self expression

25 Famous Women on Their Hair

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Hairstyle possibilities are endless, along with their self-expressive meanings: the right cut can make you feel confident, liberated, or political. Below, famous women with famous hair — including Grace Coddington, Amber Rose, and Iris Apfel — discuss everything from embracing their natural hair to getting bangs. Read on for stories of bleaching, buzzing, dying, and highlighting from Solange, Nora Ephron, Issa Rae, and more.

Michelle Obama
“This is my midlife crisis, the bangs. I couldn’t get a sports car. They won’t let me bungee-jump. So instead, I cut my bangs.” —The Rachael Ray Show, February 2013

Nora Ephron
“Tell the truth: Aren’t you sick of your hair? Aren’t you tired of washing and drying it? I know people who wash their hair every day, and I don’t get it. Your hair doesn’t need to be washed every day, any more than your black pants have to be dry-cleaned every time you wear them. But no one listens to me. It takes some of my friends an hour a day, seven days a week, just to wash and blow-dry their hair. How they manage to have any sort of life at all is a mystery. I mean, we’re talking about 365 hours a year! Nine work weeks! Maybe this made sense when we were young, when the amount of time we spent making ourselves look good bore some correlation to the number of hours we spent having sex (which was, after all, one of the reasons for our spending so much time on grooming). But now that we’re older, whom are we kidding? —I Feel Bad About My Neck, “On Maintenance,” 2006

Amber Rose
On her buzz cut: “I think that I’d definitely seen Sinéad O’Connor’s ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’ video. I was inspired by her. And I grew up in Philly … Eve was really popular, and my friends said, ‘Please don’t do it, Amber, you’re gonna look crazy.’ And, of course, me being me, I rebelled against everyone and went straight down the middle at a barber shop. Fourteen years later, I still have it … The best [part about it] is that once you cut and bleach it, you have a good three days of waking up and literally your hair being done. But every three days, you have to cut and bleach it, which becomes a process. It’s maintenance.” —Refinery29, August 2016

Soo Joo Park
“I went a little more platinum again. For a while, I tried to not bleach it too much to keep it a little stronger, but you know, I’m addicted to the platinum look. Every three or four weeks I go to Redken Exchange in midtown to my colorist Dhaniel Doud. He’s the colorist that always does my hair. … I also use a silk pillowcase. I just buy one every six months and replace it. You need to get one. It changed everything.” —The Cut, November 2015

“I think many people, especially from other cultures, just don’t understand the role hair plays in Black women’s lives. I can now transform the energy surrounding my hair into something way more productive. Now that [my hair is] growing back, I’m kind of in that in-between stage. Previously, I would have said, ‘I’m straightening it again; it’s just becoming too much work.’ But I think the key is to find styles that give me flexibility … I would say it’s going to be a journey and you have to be 100 percent ready. I think many people are coming into it thinking it’s going to be easy and it’s going to be healthier. Just because you’re natural doesn’t mean you’ll be able to wash, shake and go. It’s a lot of work. If it’s something you truly feel strongly about and it’s going to represent you in lifestyle, hair care and health, then it’s a worthwhile journey to take. I stand for people who are firm in their journey.” —Essence, May 2012

Zadie Smith
“Quite often [wearing a head wrap] has to do with my impatience with getting dressed. I like getting dressed, but I don’t want it to [take] a lot of time. The head wrap began as a way of saving time, not being bothered to do my hair in any practical way, but also as a kind of … symbol or allegiance with exactly that kind of African ancestry. After all, many, many more women in the world wear something on their heads than don’t, and I like to be part of that sisterhood.” —NPR, November 2016

Karlie Kloss
“My favorite hair day starts with washing it at night, going to bed with it air-dried, slightly damp and then waking up the next morning with really good bed head texture. A bit messed up, not too perfect, but kind of sexy texture; it feels very French. I love a good sea salt spray or dry shampoo, and I love to do a French braid. I do a mean French braid!” —W Magazine, August 2017

Janelle Monáe
“I haven’t always paid much attention to my hair, but as I grew older I found the beauty in it. I’ve been natural for many years now. I’m an ideas type of girl, and being natural allows me to have more versatility with natural hair. Hair is about options and showing diversity.” —Essence, May 2014

Grace Coddington
“I am all about [embracing my natural hair], actually, I have been doing it for a long time. It’s funny, I think it got more texture-y as I got older — I think your hair gets coarser as you get older. Back in the day, my mother used to perm it, so I had a home perm when I was a teenager. Then, I started working with Vidal Sassoon — and that was a very straight look. They used to iron it. I come from the era when they actually used to iron it with an iron. Seriously.” —Refinery29, April 2016

Amandla Stenberg
“I was basically doing anything to make it look straight, and then I came to the realization that I — because of the internet honestly, because of seeing people on the internet post pictures with their natural hair, I realized like, ‘Oh, wait, this is actually so cool. Why have I been fighting this component of myself for so long?’ And so I chopped it all off and slowly grew it back in its natural state, and now I love it. And I still have moments once in a while where I feel the need to conform, but that’s also not really my — those are not my original ideas, like I don’t really feel that inside. It’s just when you look around and you see people with straight hair in media, you kind of feel the need to fit in, so it’s kind of a constant battle loving my hair. It’s something that I’m continuously working on.” —Glamour, August 2016

