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Latina reporter receives backlash for her curly hair: 'It's the most racist thing I've ever dealt with in my life'

Like many women with naturally curly hair, Corallys Ortiz just wanted to give her hair a break this past week — but a woman by the name of Donna was not happy about it.

The reporter and meteorologist on Tennessee’s WBBJ posted a video on Facebook of the voicemail she got after her weekend weather report, in which a caller makes a racist comment about Ortiz’s naturally curly hair. Ortiz, who is of Dominican and Puerto Rican descent, tells Yahoo Lifestyle: “It’s the most racist thing I’ve ever dealt with in my life.”

In the voicemail, which Ortiz plays in the video clip, the caller says: “This is for the weather girl tonight — please don’t wear your hair like that anymore. It just doesn’t look good at all. Please change it back to something more normal, not something that’s all n*****y-looking.”

Ortiz says she’s used to sticking out in her Tennessee town and explains, “I consider myself black and Latina — I always get questions about where I’m from because I have an accent and I look a little different.” The Massachusetts native believes it was a rare incident and says, “I took into consideration that she might be used to saying certain words that, to her, might not be insulting — but it still doesn’t excuse it.”

After sharing the incident, the reporter received encouragement from social media, her co-workers, and the local community. “My news station has been very supportive, and everybody in the area has been the sweetest, which is awesome.”

Ortiz shared a photo of herself showered with flowers sent by local supporters on Instagram and thanked everyone. “Thank you Jackson and West Tennessee for showing what southern hospitality really is! Thank you for your support these last couple of days,” she wrote in the caption.

She tells Yahoo Lifestyle that while it’s common for the news industry to set certain beauty standards, her station has never pressured her to wear her hair any particular way. “It’s slowly changing across the news industry, and every station is different,” she says, “but there’s a long history of having women of color straighten their hair to seem more professional.”

Ortiz hopes people like the caller will realize that using racial slurs is never OK, and wants to use the incident to make a point. She ended her Facebook video post with, “I hope a post like this brings to light the constant criticism a person of color might face just for being themselves. I hope it serves as a lesson to people like Donna and to remind her that we are living in a new century, in nation filled with people of different background, cultures, ideals, colors, shapes and sizes.”

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