Sex Education, Netflix's new coming-of-age dramedy, may have only arrived on the streaming service a few days ago, but it's already a hit. Between the '80s soundtrack, the confusing setting, and the show's unapologetic dialogue, the British students and their sexual escapades are just about all people can talk about. But even though there is so much to love about the show's first season, above all, we're stanning over one crucial piece to the puzzle: Maeve.
After binge-watching all eight episodes, we were immediately drawn to Maeve Wiley (played by Emma Mackey), the outcast who teams up with Otis Milburn (Asa Butterfield) to organize underground sex counseling for the entire student body. She's an independent, cynical teenager with a shameless sexual appetite, and her alluring personality is topped off with some truly covetable pink hair. Turns out, the two-toned look is as ingrained into the character's personality as her wit.
Claire Williams, makeup and hair designer for the series, tells Refinery29 that in the show's early stages, formulating Maeve's stand-out persona also meant deciding exactly which punk-rock hair color would separate her from the rest of the cast — and the journey to pink took a lot more than spontaneously ordering Manic Panic in bulk.
"I initially took motivation from the script [for Maeve's look]," Williams recalls. "[I] always tried to preserve [her] vulnerability." Williams adds that Maeve's smudged liner, nose ring, pink hair, and overall badass exterior is ultimately a front — it's armor that she uses to protect herself. Keeping that in mind, Williams worked with the show's producers and directors and used mood boards to brainstorm different looks, including various tattoos and hair color options. Maeve's hair was almost an aqua green, but the pink was more cohesive with the wardrobe.
After the color was chosen, Williams made sure that the execution of it made sense on a teenager, who we later find out is financially struggling (hence, the business plan with Otis) and living in a trailer. Maeve's semi-permanent color had to look homemade, like she literally dip-dyed in the kitchen of her 600-square-foot home. "She's broke," Williams explains. "So any hair dye and color options would be cheap, supermarket brands done over the sink."
Luckily, Mackey, who plays Maeve, didn't have to DIY her hair color in real life — although the look she auditioned in influenced Maeve's final style. "Emma is a natural brunette, but she had bleached her own hair for another job," Williams recalls. "We kept her natural root when it started to show and utilized the dark blonde at her mid-lengths. We bleached the lower half of Emma's hair and used temporary pink hair dye, reapplying that every week to get that washed out, home-dyed look."
Since the crew opted to use Emma's natural hair to create Maeve, her hair underwent all the over-processing of bleach and constant dyeing. "It was a big commitment for Emma," Williams admits. "At the end of the production, we gave her a good haircut, got rid of the dry, bleached ends, and dyed it back to a natural brown color."
Although Maeve might scoff at the fact that fans are now in search of her exact look, it's true — we want it. Williams says that if you plan on copying the trendy color, you should visit a professional and opt out of bleaching your hair at home. She adds that anyone looking to play with platinum hair should plan on upgrading their hair routine with conditioning, reparative products. And as for the pink dye, you can pick that up at any local drugstore or beauty supply store in the form of a wash-out pigment or spray-in color.
Top off your new look with a tinted lip balm, a bluish-black eyeliner, and a nose ring, and you're Maeve's favorite turn-on: a complex female character.
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