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Barb Spotlight: Jana Shortal - Evolving the Image of Female Broadcast Journalists

Sheena Lister
Barb Spotlight: Jana Shortal - Evolving the Image of Female Broadcast Journalists

Quick Facts

Name: Jana Shortal

Age: 45

Profession: television broadcast journalist and host of “Breaking the News” on KARE 11 in Minneapolis, MN

Haircut: JD/MBA (curly edition)

Hair Styling routine: Wash, condition, and towel-dry. Add curl-enhancing product. When almost dry, add Barb pomade.

Evolving the Image of Female Broadcast Journalists and Taking a Stand for Those Who Feel Othered

“Women on television and local news, they have really cool, like, Rent the Runway dresses. They’re beautiful. They know how to do their makeup like they were born to know. They have lots of earrings and tall shoes. I wanted to be them my whole life, ‘cause if I got to be them, or look like them, that was the ultimate hall pass. I could just tell stories. And I maxed out a lot of credit cards trying to look like that. It just didn’t work. You can’t have an authentic voice if you feel like you’re in a costume. It took a long time, but I did find a way to unapologetically be myself.” - Jana Shortal on Great Big Story’s Shine

January 11, 2016 marked the premiere of an innovative television news program hosted by broadcast journalist Jana Shortal on KARE 11 in Minneapolis. The debut of “Breaking the News” was notable not only for its departure from traditional programming, but also for its host, Jana. 

As the show began, studio lights rose to reveal Jana rocking a David Bowie t-shirt under a trim black blazer; retro, black, browline eyeglasses; and a close-cropped haircut topped with her trademark curls. In that instant, Jana shattered the mold of the typical female broadcast journalist.

While showing up to host her own news program, looking like her authentic self was neither a simple nor easy decision for Jana, it was a defining moment in a career where Jana felt intellectually at home but physically misaligned.

Jana, a Barb fan and customer, took some time to chat with our founder, Sheena, about her short hair journey and deep connection to Barb’s mission and community.

Jana was born in a very small town in central-southern Illinois. A middle child who enjoyed an “isolated but fun” upbringing, she says, “It was the kind of place, and not in a bad way, where you didn’t have a ton of independence in being something different.” 

Her family had no cable TV. But her parents did watch the local news, and Jana always enjoyed the sports segment. In her teens, Jana decided she wanted to become a sports broadcaster - a dream she followed to the University of Missouri School of Journalism. 

It was in college in the late 90s, Jana says, that she started to realize that in order to succeed on TV she had to look a certain way, or so she thought. She did everything she could to fit the mold, including straightening her naturally curly hair, which was cut into a bob, and dying it blond. “I saw what society wanted and I was like, that’s easy,” she says. But, when she finished work for the day, she would wash off her makeup and change back into more comfortable clothes to feel like herself again.

As her career as a general assignment reporter for KARE 11 started to take off, Jana found it “exhausting and unhealthy” to continue to lead what practically amounted to a double life. “I was in the business of seeking and finding the truth no matter what,” she says, “and I was just a walking, living lie.” 

Jana’s hair reflected the challenge inherent in forging a career path as a broadcast journalist who looks different from almost every other woman in the field. She became stuck in a pattern of cutting her hair short, then growing it back out. When her hair was freshly cut, Jana says, “I knew I felt different… When I looked at myself in the mirror, I saw myself.”

When “Breaking the News” debuted in 2016, so did Jana Shortal - as her authentic self. Even though she feared how her short hair and unique personal style would be received, she knew she had to show up as the real Jana. To her surprise and relief, the feedback from colleagues and viewers was overwhelmingly positive.

But eight months later, Jana was publicly bullied about her appearance on air by a local gossip columnist. Jana’s eloquent and powerful written response to the columnist went viral, and Jana was unwittingly thrust into the national spotlight.

“After that happened,” Jana says, “it just kind of changed the narrative.” The experience crystallized for Jana how many people are “othered” for how they authentically present themselves. Since then, Jana has used her platform “to shepherd, protect, fight for everybody else.” 

What is her advice for those who are struggling in the ways she did? “Being othered is very real, and it, unfortunately, is a part of the air around us… You’re supposed to somehow fit what this world wants you to be. I would ask people to show themselves some grace and kindness… I don’t think, especially when we’re young, that we even have the tools to learn how to be kind to ourselves. I hope that’s changing.” 

Jana loves finding brands like Barb that help people feel like their truest selves. She wears Barb pomade every day. “The cool thing for me about Barb,” she says, “is that throughout the day it reinvents itself, so it starts to move in different ways which is so cool.” 

Jana’s short hair journey has been a critical part of forging her identity both on- and off-camera. “Honestly the whole external journey for me, at this stage in my life, allowed me to meet myself again in a way that was chaotic at times, and I couldn’t have seen it as it was happening, but I’m so grateful that, this time, when the bullies showed up… they basically just turned flashlights on in the dark for me and I found my way home.”