamme, a popular Canadian news anchor, was abruptly terminated after 35 years after letting her hair return to its natural gray color during the pandemic.