Even though restrictions are lifting after months of pandemic lockdown – and many would say they shouldn’t be lifting at all considering the outbreaks and surges and an anticipated second wave – many people are still working from home, including broadcasters. I’m still working from home and there are no indications that that’s about to change.
It’s not just the tech that’s been adjusted to accommodate shooting from home. There’s also the styling. Savannah Guthrie’s hair and makeup while broadcasting during lockdown is now a conversation after she responded to a tweet:
We are all doing our own hair and makeup during the pandemic. And yes it shows! https://t.co/w6QVY0Zhyt— Savannah Guthrie (@SavannahGuthrie) June 23, 2020
Here’s how she looked that day:
I know we all have different definitions of “unkempt” but this would not be mine. In fact, I might prefer her hair here vs her “studio” hairstyle. That said, female news anchors and weather reporters too have pretty rigid appearance guidelines. Lots and lots of hairspray is required. Nothing too trendy. Some viewers even get upset when women show their arms. I’m serious. A sleeveless shift dress, which in my opinion is about the most boring, conservative look ever, offends a lot of people.
So Savannah’s beachy waves were a problem, I guess.
You know what I appreciate about her response? Even though this is sexist, and it would have been a valid issue for her to address, she made it about the work. Part of her day used to be to sit in a chair and have her makeup and hair done for her by makeup and hair artists. Her job now includes doing her own. And there’s time and effort spent doing her own. It’s added time and effort.
Consider also what happens if she’s “too good” at doing this recently-added part of her job: it could jeopardise jobs for other people. Because this is a living for people in the hair and makeup industries. And right now, obviously, many of them are not going to work, they can’t work. It’s such an intimate profession, you have to be right up in someone’s air space.
If broadcasters like Savannah were to look just as “good”, however that is defined, while working from home as they do in the studio, what’s stopping the networks like NBC from making cost-cutting decisions and looking at their post-pandemic budgets, in this new world of television production, and being all like, nah, on-air talent can do their own hair and makeup, we’ll just give them some extra money to buy the products and maybe send them to some training and we’ll save so much money on salaries and benefits because the makeup and hair artists aren’t on payroll. It’s not like NBC network executives have had the greatest reputation in the news over the last few years. Remember, those executives are always looking for that annual bonus. And ultimately they’re a business, they answer to super wealthy board members who need to make their cut.
I don’t know how intentional it was for Savannah to respond to this tweet in this manner. But I’d like to think she was aware of exactly what kind of message she wanted to send, using her influence and her position to make the case, subtly, that makeup and hair artists are essential to the industry. Not that we didn’t know, but with the entire entertainment ecosystem in disruption and losing so much money as productions are on hold and programming is delayed and workarounds have had to be put in to observe restrictions and social distancing, many people are worried about professional relevance, especially when they don’t necessarily have the power to advocate for their own value. I want to believe that in this case, Savannah is doing it for them.