Issa Rae
On deciding to shave her head: “With every strand of hair that fell on the floor, I felt nervous, but liberated at the same time. I think everything changed in those moments. I thought about the absurdity of hair. It had been the source of so much insecurity growing up. To not have to deal with that was a huge thing, and it was a definite confidence-booster. I felt like I was viewed differently after I cut my hair. People look at you like you’re more confident when you have a bald head — like you have the audacity to be able to walk around like that … Career-wise, I only remember an ascension from that point. I don’t remember looking back. I am currently growing out my hair just because I’m learning to take care of it better … and there comes a time when your head gets cold [laughs]. I feel like I want to look different and I want to try different things. That was something I wasn’t really able to do before, so I’m enjoying experimenting with the various hairstyles I can do with short hair and seeing where it goes.” —Sweet, October 2016

Iris Apfel
“I’ve been grey since almost forever. I always say I looked like a skunk — I had black hair with a wide white streak. From that it started to get pepper and salt. My mother always did her hair. I guess she wasn’t a fan of that, her daughter having grey hair — it made her feel older, I suppose. I wouldn’t dye it, so we compromised on streaks — it was very fashionable back then. Oh, I hated it. I couldn’t wait for it to grow out. So it turned from pepper and salt to grey, and then it turned white. I get it cut by Hervé at Elizabeth Arden. And fortunately, my husband likes grey hair.” —Into The Gloss, January 2012

Pamela Anderson
“My hair was so much a part of my personality and all my photo shoots. I hid behind my hair. And then, I just decided I was okay with myself. To have short hair and really show my face is even more revealing than anything. It’s a statement — not to everyone else, more to myself. I’m just ready to get out from behind my hair and be myself.” —The Cut, November 2013

Emma Watson
“[I]f I had it my way, I would have just kept it short forever. Of course, men like long hair. There’s no two ways about it. The majority of the boys around me were like, ‘Why did you do that? That’s such an error.’ And I was like, ‘Well, honestly, I don’t really care what you think!’ I’ve never felt so confident as I did with short hair — I felt really good in my own skin.” —Glamour, October 2012

Grace Jones
On difficulty finding a double: “They don’t want to cut their hair. Can you imagine people freaked-out over a lousy haircut? The hair is going to grow back. I had a guy double for me. He chewed tobacco and spat all the time. It was like seeing myself chewing tobacco and spitting every two seconds.” —Interview, July 2014

Zooey Deschanel
“You could say that I’m hooked on bangs. Would I ever give them up? I have, and I might again — for a role, perhaps — but I really don’t feel like myself without them. When I first got into acting, I was a bit of a chameleon and just wasn’t recognizable. So I used my look to help create an identity. Now people know me as the girl with bangs. They’re not for everyone … but they work for me … I have always been particular about my hair: I love having it long. Cutting it, aside from my bangs, would feel like making a sacrifice. I’ve tried growing out my bangs a few times, but it’s never stuck. They’ve been styled into all sorts of shapes and lengths. Now I’m very specific about how they look and feel.” —Glamour, August 2013

Lynn Yaeger
“I dye my hair with henna, and I do it myself. It’s really vibrant now because I did it two days ago for Fashion Week. It fades, so I have to re-do it every four weeks.” —Into the Gloss, September 2013

Jennifer Lawrence
On how she ended up with her pixie: “I don’t know, I cut it earlier, and it was just kind of like [shoulder-length] and it grew to that awkward, gross length, and I just kept putting it back in a bun, and I said, ‘Well I don’t want to do this,’ so I just cut it off. It just couldn’t get any uglier.” —Yahoo!, November 2013

Erykah Badu
“I think everything we do in America as black women or as black people is a political statement. We’re making a political statement when we’re wearing an afro or locks. We’re being who we are, especially in a society that does not encourage that part of our beauty.” —The BET Experience, June 2015

“I had the idea that, well, if Amy Winehouse had been the bouffant, maybe I was the blond bob. I wasn’t saturating the market; I was an indie-pop singer. And not that many people knew who I was anyway. I thought, ‘Well, I have one thing — I used to have a blond bob, and maybe I’ll make myself just a blond bob.’” —Interview, March 2015

Kim Kardashian
“I don’t wash it every day. We start out with a blowout on day one, then we go into a messier vibe the next day, and then we flat iron it and do a really sleek look on day three since that requires a little oil in the hair. Day four could be a slicked-back ponytail, and on the fifth day is when you wash it. That’s a little excessive, maybe. [Laughs]” —Into the Gloss, February 2015

Millie Bobby Brown

On buzzing her hair: “I reacted to it quite fine, it was my mum that didn’t react very well. My dad reacted fine, but my grandfather … nope! Everyone was saying, ‘No,’ but I didn’t. My friends didn’t want me to do it either, but my best friend told me I should definitely do it … I’m keeping the pixie. I hope I inspire people … it’s really cool to have short hair.” —People, August 2016

Kate Lanphear
“I had this hair color when I was a kid and now I have to fry it — basically white-knuckle it until it’s cooked. I’ve had it this short and this bleached for a long time. Tommy Buckett at Serge Normant has cut my hair since I’ve been in New York … I use Shimmer Lights — it’s this shampoo grannies use, and it’s purple. That’s the only product I use, except for a straightening iron.” —T Magazine, September 2014

“Well, here’s the thing: It’s not just hair. If it were just hair, then people wouldn’t be fired or not considered for jobs because they have dreadlocks or because they have natural hair … Hair is important. It depends on who you are, but hair is to me at least a way to express yourself. It documents your life in a sense, like with trends or whatever. You can think back to a time when highlights were all the rage. You felt fly because of this, or your first haircut, you know. That’s emotion you feel, so that’s not just hair. It’s also something we’ve talked about forever. We talked about it in the Bible, hair being powerful then. It’s never just hair.” —The Cut, March 2016

25 Famous Women on Their Hair