Exclusive: Florida TV Reporter's Natural Journey

Two weeks ago, television news anchor Rochelle Ritchie of West Palm Beach, Florida's WPTV-TV made headlines when she submitted to "The Big Chop" in front of thousands of fascinated viewers. Ritchie turned her transformation from relaxed, weaved hair to natural locks into a top-rated story during sweeps week! In an ESSENCE.com exclusive, the newly curly reporter reveals the inside story behind her decision to publicly go natural... "When I first started in the news business, a Nlack female anchor told me I needed extensions. So I got them, and I immediately began getting callbacks from news directors. As an eager young reporter, I made a commitment to wear weaves, no matter the cost. But after six years, I realized that they were costing me my real hair and my self-esteem -- so I decided it was time to redefine who I was. I watched YouTube videos and saw the beautiful journeys that many black women experienced when going natural -- and I wanted to join them! When a white female producer overheard me telling a friend I was going natural, she became curious. I explained the "big chop" to her, and with wide eyes she said, "That would be wonderful story!" Though hesitant, I pitched the idea to my managers, and after a few days of deliberations, they decided to allow me to tell this emotional and empowering story. Since the story aired, we've gotten emails from all over the world. I've had women say it made them shed tears, and that they're so pleased I took a stand against the stigma that's surrounded Black hair for centuries. I've even had men commend me for taking such a brave step! Some have wondered if my natural hair will hinder me from getting another job, but I say no. I know my skills and passion will shine through in any interview. With my kinky curls, I feel more professional and beautiful than ever." Click here to watch Rochelle Ritchie's powerful story.