Was Lisa LaFlamme’s silver hair a weapon against her?

In the flurry of coverage surrounding Lisa LaFlamme’s firing from CTV’s flagship nightly newscast, social media pundits were quick to point out the appearance of ageism at play. LaFlamme, 58, is a hero to many women, not only because of her constant presence at the forefront of major news, but also because of her pandemic decision to go gray in front of the cameras.

Week after week, LaFlamme boldly let his roots grow, reflecting the poignant reality of what we were all going through together. That look was later transformed into a sleek silver bob.

The fashion world, no doubt a bubble where trends are blown out of proportion, has embraced gray hair for women in recent years, but the natural graying movement is largely untested in the larger business world. While male anchors (and other leaders) have been celebrated for their silver temples, long seen as a sign of wisdom, the women sitting in the big chair rarely make that leap. Could LaFlamme’s decision to celebrate the most visual symbol of aging have been a weapon against her? And if so, what does that mean for the rest of us who want to avoid salon costs (both time and money) and embrace our natural gray?

LaFlamme’s choice inspired his audience, but a recent report suggests that it was also the subject of discussion with high-ranking CTV officials, who reportedly questioned who allowed LaFlamme to “turn gray.”

Hannah Mauser is a beauty analyst at international trend spotting firm WSGN, which produced the report Key Trend 2023: The Gray Hair Movement. The movement, says Hauser, is about giving people the opportunity to fully embrace themselves. “Whether they choose to cover their gray hair or not, it’s about letting people know that either way doesn’t change how they’re seen: they can live authentically as themselves and celebrate the journey of going gray.”

Sounds great, doesn’t it? But is the business world ready for all that progress?

Deviating from acceptable workplace presentation norms can have tangible repercussions, says Jacyln Wong, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of South Carolina whose research focuses on the relationship between what people look like and how much money they make. . “The key finding is that attractive people earn about 20 percent more than average attractive people,” she says. For women, Wong says, the gap “is entirely explained by grooming.”

“Workplaces are gender spaces,” says Wong. “When workplaces reward personal grooming, including ‘look young’ beauty work, for women, they are reproducing what it means to be a woman in our society: objects that are pleasing to the eye.” In this way, she says, “workplaces can control people’s behavior.”

In other words, play the game and you will be rewarded; don’t play and you will be punished. “Grooming signals women’s individual participation in this system of patriarchal domination,” says Wong. “Women can be rewarded for following these gender norms, and women who deviate from what is considered an acceptable presentation can expect those rewards to be withheld.”

Toronto celebrity hairstylist Jason Lee, who styles a lot of powerful heads, says his clients in the creative fields have more freedom to go gray with impunity: “My clients who are businesswomen have a constant concern about looking young.” Lisa LaFlamme, she says, made a “groundbreaking” statement with her hair: “She brought the conversation to the fore.” That strong position may have been the problem, she says. “Women have to play the unspoken game of looking a certain way to be treated a certain way. A public figure, beamed into everyone’s homes every night is a statement of a different magnitude.”

Liza Herz, a longtime beauty editor, runs Oldish.ca, a site on how to age gracefully. “CTV was a very prominent position for LaFlamme to go grey,” says Herz. “She showed tremendous confidence. She thinks about women television journalists and what percentage of her posts and comments are about her hair, her makeup and the necklines of her clothes”. Herz notes that LaFlamme’s hair, while unusual for prime time in her tone, is as polished as any head on television. “It’s an incredibly sophisticated look. Even in LaFlamme’s video message [announcing her leaving the network] in the cabin. Who looks like this in his cabin?

When it comes to the decision to age naturally or not, the central issue is freedom of choice, says Dr. Jacqueline Makerewich, a cosmetic surgeon in Toronto. “Socially, women fear losing value as they age, and unfortunately these fears spill over into the world of work. There are enormous pressures on women to value a youthful appearance, and these pressures are further distorted on social media. This creates a cycle of agonizing women obsessed with unattainable youth and sadly also dictates what our population wants to see more or less of.”

This summer, people have been seeing a lot of the ubiquitous coastal granny look — think Diane Keaton in an oversized cardigan strolling down a Hamptons beach — that seemed like a hopeful cultural sign of acceptance of aging. But this fall, that gray-chic spot is being replaced by a new trend: the “coastal granddaughter,” in which 20-somethings experiment with silver-and-linen-dyed hair.

All of which begs the question: is silver hair like LaFlamme’s only really acceptable when it comes to costume?


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