hairstory // going red

s women, our hair plays a huge role in our lives.  Hair styles can define decades,  bad hair can actually put a damper on your whole day, good hair can make you feel like you own the world, finding a hairstylist that understands your vision can be a lifelong quest, finding a magic hair product is like finding the holy grail, we cut and dye our hair after we break up, we chop it off after having a kid.  Our hair is part of our story.  It tells our story with us.  It expresses who we are and who we want to be.  It's with us every day.  It's not vain to admit that hair can feel important.  Hair loss is a huge part of fighting cancer, not because women are vain, but because hair is a part of us.  Sure it's "just hair," but it's the one part of your outfit you live with every day.

I am no different.  My hair has played a huge part of my story, and not because it's, well, huge.  My hair was a curly beast from the get go.  I remember my mom desperately spritzing detangler in it, attempting to get a brush through.  She had straight hair, thick, but straight, and I'm sure she had no idea that brushing through curly hair dry was a battle fought in vain.  I'm sure she thought that good mom's brushed their daughters' hair and so she tried, ever so.  For a long time I wished my hair would be straight and sleek like the popular styles of my adolescence.  I was the "big hair" girl.  A guy in my 8th grade class said I was 90% hair, 10% body (I took this as a complement, and I think he meant it that way).  With no curl mentor, it was a trial and error ordeal figuring out how to have a symbiotic relationship with my hair.  And as I did, my self confidence flourished.  I learned how to work with my curls, to embrace the bigness, and to care for my hair properly (lather, rinse, repeat?  No thanks, only if I want dry, damaged hair all of the time). I can't imagine myself without my big, curly hair now.  I still have the occasional bad hair day, like all of us, but hey, that's what fabulous hats are for, am I right?

Hairstory is about telling the stories of women through their hair.  Each woman's hair is braided with stories.  Stories of tears after bad hair cuts, hours spent crafting perfect prom updos, crazy late night dye jobs, rebellious high school cuts, chopping gum out of hair, playing "hair stylist" with your little sister.

I can't really remember how I became friends with Eleanor and Athena, it might've been on a photoshoot where Athena did my makeup.  As a Tacoma newbie, I was excited to meet and get to know more creative people in my new town and Athena and Eleanor at Embellish salon greeted me with open arms.  I could tell right away they were big thinkers, creative souls, and rad women.  They had an idea for honing their craft through inspired hair "makeovers" and wanted me to be on board, but first they wanted me to experience the process.  So!  I went red with them.  We spent 7 hours in the salon transforming my natural dark brown hair to a "lived in" red.  Usually they would've split the transformation into two salon visits but we figured we'd bang it out in one.

I'm not a salon girl.  Every time I've gone into one, I've felt ignored or misunderstood.  It seemed like no stylist got my curly hair or color visions, and no one could cut my hair worth a damn, so I swore them off.  But I was excited by Eleanor's attentiveness to my ideas and it was awesome to hear her thoughts and ideas as well.  Not only was Eleanor excited for my hair, every stylist in the salon was welcome to come over and chat, offer ideas or thoughts on the process and colors, and it felt like a truly collaborative and inviting environment, which was certainly a departure from the salon atmosphere's I'd previously experienced.  

By the end I was so excited to be a part of other women's hair transformation stories with Eleanor, Athena and Embellish!  With each participant we're doing a little questionnaire, and in keeping with the program, I filled one out myself!

What is your first hair memory?

As a young kid I don’t think I thought much about hair, I was more interested in running around outside getting dirty. I do remember my mom trying to get a brush through it and spritzing detangler to try to help, and I remember crying on the way home from the stylist one time. I don’t even remember what I hated about the cut, it just wasn’t what I wanted (though i’m not sure I even knew what I wanted). 

Describe your mom’s hair and her beliefs 
about yours.

My mom has beautiful, thick, straight natural red hair. I am forever a bit jealous that my brother got the redhead genes instead of me. I was pretty stubborn as a kid, and my mom decided to just let me be me, which meant letting me wear weird outfits and have frizzy, big, uncontrollable hair. I remember her trying to brush out all the tangles, and I think after a while she just gave up. Since she had straight hair, I don’t think she had any point of reference for how to deal with my hair, so I was on my own to figure out what to do with it, which meant I was in my late teens/early 20’s before I developed a healthy relationship with it.


What feelings did you have growing up 
about your hair?

It was just so big and unruly and nothing I did seemed to make it look good. There was a lot of poofiness and I didn’t know how to handle it. I just wanted to have straight hair so I could have all the cute hairstyles that were trendy at the time.

I had started embracing my curls later in high school. I wanted crazy curly big hair for my senior prom, so I went to the salon with my hair still wet after showering, figuring they’d use my natural curl and just pump it up. Nope. They straightened my hair and then curled it with a curling iron. It was absolutely nothing like I wanted and I was pretty enraged about it. One of many reasons I’ve stopped going to hair salons altogether. 

In many ways salons, as well as pop culture, made me feel like there was something wrong with me because of my curly hair. I couldn’t get the styles that all the celebrities had and when I went to the salon my hair was treated like it was straight and thin. Even when I finally had figured out what kind of cut worked well on my hair and told the stylist exactly what kind of cut I wanted, they still didn’t do it. My relationship with hair was tumultuous throughout my adolescence and teen years, obviously.

What were the trends in hair when you 
were growing up? 

It was the 90’s so Jennifer Aniston’s famous “Rachel” hair was all the rage. Of course never in a million years will my hair ever be anything close to Rachel hair, so that was pretty frustrating. 

What music were you into at 11 years old? 
I’m not sure about 11, but in Jr High I was really into Jewel and Lisa Loeb. I was starting to feel all the boy craziness and heartache that comes with crushing on boys who don’t like you back, so Jewel’s “Foolish Games” was basically my anthem.

What are some likes? Dislikes? 
I like: art, photography, Winnebagos, travel, Alaska, family, writing, avocados, creating with my hands. I dislike: politics, injustice, domestic violence, bullying.

Curly hair symbolizes…
Bold, power, wild, untamable.

Short hair symbolizes…
Independence, edginess, anti-establishment, punk.

Have you ever cut your own hair? anyone 
I actually exclusively cut my own hair. I haven’t had a stylist cut my hair in years. After years of having stylists with no understanding of curly hair cut my hair as if it were straight hair, I realized I could do a better job of cutting my own hair, since I understood intimately how it behaves.  I’ve cut my brother’s hair before.

Have you ever done anything really crazy 
or dumb to your own hair?

In college I dyed a streak of my hair rainbow colors, and then in 2011 I dyed my hair two tone pink and teal. My hair was pretty sad after I bleached it, so I suppose that counts as doing something dumb, but it was fun while it lasted!

I loved being a redhead, but I think I'm too addicted to change to stay with one color for too long!  I'm already brainstorming my next change!  I'm on my way back to black, but for now I'm rocking the teal and I think I have one more change before I go dark!

I'll be sharing a bit more of my hairstory with Embellish, as well as some other fabulous ladies' transformations here on the blog in the future, so stay tuned!

salon photos of me by Athena Hitson