Television reporter debuts natural hair to teach her daughter self-acceptance

Melanie Lawson, a television news anchor for News4Jax in Jacksonville, Fla., says she'll no longer wear a wig to set an example for her young daughter. (Photo: Instagram/NaturalNewsMom)

A black news anchor, who wore a wig on television for 14 years, scrapped the hairpiece to show her daughter natural beauty.

Melanie Lawson, a morning show anchor for News4Jax, wrote about accepting her hair in a Wednesday essay published by her station after decades of feeling discouraged from wearing conventional black hairstyles.

“Through the years, I’ve had different versions of the original Jheri curl, a chemical process that gave my hair a loose curl with lots of activator, liquid grease, and ‘perms’ that actually made my hair straight with a harsh chemical that burned my scalp at times and left open sores on my head,” wrote Lawson. “It was just part of the experience — the more burn, the straighter the hair, so it was worth it. You learned to just cope.”

Lawson tells Yahoo Lifestyle: “The undercurrent has always been, ‘Black television anchors can wear their natural hair, but good luck finding a job.’ Otherwise you’re seen as a renegade.”

When Lawson was a little girl growing up in central Florida, her mother straightened her hair for church and other special occasions. “She heated up a metal straightening comb on the stove, testing the temperature on her hand, then ran it through my hair,” Lawson tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “I always prayed it wouldn’t burn.”

After graduating from Hampton University in Virginia, Lawson worked as a news anchor in Delaware and Maryland, where she relaxed or permed her hair with harsh chemicals for television appearances.

But in 2005, when Lawson moved to Jacksonville to anchor the morning news, the city’s humidity changed the texture of her hair. Lawson wore weaves and extensions, she wrote, “So I could have that long, thick hair that was never going to truly grow out of my head.”

She even wore a handmade wig affectionately nicknamed “Michelle” after former first lady Michelle Obama. “But I was embarrassed to have fake hair,” she tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “My friends hated my wig.”

Living a “duplicitous” lifestyle, Lawson wore her wig on television and her natural curls on the weekend. “Everyone was curious about the wig, and I said I was growing out my natural hair,” Lawson tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “I was ‘fake hair girl.’”

Lawson’s 4-year-old daughter was the impetus for changing her look. “Recently, I picked her up from school and I happened to be wearing my wig,” the mother-of-two tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “She started yelling, ‘Mommy, take off your wig!’ and everyone stared. It was embarrassing.”

However, when the little girl told her mother, ‘I want straight hair like you,’ Lawson decided to retire the “Michelle” wig.

On Tuesday, Lawson conducted her first newscast without her wig. After it aired, she received hundreds of complimentary emails and phone calls from men and women.

“I’m not judging anyone for wearing a wig — this is my choice,” Lawson tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “If I was younger, I’m not sure I would be this confident.”

Lawson’s daughter is delighted by her mom’s look. “She says, ‘Mommy, you have free hair! We’re twins and best friends.’”

“Michelle” is currently sitting in Lawson’s closet. “I want to burn it but I don’t want to start a fire,” Lawson tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “I can’t imagine wearing a wig again.”

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