My first day on the job as a television reporter was nothing short of terrifying. I was young, insecure and horribly dressed. Of course, I didn’t know it at the time (the horribly dressed part.) Wearing a crisp, bright red blazer, checkered blue and white gauchos and navy high heeled Mary Janes with sweet little bows on top, I was ready to take on the world and my very first television story.
When I showed up to work, my very old, strung-out-on-coffee-and-cigarettes assignment editor barked out my marching orders: “Your story is about the largest private hospital in the area turning indigent.” My response was, not surprisingly, idiotic: “Well, that sounds interesting,” I said enthusiastically. “No shit, Sherlock,” he quipped while handing me a stack of press releases. “You’re the lead at 6pm,” he grunted. “This is my first day. Should I really be the lead?” I sighed insecurely, under my breath. He didn’t even bother looking up from his computer, but…
Just as I turned to walk out the door, he called after me: “Hey, new kid – you’re not going to wear that on television, are you?” Everyone in the newsroom simultaneously burst into laughter. I smirked at him, shook my head and bee-lined it for the hospital. Once I met my videographer, I did, indeed, piecemeal my way through the story and proudly presented it during my very first television live-shot on the 6PM news. After the tally light went off on the camera, I punched the sky and belted out the theme to “Rocky.” It was a defining moment…
Unfortunately, I did it all while wearing that not-so-flattering outfit. If I was being totally honest, though, I didn’t really have a choice in the matter. I was just starting out in the business and was as broke as a spandex maker when grunge hit. So to make due, I would piece together outfits from free clothing I got from my old pageant and modeling days. I learned pretty quickly, though, my sob story didn’t matter because viewers didn’t give a flying flip. The next day, my News Director forwarded me my first official complaint.
The ladies name was Barbara; yes, I still remember her name and in no uncertain terms she wrote the station, cc’ing my General Manager, to inform them that during my (very first) live-shot, I wasn’t wearing enough lipstick, my hair was too flat and my gauchos were hideous. Luckily, she thought I did a good job on the story. Welcome to television!
When I asked my boss what he thought about the note, he replied: “It’s not radio, Sandoval! Get rid of those ridiculous pants and do yourself a favor and grow some thicker skin.” Needless to say, I learned a valuable lesson that day: everyone has an opinion and sometimes you just can’t wear weird shit on television. The next few years, I beat the streets of Amarillo, Texas, in search of my reporting style and my fashion sense. Neither would come easy.
I did all kinds of stories: agriculture reports, brushfires, car pile-up’s, shootings, murder trials and a cat stuck in a tree. I wore all kinds of clothes while doing those stories, too: boxy blazers, fitted dresses, button-up’s, sweater vests, slacks and skirts. Finding a method to the madness (a style for every story) wasn’t easy; at times, frankly, it was almost impossible. I would start my day at the courthouse, prim and proper and end it with a storm-chasing crew: looking wet, wild and wind blown.
The biggest lesson I learned at the beginning of my career was grace under fire. I had to be dressed to impress, but ready for almost anything. As a result, I started keeping a change of clothing in my car, along with a pair of all purpose: weather boots. I needed to be ready to walk, run, climb and endure any possible weather element Mother Nature threw my way. If I didn’t have a change of clothes, whatever I was wearing absolutely had to be something that could fit into any scenario.
Believe me, I had ill prepared: days, too. Like fancy dresses in cow pastures, (manure wreaks havoc on any kind of shoes,) tailored suits at brush fires (my hair and clothes would smell for days) and high heels at a pig farm (pigs love leather as much as slop and they have surprisingly sharp teeth.) I ruined so many outfits and so many pairs of shoes, it was almost indecent. I became the epitome of the saying “learning things the hard way.”
Don’t even get me started on my hair and make-up. I did both myself and it was utterly impossible to keep myself looking decent in all those aforementioned situations. My hair was a safe-one-length-beyond-boring-brown-bob and I sprayed the bejesus out of it to keep it looking half way presentable in the High Plains heat. We call that “helmet hair” in television.
My make-up was rudimentary: thick base, bright red cheeks, frosty eyes, gobs of mascara and pink lips: it was Texas after all and Tammy Faye Baker had nothing on me. By the end of my shift, I always looked like I had just gone a few rounds with Mike Tyson. As I grew more seasoned, I graduated to a few anchor/reporting jobs, which granted me a two-day reprieve from being an alley cat (that’s the term for a street reporter.) I became a house dog, so to speak, but that was a different challenge in itself.
When I was in studio, it gave me the permission to wear every ridiculous fashion fad possible: shoulder pads, popped collars, medallion bedazzled blazers, flower broaches, add-a-bead necklaces and large clip-on plastic earrings. My hair changed, too: I bleached my boring brown bob blonde, got bangs and curled it under (all the way around my head) for maximum helmet hair results. Think Nicole Kidman’s character in “To Die For,” that cheeky movie about a murderous newscaster. The only thing I was murdering, though, was fashion from head-to-toe.
