2013 and 2014 GOLDEN HEART® Finalist

Monday, April 30, 2012

Media Moment- What to Wear, and OH the HAIR!

Does my hair look okay?

I spent 13 years in the news business as an anchor/reporter, steadily moving up the TV market ladder. During that time, I interviewed two presidents, several governors, many lawmakers, actors, musicians, and brilliant people in so many fields.  I even picked up an award or two along the way.  But do you know what I got more comments on than anything else?  Yup. My hair.   

The History of the News Anchor Helmet  by Amy Carlisle DeLuca
First job: Early 90's anchor look-- Perm? Check. Giant NFL shoulder pads? Check. What's with the choppy, short bangs?
Do NOT try this at home.

Second job: Lord help me-- what was I thinking? I'm going to hope this was something close to the popular hairstyle at the time, but I have no excuse for the Day-Glo lipstick. Just... no.

Third job: Ok, a little better. We've lost the bad bangs, but unfortunately have now progressed to the "triangle head"

Fourth job: Yaay! Ding dong, the perm is gone. A little "coiffed", though. LOTS of hairspray, folks.

5th job: And she's discovered the straight iron.
6th and final news job: Toned way, way down.
Today: Freelance hair.  Note the proliferation of "natural" highlighting that "naturally" occurs with age!

I think viewers care so much about anchors' hair, because when they see you in a box that encompasses only your head and shoulders, your hair is just so noticeable.  The comments ranged over the years from "It's so cute- where do you get it done?" to "Tell that anchorwoman to do something with that mess."  (I started working on that thick-skin thing long before I began writing fiction)

You may be wondering how your own "look" is going to hold up on television, and first let me say it's not a beauty contest and it's not a fashion show.  You're there to talk about your book (or other project) and that's the main thing to prepare for.  (Here are some tips on What To Expect and What They'll Ask You during your TV interview)

But, that being said, you do want to make the best impression possible, and television is a visual medium.  People will notice what you look like-- part of the deal that comes along with that great free publicity you're getting.  And you're a professional writer, so you want to look... professional.  We may do our actual writing in our fleece pj's and fuzzy Angry Birds slippers, but no one else has to know that.  So, there are a few things to keep in mind when selecting your wardrobe and doing your hair and makeup (ladies, talking to you here-- the guys are lucky on the last two points!)

When it comes to wardrobe, you want to keep it simple and non-distracting.  If you wear a pair of long, swingy earrings, the viewer is going to focus on those and think thoughts like "wonder where she got those?" or "boy, those are some big earrings- I wonder if they're heavy" or just watch them dangling the whole time, wondering what they're going to do next, instead of listening to your fabulous pitch about your fabulous book.

  • Solid color clothing is best.  Some small patterns, like stripes, can look weird on camera.  Large patterns are probably ok, but you don't want anything too distracting. You're not there to sell clothes- you want them to remember your book. (Unless your book is about fashion, and then, by all means, be fashionable)
  • If you wear something sheer, remember it's probably going to get even more sheer under the lights on the set.
  • You may be sitting on a seperate "interview set" featuring couches or chairs where your entire body will show in some of the shots.  If you love your legs and you're fine with remembering to keep them crossed or together so no one gets a peep show, then feel free to go with a skirt.  Otherwise-- choose pants.
  • On that kind of set, your shoes will show, so keep that in mind when choosing them.
  • Guys- you may want to wear a jacket, so that you'll have an easy place to clip on your lavalier microphone. If you wear just a shirt tucked in, it will likely have to be untucked so the mic can be threaded up through it then brought out at your collar to be clipped on.  Then you won't be able to tuck it back in completely, because the mic cord will be in the way.  And any kind of gut will look even guttier on tv. ( I think I just invented a French word)
  • Ladies- you may want to avoid dresses. The mic cord will have to go up under your dress and be brought out at your neckline-- awkward process, especially with crew members and anchors and the meteorologist as your audience. Some kind of a jacket or cardigan hides all that, or if you wear a blouse that doesn't tuck in, you're fine.
You do sometimes see guests on television with a mic cord clearly visible, draped over their shoulder or running down the front of their bodies, but it's distracting.  You don't want people looking at your mic cord and thinking about that. You want them thinking about what you're saying- about your book.

