Are We Being Too Hard on Pam Oliver + Her Hair?
Let me say first that I respect Pam Oliver. She’s opened doors from women in sports and on TV and in journalism and that deserves to be acknowledged.
Fox’s veteran sports journalist has been dragged across social media ever since she reported from the sidelines during the NFC Championship Game between the Seattle Seahawks and the San Francisco 49ers, looking like this:
Almost instantly, Instagram memes appeared, comparing Oliver to Chewbacca from Star Wars. (I won’t post the picture out of respect.) The state of her hair was also a trending topic on Twitter and a topic of conversation during the Super Bowl where she, to give credit where it is due, looked much better, but still received lots of criticism. I actually thought she looked presentable.
Oliver addressed all the hubbub in an interview with Philly.com. She called the commotion over her hair “comical” and also admitted that after 20-plus years in the TV business, she still does her own hair and make-up.
“You’re out there, trying a to catch players, get some last-minute stuff, get your reports turned around quickly, and I may or may not have time to put on lip gloss or powder my face,” Oliver told Philly.com. “I know TV is a visual medium, but there are times when you kind of hope that people are listening to what you’re saying as opposed to judging you if a strand of hair is not in place or if you have only got one eye lined or something.
“That’s naive of me. I get it,” she added. “But there are times I get so tunnel-visioned and focused on what I’m doing to the point of maybe letting that other stuff fall by the wayside. It’s not intentional. You want to look your best on TV.”
I get it. Sorta. Hair and make-up get expensive. I’m a newbie in TV land and there are a lot of unexpected expenses that no one tells you about. Spending money on hair and make-up when there are so many other concerns – like lawyers to protect whatever you are trying to build—can seem like a frivolous expenditure or an unnecessary burden.
I’m fortunate in that I’ve known how to do my hair– natural, permed, sew-in, glue-in, cut, bleach, dye, whatever– from when I was a teenager. (My mother is from Detroit, if that’s any explanation.) This has saved me a TON of money. I also willfully learned how to do my own face in decent enough shape to be seen on TV by reading Kevin Aucoin + Sam Fine make up books + watching YouTube videos. I frequent the MAC counter to get tips and I pay attention when I am fortunate enough to have MUAs beat me when someone else is paying. For big Moments, I splurge to bring in the best I can afford to do me right so I look presentable. I consider this a worthy sacrifice and investment for what I’m trying to do and where I’m trying to go.
TV is a visual medium and pulling a professional look together is part of the job, even as a sports journalist. And when your hair looks unkempt to the point that it distracts viewers from your professional work, addressing your image is about more than just vanity. It’s a necessity.
Oliver is not a newbie. She’s 20 years in the game and it is clear that while she is an expert at journalism, she is not an expert at make-up or hair. She needs a consistent glam team of beauty professionals to do what they do best so Oliver can focus on what she does best—report. A professional team— even one that cannot be brought onto the field— would help her create looks that are more flattering and that would hold up better in bad weather or other conditions. And if the network won’t provide a team… Hold up, who is Oliver’s agent? That’s a basic ask.
Oliver is a naturally pretty woman. She doesn’t require magic to look presentable. And that’s all she needs to be. Nobody’s asking for her to be Essence cover worthy on the sidelines. But at the point a Google search of your name brings up multiple pics of Chewbacca, it’s time to admit you need help and make the financial sacrifice and investment to bring the experts aboard, even if it comes out of your own pocket.
This is all I’m saying.