I would go on to score my first features/entertainment reporting job in Indianapolis, Indiana and it would rudely awaken my fashion game. I found myself ill prepared for dressing in the Midwest. I quickly adapted by shedding the buttoned-up reporter/anchor look I wore in Texas and started incorporating fun, flirty, fashion forward trends conducive of the Circle City (which was largely influenced by Chicago.) Taking a cue from the ever popular (at the time) Katie Couric, I cut my hair short and colored it sandy blonde and wore significantly less make-up.
For the record, no one ever helped or styled me; I watched, learned and listened to the world around me. As the focus of my career changed, so did my wardrobe. Instead of chasing tornados or covering murder trials, I was hanging out at cool restaurants, nice boutiques, fabulous museums and local theaters, which eventually led to interviewing television stars and the occasional movie star in Hollywood. I noticed everything about the people I spent time with or interviewed (the movers and shakers, if you will;) shoes, clothes, handbags, hair, make-up and how they conducted themselves behind-the-scenes and in high pressure situations.
I emulated what I loved and what worked for me. I didn’t have a movie star budget by any means, but a little can go a long way. Especially, if you learn the main rules of fashion: spend money on quality basics, like the nuts and bolts of your wardrobe (shoes, coats, boots, bags) and let the frivolous trends fall into the not so expensive category (funky jackets, fun blouses, faddy jeans and flirty dresses.) Spend when it counts, not when it hurts. Although, I’ve done both, effectively.
As my paycheck grew, my buying power did, too. As I advanced in my career, I negotiated a clothing stipend/allowance. While the hair, make-up and clothing of my career started coming together, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the most important part of this journey: learning to research, interview, write and deliver information from some of the best journalists in the business. It paid off. Next career stop: Miami.
The first time I saw Belkys Nerey and Lynn Martinez, I watched them co-host Deco Drive together live in the studio right before my audition. Needless to say, their chemistry and fun-loving, sarcastic banter was off the charts and it was impossible not to get caught up in the crazy spirit of the show.
I fell in love with both of them immediately and despite never having seen Deco, I understood the show completely and realized it’s what I had been training to do for my entire career. What’s more, Bel & Lynnie (my endearing pet names for them,) dressed uber-cool and unlike anything I had ever seen on local television before. As fate would have it, I would be invited into the Deco family, where I would find way more than just my fashion sense.
Channel 7/WSVN polished my complete appearance: they changed my hair color back to its original brown and helped me grow it into a more natural, flattering style. They secured a clothing sponsor to dress me daily for television appearances, celebrity interviews and red carpet events and provided a make-up artist who’s a genius when it comes to High-Definition television. Yes, I feel spoiled, but I also know that I paid my dues. Just like Belkys and Lynn did. Speaking of…
Belkys taught me by example to be myself on air and Lynn taught me to be in the moment and enjoy the journey. As the years passed, “The Evolution of the TV Anchor” unfolded right before our very eyes. Some of it was organic, but some of it was the product of the ever-shifting shape of journalism and how Americans wanted, perceived and watched their news.
Everything became more skewed toward entertainment and as a result, news became something we now call “infotainment” (to inform and entertain.) Most newscasts now fuse facts along with news about the famous, fashion, lifestyle and food. Enter social media and journalism evolved yet again. When the rules changed, our hair, make-up and clothing changed along with it. We became real people, with real personalities and personal preferences, fashionably speaking. Moreover, we didn’t have to be anchor robots (not that Belkys and Lynn ever were,) or pretend to be something we were not. It’s been completely liberating, actually. Don’t just take “The Evolution of the TV Anchor” from me, though; take it from my fun and fabulous colleagues.
Shireen Sandoval: Do you remember the first outfit you wore on television?
Belkys Nerey: Are you nuts?! I can’t remember the outfit I wore last night, however, I’m sure it was hideous and there were shoulder pads involved.
Lynn Martinez: Fresh out of college and utterly thrilled to have a job after 6 months of rejections, I desperately wanted to look like a “grown-up journalist” so I always wore a suit. One of my favorites (I probably wore too many times) was a checkered black & white suit jacket with two low buttons (giving me a nice unflattering boxy, yet “journalist” feel.) I was in the deer-hunting, ice-fishing northern Michigan town of Cadillac, so if I was wearing a checkered tablecloth or a Chloe suit, it didn’t matter, but it mattered to me! The day I saw Katie Couric wearing the SAME jacket anchoring the Today Show — was the first day I felt “Anchor Fashion Validation.”
SS: What was your first television hair-do like?
