November 2005: Sharyl Attkisson of CBS News

Many women consider it a triumph to have one good, consistent hairstyle. The women who can keep hair strong and sharp for years are impressive -- and when they can do it with multiple styles, both short and long, some might call it remarkable.

SHARYL ATTKISSON might disagree with this assessment, but we put her in the "remarkable" category. Perhaps we should say ultimate instead, because she ranked high on our Ultimate 50 list. We first noticed her with long thick locks at CNN, but she went much shorter for years after that. Now Sharyl has sent us a new portrait, and revealed she's experimenting with a longer look. We had to investigate what this investigative reporter was doing -- and she agreed to talk with us from her Washington office on an autumn afternoon:

SUPER-HAIR: What is your current style? How would you describe it?

SHARYL ATTKISSON: I would say it's shoulder-length - I'm going for subtle highlights. I just started the highlighting thing about a year ago, and I'm still figuring it out. It's different every time. It's a whole new world. People told me it would be, but....

S-H: You've never done that before?!

SA: No, I haven't. I highlighted one time when I was anchoring the PBS show, maybe five, six, seven years ago - and it came out what looked to me sort of like gray streaks, so I got scared off. I did not want gray streaks.

S-H: Well, certainly not!

SA: So a year ago, I let someone talk me into some highlighting, and it was better. But like I say, it's a whole new world because you go in for a little touch-up and you may end up blonde, or you may end up red, or you may end up brown again.

And so it's straight -- and sometimes I still tuck it behind my ears, and sometimes I don't. I have more flexibility, now that it's growing a little longer.

S-H: I was going to ask how long you've had your hair in this style you're showing....

SA: I've been growing it out since, maybe, last spring?! My daughter, who's 10, remembers my hair longer when she was born, or when she was young. And she's always bugged me to grow it, grow it, grow it - so I thought: I'll grow it out a little bit. And she loves it.

S-H: I was going to ask about that, because we first remember seeing you when you were at CNN [above, from 1992]....

SA: The perm days.

S-H: Were those permed?

SA: Yeah.

S-H: I didn't know they were permed. Long and permed.... how did you come to have that style, and what made you decide to make the change?

SA: I'm from Florida. My hair used to naturally get very, very blonde, just from Florida sun. And it was still kind of like that when I went to CNN, sort of natural highlighting. And perms were in - the girls I knew all had their hair permed. I had big hair, too. So it was sort of left over from that, when I first got to CNN. By the time I went to CBS three years later, I think I had let it go a little straighter; I think I had gone for a smoother look to move to New York.

I don't know what motivates me. Sometimes it's my hair stylist, or sometimes it's just getting tired of something. What do you think of the current publicity photo?

S-H: I liked it - I'm intrigued by the idea of you going longer with it, as your child's talking about, because that's what captivated us when we first saw it. Long - yet it sat wherever you put it, and it looked really good.

SA: (Laughs) I have good body in my hair. I have some natural waves, and it does have what your web site might call staying power....

S-H: So what do you like most about your current style?

SA: It's pretty easy. Straight longer hair is actually easier to style and keep than the shorter hair, I'm finding. I can wear it in the field; it can blow around, but kind of settle back into the style without looking too formal. It's a good cut; it settles back into a decent look. And I was pleased in New Orleans - it's doing pretty well.

S-H: Anything you dislike about it?

SA: Being longer, it takes longer to blow-dry, and I don't like that. I can blow-dry it in about 10 minutes, but it seems like a long 10 minutes. I'd rather be able to do it in three, four or five minutes.

S-H: I guess you can't use.... high-power with that, can you?

SA: I use a pretty hot blow dryer. That's the only way I get it done as fast as I do.

S-H: We're talking right after you went to your stylist. Was that a highlight session, or was it a trim session, or what did you do?

SA: Just to get it trimmed. I asked him to put a few more layers in it; felt like it was sort of hanging -- so he trimmed maybe half an inch off of it, but then gave me some layers.

S-H: Who is your stylist? We'll give him a free plug....

SA: His name is Gaston, in Washington, D.C. That's the name of the salon as well.... The guy who did my hair for 10 years, who I love, moved away. Now I've found Gaston; I think he's done a nice job.

S-H: Who was that? Who moved away?

SA: That was Monsour.... and he also styled my hair for Healthweek, when I did the PBS show at the same time [above] and CBS. He decided to head out to L.A. Then he never made it that far, and got a job.... on some cozy beach somewhere.

S-H: Are French stylists the best? I notice you have these two French stylists....

SA: Actually, Monsour is Persian....

S-H: Oh! OK, I'm sorry....

SA: ....and Gaston is Lebanese. (Laughs)

S-H: We've heard that there is an unwritten rule in television news, that if you're going to be on the air, you have to have a shorter style. It looks more "professional."

SA: Yes, I think that was the case -- and I actually teach occasional anchor seminars with a nonprofit news center. And I used to advise people a lot to get their hair a little shorter, and I think that's changing. Don't you?

S-H: From what I'm seeing on the air, I think so -- what I see on your own network, I think so.

