Chicago Tribune columnist: ‘The people have spoken, and the people hate my hair’

Heidi Stevens’ column photo

- Zbigniew Bzdak/Chicago Tribune

– Zbigniew Bzdak/Chicago Tribune

Chicago Tribune’s Heidi Stevens, who has received hundreds of reader comments about the way her hair looks in her column photo, writes:

My hair is naturally very curly, and despite the wishes of the aforementioned readers, does not respond well to combing. (Picture a lion’s mane, only bigger.) Believe it or not, I sort of straightened/styled it for my column photo.

I have spent moments of my life hating my hair and other moments liking it OK. Mostly though, I admit, I sort of ignore it.

I hope others can learn to do the same.

* Uncombed hair threatens the natural order (
* From Cayman Islands to Canada, readers weigh in on my hair (
* Stevens goes on “WGN Morning News” to discuss the hair kerfuffle (

Update: Stevens sends more emails from her hair critics. They’re after the jump.

From: Robert JXXXXXX

Number One: Look in the mirror each morning and ask yourself: Do I respect my family, friends and myself and those I encounter enough that when I walk out the door I do not look like something the cat dragged home last night?

Number Two: Request the newspaper to replace the photo that accompanies my name in the column they graciously publish on my behalf.



Just read the most recent column, and although I hadn’t emailed or tweeted or whatevered about your hair, i have noticed it in your picture as I would read your Columns.

it’s not a woman issue- people aren’t saying this because you are a woman- your picture looks unkempt- there is the hair and a shirt that isn’t ironed. it a people issue.

Look, you can do what you want, but how you dress and present yourself includes some element of respect for others. This is why bankers and lawyers will still wear suits and ties. Yes times & styles have changed- even our president sometimes appears without a tie. But you don’t see him wearing shorts and a t Shirt into the Oval office.


From: Phillip HXXXXX


I’m sure that you will receive a lot of email concerning your Sunday article. I wanted to take the time to add my comments and perspective because as I read your comments, I think that you miss the point that your readers are trying to get you to understand. The core issue is about respect. That respect comes in three areas:

Respect for the company that you work for. You are paid to do a job by your employer. In return for your services, you are provided with a means to obtain the material things that you need each day to function; heat, gasoline, food for your family and a roof over your head. As part of that bargain, you become an ambassador of the paper and like it or not, you become the face of the business to those who read the paper and are willing to buy it for its content. You have an obligation to help the paper succeed because if they don’t, you and many other people around you loose their jobs. Maybe you don’t need the job to survive from day to day but others do. You need to think about them and understand that together, you all have a stake that is at risk. Presenting your best self in a photograph is the least you can do. Everyone has a stake in making the business a success.

Second, you need to have respect for the people that read the paper. They are the reason for your writing to exist. Without them, what you write doesn’t matter. It makes no difference whether it’s one person or ten thousand that you write for. You don’t have to agree with everyone or even like them all but the day that you decide to stop listing to what others are saying is the day that your mind closes. I always said that the measure of an issue can be found in the level of the noise that surrounds it. The issue of your picture is certainly trivial in nature but it takes away from what you are trying to say in so many other areas. The message gets overshadowed by the distraction, whether you care about it or not, and that is a shame. You can tell yourself that it doesn’t matter but it does and people are trying to tell you if only you will take the time to listen.

The third area is in relation to respect for yourself. Each day of my life, my goal is to make the world a little better at the end of the day than I found it when I woke up. That applied to myself, my kids, my wife, my community and my employer. Most days, I felt that I lived up to that promise and some days, I fell short, but each and every day, I tried. Many days, you need to be satisfied with the little victories that you can achieve because the big issues beat you back, but at the end of the day, you have to ask yourself; did I give it my all? A picture is a minor thing in the light of the issues facing this country but it’s one of the easiest to fix. There is also a difference between things you can do and things that are physically impossible. People are not asking you to do the impossible. They are not asking you to become some idealized image like those typically found on a magazine cover, but to act as a representative of your profession; doing your best to present a professional image.

Call your girl friends. Go out together and get yourself pampered. Call it a spa day. Give yourself permission to do something different from your normal routine. Ask someone that does makeup and hair for a living to show you a different way of presenting yourself and then put your trust in them to do what they are best at. Make them feel special in the process. Then take a new picture and present it to the world for all to see. It may not be your thing everyday but be open to the possibilities of presenting yourself in a different way. What have you got to loose?

This is not about power, not about attention, not about becoming someone that you are not. It’s not an issue restricted to women but an issue of respect. Please take the time to listen to the noise, be open to change and to maybe, just maybe, give yourself the gift of a different perspective.

With nothing but respect,

Phillip H…

* Email to another columnist: “Either a comb or a haircut would improve your picture on Page B2” (