Did Our Mayor Get a Makeover?

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The teenagers I worked with last summer had some definite opinions about Baltimore’s mayor — only, they were mostly about the way she looks. I remember one particularly heated discussion:  “What is with her hair?” J. scoffed. “I know. Can’t she afford to get it fixed?” M replied.

It’s true (if sad) that politicians — especially, it seems, female politicians — often have their appearances picked apart and obsessed over. Combine this with the culture wars over black women’s hair, and you’ve got a tricky situation for women in the public eye. If they’re perceived as spending too much money/time on their looks, they’re vain or wasteful. Not enough, and they’re sniped at for not properly representing the city.  Earlier this year, Councilman Robert Curran said as much to the Baltimore Sun:  “To be a good leader, you have to look good, too. I hate to say it, but that’s part of leadership. I don’t think [Rawlings-Blake] would be the leader she is today if she hadn’t gotten in control of her weight. She was able to take command of her own physicality, and then show she could take command of the city.”

So no surprise that now that Rawlings-Blake has officially announced her reelection bid, she seems to have revamped her look as well. Will her mayoral makeover serve her well in the upcoming campaign, or are these surface changes a distraction from the real substantive issues we should be thinking about? Does it matter what the mayor looks like?

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