Whatever you decide to wear, try it on first and have someone film you or take your picture from the front and in profile as you're sitting down.  I actually forgot to do this recently when taping an interview for a freelance shoot, and when I watched the show as it aired online, I was horrified to see that I looked about 8 months pregnant. Which I am not. 

During your interview segment, the show's director will take two or three camera shots from different angles, and it's nice to know what the viewers will be seeing, and whether you need to re-think that outfit or adjust anything before you do it for real.  Sometimes when we sit, a button-down shirt or blouse or blazer gaps, or pleated pants puff up in a rather unflattering way.  You don't want to watch the recording of your interview later on and say, "Oh my god- what is that hanging out?!"

I'll go ahead and answer the age-old question right now:  Yes, the camera really does add 10 pounds.  I know-- I've groaned over it many times myself (and I weigh about ten pounds more these days than I did when I was on tv everyday!).  But we're not there to be supermodels, are we?  We're there to tell everyone who our book is for and why they're going to love it.  So, we'll suck it up (and suck it in), dress well, and go get that valuable free publicity!

A note about hair-- check that in your pre-interview video or photograph as well, so you can see if you like the way it looks from the side.  You don't really want it to hang and obscure the entire side of your face, when your audience may be viewing you in profile much of the time.  Smooth down any really bad fly-aways, because the bright studio lights love to catch those and highlight them and the HD cameras won't miss a thing.  One thing that really works is misting your finished hairstyle with an aerosol spray and then lightly running your palms over the outer layer to calm down the fly-aways.

Make-up:  Unless you're appearing on a nationally-televised big budget talk show, you are your own makeup artist (and hairstylist)!  Very few local television markets provide hair and makeup help to even their own on-air talent.  The anchors do it themselves, and here are a few tricks of the trade:
  • You do want to wear some.  Even if you look naturally beautiful in your everyday life without it, bright lights and HD cameras are not forgiving.  You'll look more put-together, professional, awake, and alive with some foundation, blush, lipstick and eye makeup on.
  • Guys-- you are exempt from this.  My husband is a news anchor in Providence, Rhode Island, and yes, he wears makeup.  But he's had a few years of practice at it, and I think for someone who hasn't... it might hurt more than it helps, so just skip it.
  • Ladies-- back to you-- avoid makeup that shimmers or sparkles in any way, unless you're promoting a memoir of your years as a stripper.  Shimmery makeup can get weird on tv and looks cheap, not classy, as you want to look.
  • Mascara is a big YES, as it will open up your eyes and make them look more alert and awake.
  • Eyeshadow should stay in neutral territory-- browns, beige, taupe, maybe gray, but definitely not blue or green or any sort of pastel. Eyeliner, too-- keep it black, brown, or gray (not my favorite).  You just never know what the lights and cameras will do to other colors, which may look lovely at home and work, but turn out looking clown-ish on tv.
  • Lipstick colors that look good include red and or rose-toned pinks.  Nothing too dark, unless you're purposely going for kind of an edgy, alternative look, and not too light-- many nude tones can really wash out on tv and make you look lip-less.  Really bright shades should be avoided, too, as they'll only get brighter on tv.
  • LIPSTICK TIP: After you apply it, put one finger between your lips (you'll look like you're sucking your finger) and pull it out of your mouth to get off any extra lipstick that may otherwise end up on your teeth.
  • Powder is your friend if you don't want to look shiny.  I like loose powder much better than pressed. You might want to bring a mirror along and give yourself a last-minute touchup with a powder brush a few minutes before going on set, if needed.
Okay, so you're wearing your classic, solid-colored clothing, halfway-decent shoes, simple jewelry, non-shimmery make-up, and smoothed your fly-aways-- you've checked it all out on video or in a photo at home beforehand-- you're ready!

None of this has to be expensive, by the way. You can get some perfectly acceptable professional-looking wardrobe pieces at Marshall's or Target. If you'd like any specific suggestions on makeup types and brands or hair products (I've tried A LOT) just let me know.  I'd love to help.  Good luck and keep writing!

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