No matter how high Black women ascend in their professions, they will often be critiqued on how they style their hair. Pam Oliver, one of the best sideline reporters in all of sports, knows this all too well. People have always had something to say about Oliver’s hair–there are at least three Twitter pages devoted to it–but folks were particularly harsh during the NFC Championship Game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Seattle Seahawks, according to Philly.com.
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Even during the Super Bowl–when her hair looked just fine–people took to Twitter to complain about it:
But in an interview with Philly.com’s Jenice Armstrong, Oliver said she more shocked at how people focused on her hair than upset:
“It’s the psychology of it that I want to understand,” she told me during a phone conversation Monday afternoon. “It’s comical. This whole thing is just comical.”
As we chatted, I asked her about a commonly held notion that all sideline reporters do is show up on game day and hold microphones.
“No, I wish it were so easy. It’s a process. I do my own hair and makeup – insert joke here,” she deadpanned. “I’m up early. I’m at the stadium about 4 hours before the game, just going over some last-minute stuff and then waiting for some players to come out, which is generally 2 hours before the game.
“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 explained, adding that she doesn’t have hair stylists and makeup artists with her on game day. “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.
Thing is, even the most diehard NFL fans do not appreciate how challenging it is to report live from the sideline of a game, let alone the Super Bowl. The last thing any reporter is thinking about when they are chasing down an angry coach or an excited player is how he or she looks. Given that TV is such a visual medium, one could argue that hair should be a top priority, but that often isn’t the case when you’re trying to file a story. Besides, there also seems to be a double standard in Oliver’s case.
“A guy can wear the same tie every other week and it’s not even an issue,” she said. “But if a woman is on and a strand of hair is out of place or if there’s a little piece of something in your hair, people go crazy. It’s always been that way. It’s never going to change,” she said. “Men get away with a lot more than a woman can.”
Watch Pam Oliver Talk About Her Career And Mean Tweets (Start at 4:50):
I’ve watched Oliver report from the sidelines over the years and she’s a top-notch reporter, regardless of gender. And while it is understandable that even objective critics encourage her to secure a hair and make-up team, I find it refreshing that she more or less doesn’t give a damn.
“You just hope that ultimately people will judge you on your body of work and what you’ve spent your whole career doing, as opposed to rather than if you have lines around your mouth,” she told Philly.com.
With more than 20 years in the game, I’m sure that Fox Sports doesn’t care about the lines around her month; they care about her award-winning reporting that keeps their ratings high. And, as far as her critics go, Oliver is 52-years-old. I bet few of them look as good she does (or would) in their 50s.