How Sportscaster Ros Gold-Onwude Is Breaking Free From "Anchorwoman Hair"
Badass Women celebrates women who show up, speak up, and get things done.
Rosalyn Gold-Onwude is changing the status quo on what a female sportscaster can do with her hair on national television. The 31-year old TNT and NBAtv sportscaster from Queens, New York, is bold and unapologetic in fusing her Russian and Nigerian heritage into her fashion and hair styles — with a splash of Atlanta influence, now that she lives in the birthplace of trap.
“Culture is a huge part of what I’m trying to represent,” says Gold-Onwude. “There are few national sports positions like this for women, let alone women of color. I’ve worn braids, faux locks, cornrows, ponytails, buns, natural and curly hair because the American community needs to be exposed to seeing such styles on a national stage.”
Gold-Onwude understands it’s more than just about style. It’s about showing a black woman on a national platform who is authentic to who she is. “First and foremost, I try to lead with knowledge and preparation,” she says. “Yes, I want to get my hair and nails done, but on game day, I won’t do any of that until I feel good at where I am with preparation.”
Her hustle has garnered some big-name attention. “Nice For What” rapper Drake even asked her to be his date when he hosted the inaugural NBA Awards in 2017. “Drake is one of those people who gets excited to see people excel at something they really care about,” says Gold-Onwude. “So much of our conversations are triggered from a huge basketball moment or an interview he saw me do.”
Gold-Onwude is no longer playing defense. Instead, she’s tackling issues head on and pushing culture forward, while she overcomes stereotypes and misconceptions about women in sports.
Hoop dreams: Basketball has been a part of Gold-Onwude’s life since the age of four. She went to Stanford University on a basketball scholarship, where she not only graduated with a master’s degree, but she also made three trips to the Final Four basketball championship and was honored as the Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year.
After graduation, she took a job with Tesla Motors while pursuing freelance broadcasting work with Pac-12 Network, WNBA, and NBA G-League. She then joined the Golden State Warriors as the team’s sideline reporter, as they won two NBA championship titles in three years.
Bold style: “I didn’t grow up with much, but my godmother taught me all about fashion,” says Gold-Onwude, who adds she had tomboyish style as a kid. “She’d take me to fancy stores in Manhattan and show me the difference between good and bad quality stitching and material. And she always told me, ‘Women of color should dress in color because our skin glows in it and we can forever carry such vibrancy.’”
Color drives Gold-Onwude’s fashion statements, but she says she’ll tone down an outfit if she thinks it could be too distracting for viewers, something she says her boss, Tara August (Turner Sports’ Vice President of Talent Relations) urged her to consider. “I remember having lunch with Tara and she brought up a hair style I wore for a New York Knicks game,” Gold-Onwude says. “It was a burgundy braided bob and she said, ‘I loved the braided bob but the color on TV appeared to be more purple than red, and that became distracting.’ I appreciated her honesty and it was fair feedback, so now when I want to wear a burgundy color, I go for a deeper red.” The journalist says she’s careful to balance authenticity and professionalism because she’d rather viewers focus on answers from a great interview than the color of her outfit or hair.
Finding her power: Women of color are often underestimated. To counteract this, Gold-Onwude says she changed her approach by saying aloud, “I belong here.”
“Male sportscasters walk into a room and there’s an instinctive assumption that they know basketball. That’s not the case for women,” she says. “It’s personally never been blatantly said or done to me, but it’s a quiet weight and burden to prove that I’m here for the right reasons.”
Best advice: “Terri Carmichael Jackson (WNBA Player Association’s Director of Operations) said, ‘If you’re the only woman in the room, don’t be proud. In this day and age, there should be multiple women in the room, so send the elevator back down to bring up more woman,’” Gold-Onwude says. “I’m the result of women doing that for me, so I certainly do my best to make myself accessible to young women.”
Admiration over imitation: “There’s so many women who are beacons of inspiration for me,” Gold-Onwude says. [But] my admiration and respect for them has also made me comfortable with not trying to imitate exactly how they look or sound because like them, I can be myself while also being effective.”