Tyra Banks started modeling when she was a teenager, no doubt due in large measure to a certain amount of natural-born beauty.
But you might infer from her quote that much of what was done to promote her image was done, shall we say, with a certain amount of creativity.
Looking good on camera comes down to two things: looking as aesthetically pleasing as possible along with the ability to visually and orally communicate with comfort and confidence.
The part of looking good aesthetically is a big part of being on television. After all, television is a visual medium, so good looks matter to some extent. It's not necessarily the be-all and end-all, but it can come into play. And so news directors and others who hire talent do consider someone's appearance. Try not to be offended or put off by this, it's just the way it is. Some of those who hire people to be on-camera have inherent criteria for how they feel a sportscaster "should look." While not a necessity, a full head of hair, a proportionate nose, clear skin, and other similar attributes are generally all deemed desirable. Women are judged similarly in terms of their looks. In television, beauty is not necessarily always skin deep.
"If I had to rate the importance of [good looks] one through ten," says Bridget Lovelle, news director at KSPR-TV in Springfield, Missouri, "I'd probably say seven or eight."
Many go to great lengths to create or enhance beauty with procedures such as hair transplants, plastic surgery, and the like. For many the suggestion here is to build on what you've been born with—to make the best of it in order to enhance your appearance on-camera.
Cane Brescia is a celebrity make-up artist and beauty expert. She says:
"If somebody wants to get into the business, make-up is a key part of a person's on-air image. Like it or not, we are all judged on our image. To get started, you can go to a general cosmetics counter and get a pressed powder one shade darker than your natural skin color. You don't have to wear a lot of make-up, but you don't want someone being distracted by your shiny forehead and not hearing the words that are coming out of your mouth. Your hair needs to be groomed. Men who are losing their hair, I say, "bald is beautiful. Cut it short." For women, hair should be no longer than shoulder length."
Cane Brescia, courtesy of Christopher Gabel
Brescia also says that men who are reluctant to use make-up
need to get over it. "For some men it's like, 'I'm too macho or I don't want to be seen as wimpy.' It's essentially out of their comfort zone. But in order to succeed in broadcasting, you have to let yourself be out of your comfort zone. You don't want to see anything that's kind of shiny or dark."
"To me," says news director Lovelle, "[I ask myself] 'is there anything distracting about this person's appearance?' Is there something that distracts from what they're saying? If so, it's going to count against them."
Among women sportscasters, says make-up artist Brescia, there's the issue of grooming yourself to work in what is essentially a man's world.
"What I feel a lot of women struggle with is having that balance of being a woman reporting on men's sports. You can't dress too sexy or feminine, but you shouldn't try to be one of the guys either. In my opinion, I think that tailored outfits [are good]. If you're on the field somewhere reporting, I think a polo shirt is fine. Neat and tidy hair—and not too long, I can't stress that enough. I find in the sports world you want to have it shoulder length. I like to call it "university hair," that long hair young women have. I like to cut about a foot off of the average woman once they graduate college. It's time [after graduation] to be
professional. People want to listen to your smart words and look at your smart appearance. They don't want to see you flipping around your hair. It's going to take away from your credibility."
"The way people dress is so important," says Peggy Phillip, news director at KSHB-TV in Kansas City, Missouri. "It's the colors they choose that really pop out. So if somebody has a résumé tape of themselves dressed in dark slacks and a white shirt, it's not going to be that impressive. I look for color. Even if you're in a small market and you buy your clothes at Kmart, figure out a way to go down to the tailor and get it fitted. It makes all the difference in the world. You're making an impression and if it doesn't fit right, it looks bad, especially in high-definition."
"Once you have your clothes, hair, and make-up together," Phillip says, "It's often your talent that can ultimately win out. There are a lot of pretty people on TV. Somebody who's good-looking is easy. But I always say 'passion trumps pretty.' And so I look for people who I feel are engaged and plugged in."
The passion that Phillip is talking about should be one of the main reasons for tackling any vocation, especially sportscasting. Always allow this to come through anything you do in the business. As a performer, the audience will perceive your passion and will often embrace it.
But Phillip is also alluding to the uncanny ability of some performers to figuratively "reach" through the camera; to engage with and communicate to an audience as if the performer was in a room with just the viewer. Not easy when staring into a lens with a teleprompter in front of it.
How to be visually comfortable, communicative, engaging, and entertaining often comes down to:
- a thorough, working knowledge of the story, enabling you to look and sound authoritative
- visualizing a friend or other familiar person on the other side of the camera
- performing with the side of your personality that is upbeat and energized, with a comfort level and a conversational style that is truly and uniquely yours
- "thinking the thought" and remembering to "relax, relate, concentrate" while performing
- giving each story the individual treatment (happy, sad, suspenseful) it deserves through your performance and your writing
"Whatever you want to say about looks, it still goes back to the presentation," says news director Lovelle. "If someone's average looking but they have a lot of energy and their presence just comes across the screen and they're very conversational with me, I would consider them above somebody who's maybe better looking but doesn't have as much personality. If [the good looking person] is boring, I'm going with the average-looking person."