27 August 2022

How to be a Success: Go Cookie-Cutter Blonde and Stay There

WARNING:  Not a comedy post.

Back in my forties, I made a critical career error.  I didn't dye my hair blonde.

Dark auburn from birth, I kind of liked my unique hair colour which went well with the snake green eyes I also came with.  (My first husband was a big fan of the combo, and used to say, every time a British Racing Green Jaguar went by, "there go your eyes".)

Thing is, back then, I didn't know that every successful woman was supposed to be blonde.  Not brunette, not auburn, and certainly not grey.

Yes, I'm talking about the current uproar in Canada, about Lisa LaFlamme being let go from the CTV news anchor position. She was 58 and had let her hair go grey due to the pandemic.

What you may not know is that Lisa LaFlamme is gorgeous.  She is glamorous beyond anything I could achieve.  She is a respected journalist with 30 years experience, much of it in the field, overseas.  She has been given the Order of Canada for her work.

She is also the 'brand,' meaning she was the anchor for the top rated evening news show in Canada.  It is the most viewed IN CANADA.

And CTV have let her go.

Who torpedoes their most successful brand? 

No amount of back-peddling can whitewash this.  We all know why.  The big honcho in charge was even quoted in a meeting as having said, "Who allowed Lisa LaFlamme to go grey?"  Every major media outlet and blog in the country is screaming foul on this.  The Beaverton, a wonderful satirical magazine, said this:  "...clearly she should have been fired the day she turned 50...We cannot apologize enough for subjecting our viewers to the sight of a woman who is almost 60 years old."'

Some time ago, my former agent (a nice guy who died suddenly) said to me, "Keep dyeing your hair." Showing your age, it seemed, would be career-limiting.

Why this post?  Lisa LaFlamme and I are of an age. She chose to eschew the cookie cutter blonde look (I'm sure the networks buy this dye by the barrel) and embrace her grey, confident in the fact that her professionalism was the key to holding her anchor position.

So I ask it again, as I did in my 40s, and my 20s, will we ever have a world where the way a woman looks does not override what she accomplishes?

I could write more, but I'm due back out on the picket lines carrying my sign, "I can't believe I'm still protesting this shit."

Sunnier postscript:

I've just had a revelation.  My last dog Sunny was a huge Frankenpoodle, a shaggy golden delight of clumsy friendliness.  Stranger adored him.  In contrast, our previous adorable shaggy dog, who was dark brown in colour, seemed to make people wary at first.  I am wondering if the same might be true of humans.  Do blonde-haired women (even if bottle blonde) naturally seem friendlier and less threatening than dark or grey-haired ones? Is that why Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, as the saying goes?  Comments welcome!


  1. Well, remember that when Anita Loos wrote a sequel to "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" it was titled "But Gentlemen Marry Brunettes." The mogul objection to aging women on media is just as angering and ridiculous as ever. That's half the reason I watch PBS News here in the States - they don't fire the women when they get old. Huzzah!

    1. I really thought we had moved ahead on this issue, Eve, and am surely saddened by it all. Thanks for commenting!

  2. SleuthSayers is home, so I'm gonna say it here. People of good will have finally made enough of a fuss about not seeing people of color on the big and small screens that now we see them everywhere. They've even made up a word, "woke," for the right of people of color to see folks like who look like them when they turn on the TV. As a Jewish woman two decades older than Lisa LaFlamme, I still don't see folks who look like me on the screen. I didn't see them before, either. Young or old, all I ever saw was blondes. With long straight hair. Or if not long, than styled in a way I couldn't afford or wouldn't want to emulate. I guess when it comes to older Jewish women, the world is still sleeping.

    1. Elizabeth, you reminded me that all through university, I didn't have a female prof. No one who looked like me. And it's hard to see what is possible if there is no role model. Your comment has definitely hit home with me. Thank you for this!

  3. Elizabeth Dearborn27 August, 2022 12:14

    The ABC affiliate station, WKBW-TV, here in Canaduffalo fired their anchorwoman Joanna Pasceri when she turned 50. This was 5 to 10 years ago. Her male co-anchor, who was much grayer than she was, kept his job. I think he still works there.

    I read blog.to every day & agree, Lisa LaFlamme is drop dead beautiful.

  4. I guess even being beautiful doesn't help if you're over 50, sigh.

  5. I offer women debating to-dye or not-to-dye two uplifting words:

    Rudy Giuliani

  6. My mother and aunt (a professor!!!) had auburn hair, and my dad loved it. My friend Thrush has a fetish for any shade of red from strawberry blonde to deep burgundy.

    My friend Haboob had long, dark hair in school but now that she's a bit older, er, I mean mature, she's gone short (pixie cut?) and grey and it looks classy.

    1. smile - I like to refer to the women who leave their dark hair behind, as going 'prematurely blonde'.

  7. In the corporate grapevines that I was on, there were always rumours that certain organizations were not just sexist, but ageist in their approaches to their workforce. Women "disappeared", "took early retirement", or were let go for various vaguely worded reasons which many of them didn't want to talk about and seemed unable to challenge. I've known a few women from Bell Media who were similarly blindsided by "business decisions", and let go in their 50's, ostensibly because of reskilling needs or the like. No one was speaking out, but I have to say that Lisa LaFlamme speaking up and speaking out didn't surprise me at all - and I'm really glad she did. Feminism still has many rows to hoe in the corporate sphere, and until we are ALL enabled to speak our truths, not much is going to change. And corporate life NEEDS to change.

  8. Leah, you've said it well. Maybe this will have been a good thing to happen, as it has blown open so publicly the misogyny still alive and kicking in the business world. Thanks for commenting!

  9. The most successful thriller authors in the Netherlands are all good-looking blond women. . .
    But I think Captain Hastings would love your hair, Melodie. Doesn't he always fall in love with ladies with auburn hair? ;)

    Lisa LaFlamme does look gorgeous with gray hair!

    1. Laff! Anne, you made me smile. Darn, but he's not still alive. Any Captain Hastings out there?


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