- In January 2016, Jana Shortal, a news anchor who works in Minneapolis, Minnesota, was about to start hosting a new show.
- In an interview with INSIDER, she said that she was dreading getting back to her "TV lady uniform" of straightened hair, lots of makeup, and out of character clothes. Shortal naturally has short, curly hair and prefers to wear T-shirts.
- So she made the "terrifying" choice to dress in the way that made her feel comfortable.
- Yes, there have been trolls, but she said it's worth it to use her platform to create LGBTQ visibility.
- Shortal said she wasn't trying to make a statement or change broadcast TV - she just wanted to feel good about herself.
Jana Shortal knew it was time for a change.
In January 2016, the news anchor who works in Minneapolis, Minnesota, was about to start hosting a new show. After weeks of rehearsing in her everyday clothes, she found herself dreading getting back to wearing her full news anchor "uniform," as we first read on "Today."
Shortal has brown, curly hair and prefers to wear T-shirts and suit jackets. But to build a career in broadcast TV, she felt she had to dress or look a certain way. Her TV "uniform" as she called it, involved straightening her hair, wearing a full face of makeup, and dressing in clothes she would never wear on a day off.
"I struggled trying to look what I would call 'normal' in the TV lady uniform," she told INSIDER. "I didn't do my hair very well. My makeup was pretty bad. I didn't know how to do it - it wasn't intuitive to me"
The journalist told INSIDER she was dreading having to look that way again.
Shortal remembers one of her coworkers finally asking her: "'Why would you [dress like] that if this is how you really look?" The two had a "candid conversation about how people were supposed to present in this workplace." After that, the news anchor decided to dress the way she wanted to - not the way she felt she was expected to.
Shortal said her first broadcast for "Breaking the News" was "terrifying."
A post shared by Jana Shortal (@janashortal) on Jan 11, 2016 at 2:30pm PST
"I was really scared," Shortal said. "While they may be just clothes when people hear about it now or read that story, to me they were far more significant. You express yourself in how you dress. It's really a lot easier to assimilate than it is to stand out."?
Shortal told "Today" that she came out as a lesbian shortly after accepting her first broadcast TV job in the early 2000s. Her experiences in the last two decades have informed the last three years of her career, she told INSIDER. The journalist said she has received pushback from "trolls" throughout her career, but she was especially nervous about this change.
After that first show, though, she realized it would be OK - no matter what she wore on camera.
"The world didn't end," she said."I didn't go off the air that night or have a bunch of people in the parking lot waiting to beat me up. Nobody cared."
A post shared by Jana Shortal (@janashortal) on Mar 5, 2019 at 9:45am PST
Shortal said that many of her fears were lessened by her co-workers, namely her co-host Rena Sarigianopoulos. She said it can be crucial to have a strong support system - whether it's during the coming out process or just the day-to-day existence as a marginalized person.
"You always hear one teacher, one mentor, one adult who loves somebody in their life can make a difference - and that's really true for people who struggle with how they look, their gender presentation, their sexual orientation, any number of things that society deems as 'other,'" she said. "If somebody says I see you and I believe in you, that matters."
The journalist told INSIDER that she's glad to provide representation since she works in a job with such a high degree of visibility. But she wants to be clear: When she wore a suit on camera in January 2016 she wasn't trying to make a statement or change broadcast TV - she just wanted to feel good about herself.
"It's awkward for me, it's nerve-wracking, it's emotionally exhausting because I don't wanna disappoint anybody," Shortal said. "At its the very basic message, I'm just getting dressed the way I feel comfortable. And if that makes someone uncomfortable, I'm not sorry anymore."?