A meteorologist who said she was fired over her “curly hair” detailed her ordeal in an interview with The Post — claiming her bosses bullied her into trying to “fix” her appearance before she was unceremoniously dumped by the Tennessee TV station.
Tabitha Bartoe thought she landed a dream opportunity as the weekend weather whiz for ABC affiliate WATE 6’s “On Your Side” program in Knoxville, she told The Post in an exclusive interview this week.
Instead, the 22-year-old Ohio native — a graduate of Valparaiso University who got her master’s degree from the University of North Dakota — revealed that her three-month stint with ABC affiliate WATE 6 in Knoxville started to run into trouble almost as soon as she was hired.
Just three days into the job, the station’s general manager and news director — both women — began to harp on Bartoe’s hairdo and clothing, Bartoe told The Post.
“Have you looked in the mirror lately?” the newsroom’s general manager allegedly said to Bartoe, whose hair is straighter in some parts and curlier in others. “There’s one right over there?”
The general manager “degraded” her natural hair, telling Bartoe that “it didn’t make sense that my hair was naturally curly here but then my bangs were straight,” she said.
The news director dragged Bartoe to two salons and stores for an unwanted makeover that included straightening her brunette locks and buying ill-fitting dresses, the anchor revealed.
At the first appointment, “we went to a hair salon and both the hairdresser and news director jumped right in to talk about everything they disliked about my hair, specifically how my curls looked,” Bartoe said.
The boss asked the stylist to give Bartoe a “softened” look, and suggested ways for her “curls to fall out over time,” she added.
The stunned Bartoe said she did not want to change her hair, but “the news director said we would not leave unless I let the stylist do something,” she said.
Bartoe’s humiliation continued after the salon visit. She was marched to a nearby clothing store to shop for a new wardrobe because the news director didn’t like the emerald green Calvin Klein jumpsuit Bartoe was wearing, the anchor said.
The news director “picked out items that she liked, not necessarily considering my body type, and when she asked what size I wore, I got a look up and down from her and she continued grabbing dresses,” Bartoe said.
In yet another meeting, the news director allegedly told Bartoe that she “understands that one size doesn’t fit all. That comment really hurt.”
The badgering over Bartoe’s hair didn’t stop after the first trip to the salon.
Bartoe said the news director told her audience members were sending in comments and emails about her looks. But “when I asked to see those so I personally knew what was going on, they didn’t show me,” Bartoe said.
She was soon sent on a second hair appointment — this time to a curly hair specialist.
“I was pulled out of my shows to do the weather and instead sat at a salon for nearly three hours,” Bartoe said. “The news director left and came back after the appointment was over. She had no words, just ‘Can you smile?’ So she could take a photo and send it to the general manager.”
Apparently, the makeover didn’t please her boss.
On May 9, after less than four months on the job, Bartoe was “terminated due to my style not aligning with the company,” she was told.
WATE did not respond to repeated requests for comment from The Post.
The despondent Bartoe packed her car for the six-hour ride back to Ohio and is now stuck with a lease in Tennessee.
“I drove home the same day that it happened because I just wanted to be with my family.”
After being fired, the budding meteorologist took to Twitter last Sunday to share “the sad news” that her “time at WATE has come to a close.”
Bartoe’s tweet caught the attention of fellow anchors. NY1’s Kristen Shaughnessy replied to the tweet, saying it was “not a good look, @6News… but interested to hear the News Director’s response.”
In a follow-up tweet posted Wednesday, Shaughnessy said Bartoe’s experience “is also a warning to every other woman in that newsroom to play the corporate game.. or else.”
Kyle David, an associate weather producer, and forecaster at FOX Weather, also replied to Bartoe’s tweet. “I’m sorry to hear that! It’s their loss and another’s gain,” he wrote.
Others expressed that they were sad to see Bartoe leave WATE. “You will be missed,” one tweeted.
“I think you look really lovely (being honest) and I know another station (local or somewhere else) would die to have you as part of their team,” another wrote.
A handful of tweets, meanwhile, argued that Bartoe being terminated for her appearance was justified.
“TV is a VISUAL medium. … TV is all about looking cute, unfortunately,” one user tweeted.
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