Long before Oprah Winfrey became a TV titan, she worked as a local news anchor in Baltimore.
In the 1970s at age 22, Winfrey landed a job at WJZ-TV, and said she faced intense scrutiny by station management for her appearance.
The media mogul sat down for an interview with Tracee Ellis Ross for The Hair Tales, to discuss her hair journey in the docuseries from OWN and Disney’s Onyx Collective.
“Shortly after I came to Baltimore with my lovely wash and set, that everybody thought was a wig, I was told that my hair was too thick,” Winfrey shared in the below clip.
She said station management told her she needed to work on her appearance.
“Now I’m being called in to say ‘your hair is too thick, it’s interfering with the chroma key and the news, and it’s interrupting our ability to portray you well,'” she said.
Winfrey noted that she was sent to a salon to “fix” her hair, and a male news manager suggested she make additional changes to her appearance.
“They also asked me would I consider plastic surgery,” she explained. “He actually said ‘your eyes are really far apart and your nose is a little thick. Would you be willing to do something about that?'”
The Mississippi native said she was naïve, and never considered she was being singled out because she’s Black.
“That didn’t even occur to me that that was racial. You know what occurred to me? I thought I just wasn’t pretty enough,” she said through tears.
The Hair Tales celebrates Black women through discussions about hair and identity.
In addition to Winfrey, Issa Rae, Chlöe Bailey, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley, Marsai Martin and Chika also sat down for interviews.
Throughout the series, narrators and real-life friends Tracee Ellis Ross and Michaela Angela Davis lead the audience through a journey of personal tales.
The docuseries comes from executive producers Tracee Ellis Ross and Michaela Angela Davis. Additional executive producers include Oprah Winfrey, Tara Duncan, Raeshem Nijhon, and Carri Twigg. The creative team is comprised entirely of women of color.
The original series is produced by Culture House, Joy Mill Entertainment, Tetravision and Harpo Films.
The Hair Tales debuts tonight at 9pm ET/PT on OWN and streams simultaneously on Hulu.
Outside the U.S., the series will stream on Star+ in Latin America and Disney+ in all other territories.