BN: My first TV hair-do was the proverbial “anchor bob.” It looked like a motorcycle helmet. I have thick, wavy hair and it would take me FOREVER to blow it out. This was in the days before flat irons. I would part it to the left and blow dry the front so it fanned out like a flower, of course, everybody did. It was 1990.
LM: The hair was almost as important as the suit. My short hair was curled. And black. And large. And sprayed. Heavily. My natural hair color is medium to dark brown. (I was naturally blonde when I was 2 months, now I’m naturally bleached.) When I was in Michigan the iron in the water turned my hair a light red — which I abhorred — so I would die it dark to get rid of the red. Each dye job made my hair darker, until it was black. So picture this unnaturally, dark head of hair, straight as a pin and short. What could I do with it? Every morning I would go into my tiny bathroom — with the Today Show blaring in the background so I could be caught up on all the news I’d never report that day — spread out my Cover Girl makeup all over the counter, then plug in my orange Clairol curling iron and proceed to curl my entire head of hair into small TIGHT CURLS. Tight because God forbid my straight hair drooped during the day in the non-humid office air of the newsroom. Then i would barely brush the curls out and spray half a can of Aqua Net all over my hair, sealing in absolutely any possibility of even a microscopic amount of moisture onto my bouffant. If my hair didn’t move — I was looking’ good (BTW… I’m still addicted to hair spray.)
SS: How would you describe your overall on-air fashion style when you first
began your career in broadcasting?
BN: When I first started in television I hadn’t developed my own style. I just wanted to look like everyone else on television. I ended up buying lots of suits, some with skirts, some with pants. All were boring!
LM: My style was classic. Serious. A grown-up journalist, with a splash of edge.
SS: What is the biggest mistake you’ve ever made fashion-wise on television?
BN: Ask the viewers. On any given day, there’s probably someone out there who thinks I’ve made a mistake, but I know who you are and I’m coming after you!
LM: My biggest mistake was wearing pantyhose in 95 degree heat while reporting in my early days on the streets of Miami. I wore them with everything — even under pants! I realized this was a bad idea when I was interviewing someone and had to stop the interview after I felt something going down my leg and I jumped. It was sweat. I was dripping sweat under my black pants and control top pantyhose. Wow.
SS: News has changed into info-tainment and our wardrobes have changed
along with it. How do you dress now versus, say, 10 to 15 years ago?
BN: When I first started out, I just copied other people I saw on television. Now I’m not afraid to be me. I like wearing more dresses and not the obvious “dragon lady power suit.” You can still wear flirty, sexy stuff and be professional and command the audience.
LM: Oh, Lord have mercy, thank GOD my style has changed! I remember when I first started anchoring on Deco I wouldn’t change clothes; I would be anchoring the early news shows, and just wear the suit I was wearing on my last newscast. Then I started changing my earrings for Deco, while still wearing the news suit. At some point, I started changing my clothes from news to Deco — which really helped me shed the “I’m a serious journalist” feeling to the “I’m just me having fun” feeling. Now, there’s really little difference for me. Many times what I’m wearing for Deco would also work for news. Just yesterday I anchored the news in an Alexis cocktail dress for news that was fashionable, fun, yet serious. Then I wore it on Deco! I think today’s female anchor is less stuffy and more chic.
SS: What’s a clothing sponsor and who do you use and why?
BN: A clothing sponsor is someone (a store or a specific designer,) who lets you borrow clothes in exchange for a clothing credit at the end of the newscast (or show.) Mine is Nanette Lepore. I absolutely LOVE her stuff. It’s trendy without overkill and it always has a flirty edge to it. The cuts are perfect for my body type.
LM: I’ve used many wonderful sponsors over the years. I’m currently with Jessie Boutique on South Beach. I’m completely in love with the lines in her store: Alexis, Karina Grimaldi and Parker are some of my faves. I also have a stylist — the fashion icon of Miami, Elyse Held. She gets me. She knows my body and she won’t tell everyone my flaws!
SS: What is your go-to television outfit?
BN: A simple dress, with a square neckline, cute earrings and some bangles.
LM: A fitted dress with a pop of color. A woman must know what her strengths are and focus on them. If a dress is long and tight – it makes my stub frame appear longer and leaner.
SS: Whose style on television do you admire?
BN: JLo! Oh wait, she’s not doing the news! (laughing)
LM: Okay, I’m honestly not kissing up here, but I completely admire Shireen Sandoval’s style, perhaps you’ve heard of her? We don’t have the same exact style — I have to wear a bit less jewelry because I’m much shorter — but what I love about her style is she’s never afraid to take chances. She’ll put a gold belt from the
70’s over a crisp cotton shirt and layer it with long necklaces and a fur bolero and look like she stepped out of Voque magazine. Me, on the other hand, would take that same cotton shirt and tuck it into a pair of pants with a belt that matched my shoes. I’m too safe. Shireen is more open… I wanna be like that more! And believe it or not – I also admire Jennifer Lopez’s style. I know she’s not a journalist, but as a performer — as a woman — she, too, takes chances and knows what looks good on her.