SA: Yeah. Maybe longer hair is just in general more in style or something. I don't know what it is, but people seem to be wearing it, and it looks good on a lot of people. Long hair, sometimes it doesn't look good or it can be unruly. But people have figured out how to keep their hair longer and keep control of it and have it look decent, too....

We have several very, very attractive younger correspondents on CBS now, that all have great hair. You mentioned Sharyn Alfonsi.... she looks like she has great hair.... but it's sort of like everybody today looks like they have great hair to me.

S-H: Do you agree with that? Do you think the more professional look is shorter, or do you think there's room for....

SA: I think it's OK now. I think we have to be willing to change. And I try to be flexible -- what you learn 10 years ago may not be the case now. And I learned what you said, that your hair's going to be better to control and look more professional if it's shorter. But I do see that changing....

Now it does make you fuss more when you're in the field for a live shot, and it's a little windy. It is more of a wild card. But people know your hair's going to blow - and I don't think it looks awful to have your hair blowing during a live shot.

S-H: What's the biggest style you face keeping your style in place, day after day? Is it the wind, or is it something else?

SA: I would say - this is not exactly the answer to your question, but the biggest challenge with me with my hair has always been making it look the same every day. I can't. Every single day, I style it the same way (unless I've changed my style), but it looks different. And people often, when I haven't done anything to my hair, say: did I cut it or change it? And I try to fix it the same way today as I did yesterday, and it just looks different.

And I've been plagued with that ever since my first days in the business; I've had people, news directors - I had one at my very first job edit together a bunch of different shows of me anchoring, over time, and show me that my hair changed every day....

S-H: What do you do? What's your routine in fixing it every day?

SA: Right now my routine is just: wash it, blow-dry in sections, and put a little texturizer in it. It's pretty simple - depending on if it's humid out, or.... what shampoo I use, I guess, it can really look different. How much time I use for the blow-drying, you know.

S-H: Do you have a favorite product that you use for that -- like texturizer and shampoo, and that sort of thing? Or does that make a difference?

SA: It seems to. I'm using a Bed Head product right now. I can't remember the name of it, but there's a smoothing shampoo and an ultra-moisturizing conditioner, and I've been really pleased with that. And then there's a taffy texturizer that Gaston sold me on, that I like a lot -- just kind of separates your hair.

S-H: We recall one spring day a couple of years ago - you were out in Maryland after a tornado had hit. And there was all sorts of damage.... and you did a live report in the 6:30 news in which the wind was blowing around all over the place. And you somehow maneuvered your head around to keep your hair out of your eyes and out of your face.

SA: OK....

S-H: And we were absolutely floored by how you did that. (Attkisson laughs).... if you remembered that day, or what you did?

SA: I don't, but sometimes a steady predictable wind is better than just a little light, unpredictable wind, because you can actually, if the cameraman's willing, set up where it's going to blow away from your face or sideways, instead of blow it in your face. So I may have, if it was just a windy day, been able to set up where it was going to blow the right way if it had blown.

S-H: Maybe that's what happened. Well, has your hair ever fallen in your eyes? During a live report, or in public?

SA: It has, during the inauguration; Bush's second inauguration [left]. It was quite gusty, and for one whole live shot it was blustery and windy and cool. I kind of had to go up with my hand and kind of hold my hair up, and that was the only way to sort of keep it out of my face, and keep brushing it....

S-H: What advice would you give someone who wanted to develop Super-Hair?

SA: I'm not sure I'm the one to give advice, because I'm not sure I have great hair. But in general, the people I give advice to and consult with, I tell them to work to keep your look as updated as possible.... People expect your look to be updated, and current -- not really wild, but on the leading edge, not really old-fashioned and behind.

So be open minded about your style. But if you have a great style, there are variations you can do while you stick with it -- slightly shorter, slightly longer. And if you highlight, I've advised people to be diligent about keeping up with it, because on TV your roots look a lot worse than they do in person. So if you color or highlight it, you have to keep up with it.

S-H: I've been reading about HDTV, and wondering how it's going to affect how styles appear....

SA: You're the second person in a week to ask me about that. I don't know what it will do to our appearance, but I've heard there are technological things you can do to improve your skin.... There are probably accommodations that can or will be made, but I don't know. I'm wondering the same thing.

S-H: Who would you consider to have the best head of hair you've seen?

SA: I would not look good with her hair, but on the L'oreal commercials, when Heather Locklear is tossing around her freshly highlighted long hair, It looks very pretty.... Also, the very shiny thick black hair that looks like Julie Chen has, it looks sooooo pretty on TV, so shiny and healthy.....

SUMMARY: When Sharyl first was listed on the Ultimate 50 five years ago, one of her CBS producers wrote us and called it "funny." But Sharyl told us personally she likes our web site - and it's obvious we've liked watching her styles over the years. Take the great body of her hair, add a great cut, and the result seems to be that mysterious "staying power" which Super-Hair always seems to have.

We never realized she permed her long hair in the CNN years. Now that she's apparently going longer without a perm, we'll be interested in seeing how well she can keep her usually-great style control. She's had some close calls on camera over the years (and one fall she openly admitted here) -- but to us she's a teacher not only in news anchoring, but in quality styles.

(Thanks to the CBS News web site and TV Ark for pictures.)


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