This story was originally published on August 22, 2015.
When my dear friend Tara Teschke told me that she was considering embracing the gray hair that started sprouting from her scalp by dyeing the rest of her hair to match, I was totally on board with helping her out and telling her story (especially since it had to do with identity, which is wrapped up in our hair). So, I set her up with my hair colorist, Lucille Javier at Sally Hershberger Downtown, for a full-on hair transformation. Here, she discusses why she decided to put her gray on display, her experience in the chair, and what it means to embrace your aging hair (as told to me).
I'd consider myself a "fuck it" person by nature, in that I'm not afraid to experiment. But this attitude came out more recently — for a while I was someone who wanted to please everyone. When my mother told me never to touch my hair growing up, I listened. She'd say I could do anything I wanted to myself, but I should never mess with my locks. "It's long, it's beautiful, it's healthy," she'd say. "Once you dye it, you can never go back." So I experimented elsewhere — with makeup, tattoos, piercings, and whatever I could get my hands on.
One day, I looked in the mirror and noticed some silver streaks had cropped up on either side of my temple — little gray wings. Now that I think about it, there probably wasn't enough for anyone else to notice. But, there was enough that I felt I looked like someone who needed to deal with their hair one way or another, and was just choosing not to. Around this time, I visited home and saw a photo of my mother in the '90s. She also had the wings, but a much more intense version. I thought about the struggles she had with her hair, and that she never had fun or experimented with it. When she colored it, it was only to correct what she (or society) deemed a problem.
Women have been told for ages that they should only color their hair if they're going gray, and to change it back to their natural color. Talk about traditional beauty standards. Even in a world where Kylie Jenner changes her hair color to what seems like every other day, I still know plenty of women who are scared to dye their hair a crazy color because of how men might react. My mom is in her 60s, and she only recently allowed her hair to go completely white — and, she's still a fox.
So I thought, let's just fucking do this. I figured I'd just take what I was already working with and turn up the volume. And that's when Maria came in and sent me to Lucille, who I immediately fell in love with. During our consultation, I brought along photos of Bonnie Raitt with her streak. But after Lucille took one look at my virgin hair, she said: "You should just do it all." I said okay, (here's where my "fuck it" nature comes into play), and we scheduled an appointment to go completely gray. Essentially, I went from one X-Woman to the other — my initial inspo was very Rogue, but I wound up a lot more Storm —she was always my favorite, anyway.
The day of the dye was long and super intense, but Lucille was great. I showed up and she was said, "We're going to have a sleepover." And we talked about life and boys while she bleached my hair. The bleach was super intense. "I use a Clairol seventh-stage bleach," Lucille says. "I'm very meticulous. I pride myself on the integrity of the hair." She first lifted the back of my hair, and then worked around my scalp, which burned a bit. I had to keep my eyes closed for a good portion of that, which was probably a good thing, since my hair turned a baby bird yellow that freaked me out. But then, she put an Olaplex treatment mask in my hair and started working the dye in.
The whole thing took about eight hours. When I was done, and my hair was getting blown out, the color was dark, and became darker and darker as it dried. I was 50% loving it, and 50% freaking out. Not in a bad way, but in a wow, this is different kind of way. I'd never seen a color other than brown around my face before.
Now, I'm obsessed with it. I feel like so much of it has to do with Lucille and her artistry. She was talking skin tones and tints — I feel as if I have a custom hair dye job on my head. "I curate my own mixture," Lucille explains. "It's not just one bottle that I use. I mix them for every client, because everyone has different skin tones. I have to curate it to each client."
My mom visited a few days after I'd done it, and not too surprisingly, she doesn't really understand why I did it. She came with me when I got my touch-up and dished out those typical mom backhanded compliments. "It's not what I'd pick for you, but you pull it off —what with your personality."
It has been super empowering. I know that whether my hair is brown, gray, green or whatever, my personality will still be intact. But this color has also allowed me to be the person I always felt I was — I get to be bold. Lately, all I've wanted to do is wear black with a ton of chain necklaces like someone out of The Craft. It's the Neo-Goth phase I never had. My brown hair was like the final vestige of who I thought I was — it was a safety blanket. Now, I feel free.
If someone is thinking of dyeing their hair, for whatever reason, I'd tell them to just go for it. And Lucille agrees. "I think a lot of times people wonder 'Can I do that?' But I think that anybody can really do something fun," she says. Color is no longer just corrective. Like any type of makeup, it's also about expressing who you really are, and what you really feel. And now, I feel like a superhero.