SS: Are good shoes important to wear on TV?
BN: You’re asking the wrong person. Half of the time I’m walking around in comfy sandals and keep heels in my office to change into when I step out for dinner!
LM: If you know me, you know I love shoes, but hate to wear nice shoes at work, It’s the reporter in me. I cannot stand when I wear some kick-ass heels and get them nicked up on the anchor chair… so I keep the nice ones at home. It’s my deprivation issue, but we can talk about that in another blog. YES! It’s important to wear great shoes especially on tv…. people notice… and if they can’t, my co-workers notice, but hopefully as they see me walking around in nicked up heels they’ll just roll their eyes behind my back
SS: They say: “Hair is your best and worst accessory” on television. You
both have very memorable, stand-out hair-do’s. Did you create your look or
was it a work in progress?
BN: I started out with “helmet head anchor bob” hair then my hairdresser in New Haven, Connecticut (my first big tv job) kept insisting I cut my hair. He would say to me: “Your hair looks like everybody else on TV, but you’re not like everybody else. Let’s cut this hair.” I finally let him and he gave me a variation of the short cut that I still have today. My short hair is my signature look. I don’t think i’ll ever let my hair grow out again. Oh and by the way, that hairdresser is one of my dearest friends to this day!
LM: My hair has been such an issue in my career… people love it or hate it. I love it or hate it. I get bored and want to chop it off. I feel ugly and I want to color it. One time I decided at the spur of a moment to color it red. “Yes I’m sure it’ll be fine for work, just do it!” I told my hair stylist. So, I went to work with red hair. Really red hair. (Perhaps, a throwback to the Cadillac iron days.) The red hair did not fly. I was promptly turned around and sent to the salon to dye it back. These days, for the most part, my hair has never looked better. I’ve grown to accept the straight, obedience of it and I’ve LET IT GROW!!! This is the longest my hair has been my entire life.
SS: What is the best and worst accessory on television?
BN: Best: A great smile. Worst: being fake.
LM: The best accessory is your confidence. The worst accessory is your insecurity.
SS: How has your television make-up changed over the years and how would
you describe it now?
BN: With all these high-def TV’s, I think the make-up has to be better at covering up imperfections. It’s changed for me because i don’t have to do it myself anymore (laughing) we have a make-up artist, Javier Lucero, who makes the magic everyday. When he calls out sick, it puts us all in a bad mood.
LM: In my television career, television make-up has gone from natural, to super heavy cakey to now, glamorous. I used to put on super thick base because that’s what people expected a woman in front of the camera to do…. now, my base is light and even shimmery sometimes, but just like mama said: “What goes out of style always comes back.” The red matte lips I wore in 1992 are back today in 2015.
SS: If you cold sum up your television style in a phrase, what would it be?
BN: Sassy, with a capital S-A-S-S-Y!
LM: Classic, sexy, shoulder-pad-less.
In person, Belkys is warm, quick with a smile and loves a good hearty laugh. Her personal style is a complete reflection of her personality. Any given day of the work week, you’ll find Bel wearing fun, feminine, flattering dresses by Nanette Lepore. She loves color, but nothing too crazy (it’s a news thing) and she’s modest, yet refined in her jewelry choices. Belkys is chic, gamine and a Miami trendsetter. I admire her individuality and class.
Lynn’s best accessories are her hair and skin (despite what she says.) She looks ridiculously good without a stitch of make-up on and her hair pulled back on top of her head. Her style is a mix of the show “Mad Men” (60’s chic) with modern day femininity. Think sexy secretary. She can work a pencil skirt and Mary Janes like nobody’s business. Lynn also likes drama, which I totally get as a fashionista. Whether it’s a long dress, bold accessories or a new trend, she’ll try it and make it her own. I admire her girly glamour and love of lip gloss.
As far as myself, coming to Miami afforded me the opportunity to be the journalist I always wanted to be: well-traveled, well-dressed and well-heeled. Seriously, though, I’ve worked every major Hollywood red carpet, interviewed the rich and famous, travelled to places one can only dream of and at the same time honed my writing, reporting and presenting skills.
All of those experiences have not only impacted me personally, they’ve also helped me develop my own sense of self and style. I like pretty, knee-length pouffy skirts, sweet blouses, statement jewelry, quality purses and fabulous shoes. Most importantly, I like to keep it fresh, grow, change and evolve – after all, we’re all just a work in progress and that’s why “The Evolution of the TV Anchor” will always be one of my favorite things.
photography by tod p/t4twophotography
Hair & Make-up by Odette Hernandez
Editor: Matthew Auerbach