Why I Identify as Naturally Blonde, Even Though I Dye My Hair
I was born curly-haired and blonde, and save for a few years of meticulous straightening, those attributes have been a huge part of my identity. My hair is important to me, and for some reason unbeknownst to me, being recognised as a blonde is just as significant.
I started to realise this only recently (at least consciously) when I showed my driver’s licence to a new friend. The picture on my ID is from my 16th birthday—my budding smile lines and crow’s feet hadn’t formed yet, but my signature flaxen strands were bright and on display. He looked up at me and said, “Oh, so you’ve been dyeing your hair for a really long time then, yeah?” I was immediately offended. I couldn’t believe he didn’t see me as a natural blonde. But then I wondered why I felt so strongly about the outside world assuming I dye my hair. I do colour my hair. As is true with most blondes, my light locks have darkened over time, and I touch them up with highlights every few months. But the idea that this person—and perhaps a whole slew of other people—didn’t see me that way was surprisingly troublesome to me.
I decided to talk about this feeling with other women in the industry to see if it was something they grappled with as well. What’s more, I wanted to understand how our hair colour really plays a part in who we are and how we see ourselves.
First, I talked to Kathleen Braine, a beauty writer for XOJane who, like me, was born blonde but has lightened her natural colour throughout the years.
She has had a similar experience with her hair-colour identity. Braine explained, “I personally have always maintained that, because I had blonde hair as a baby, somehow the fact that I dye it now is more legitimate. I know that isn’t necessarily true, but I also take umbrage at people who feel the need to immediately say, ‘But that’s not your natural hair colour!’ I make a choice to be blonde, just like a make a choice to wear a certain type of lipstick, eschew all hats, or wear black all the time—it’s a choice that I make about my appearance. And just because it’s not a natural hair colour doesn’t mean I can’t talk about the reactions my hair gets, why I love lighter hair, or how much I match my sartorial choices to my hair colour.”
“Plus,” she continued, “it takes a lot of work to get my hair to a platinum stage, so the colour being a part of my identity is a no-brainer. I spend hours in a salon chair to get to my desired colour.”
She makes an interesting point—like somehow we own the fact that we’re blonde more passionately because we have to work so hard to maintain the colour we love. That, and a recent study found blondes tend to have higher IQs than those with any other hair colour. It’s even been proven that blondes are perceived as more approachable and fun, and it’s the most covetable hair colour among women. So after some research, it’s clear that there is science and psychology behind this idea.
Then, I began to wonder if this identity issue exists within women who really weren’t born blonde. I decided to ask Danielle Prescod, Obsessee’s managing editor and a fairly recent member of the blonde-hair club, about her experience dyeing her hair for the first time and really changing her look. She told me that, even though it sounds crazy, she really thinks of herself as a blonde—and she, too, is offended when others don’t view her that way.
“I was convinced to go blonde last year after I was bombarded with images of a very blonde Kim Kardashian,” Prescod explained. “You might have blinked and missed her blonde hair since it only lasted for 21 days, but a good 10 of those were spent in Paris for fashion week, where visibility was super high. I had never coloured my hair before this, and I sat on the idea for a little bit, knowing that my locks would be taking a beating if I were to go blonde.”
She continued, “In May of last year, I decided to do it anyway. I went to Adel Atelier, where the colourist went easy on me at first, but two weeks later I went back so that I could be blonder. That was the beginning of my blonde-hair dysmorphia. From that moment on, I couldn’t be blonde enough—I began to very emphatically identify with being blonde. At a dance class, the teacher called ‘all the blonde girls to the floor,’ and I stepped forward. At my Diesel appointment, they had a T-shirt bar when you fill in the blank to the slogan ‘I am naturally ______,’ and I had them fill in blonde for me.
“I am very solidly committed to the fact that this is the way I am supposed to look. My whole face is warmer, I can wear simpler things, and I think that in general I stand out more. I can’t even imagine going back to my natural hair colour. I went back twice more since my initial plunge to achieve my desired results and we finally got to the perfect mix last September. It’s faded some, so I went back for a blonde re-up last weekend, and of course, I am woefully unsatisfied.”
Another recent (and, in my humble opinion, wildly successful) blonde transformation came about a year ago when Carly Cardellino, Cosmopolitan’s senior beauty editor, went from brunette to a milky white blonde.
She said of the experience, “I’ve been a brunette all of my life (aside from spending the past year with platinum hair), and while I never thought blondes really had more fun—because I had a lot of fun with brown hair—I have to say that I do feel more like myself with my super-light hair. I can’t really pinpoint what it is about my new hair colour, but it makes me feel wild and free and more like myself. Plus, I love that it makes a bold statement and is an automatic accessory (i.e., you look chic even when you’re going to the laundromat to pick up your laundry).”
So after talking to natural blondes, recent blondes, and a few that are in between, it seems my initial reaction was not only founded but also common. I am allowed to feel protective over my hair and the way it’s perceived, because whether it’s from a bottle or not, it’s a part of me.
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