Monthly Archives: September 2017

How to Pull Off Rainbow Hair and Still Look Like an Adult

When that ’80s signature, rainbow-colored hair made a comeback, it was wilder than ever. Layers of crazy pink transitioning to purple, blue and green now pepper Instagram feeds and pop up in everyday life — and not just at the Mermaid Parade.

But what about rainbow hair lite? Something prettier, more wearable, designed for the woman who secretly adored the whimsy of that Starbucks Unicorn Frappuccino but can’t rationalize a mermaid-hued mane at her 9-to-5?

The colorist Rachel Bodt of the Cutler salon suggests a “beautiful, lush and sophisticated” alternative: seashell hair, as in the gentle iridescence of a shell’s interior. “This hair is for someone who wants color that’s interesting, but the really funky colors won’t work,” Ms. Bodt said. Here’s how she did it.

Bleach and Tone

Pastels show up best on pale blond hair. To get there, your colorist will do what’s called a double process. Bleaching removes the natural pigment from the hair, then toning returns color to your strands to create the right shade of blond.

A double process can look good on all skin colors, from dark to fair. “It’s like red hair that way,” Ms. Bodt said. “You just have to find the right tone.” Her rule of thumb: Match the blond tone to your skin’s undertones. Golden undertones look best with creamy shades; cool skin tones look good when paired with platinum white hair.

Very curly hair tends to be dryer and more delicate because of its spiral structure. It might not be able to handle a complete bleach job. “You should have your colorist do a test patch,” Ms. Bodt said. “If the hair loses its elasticity or breaks, you won’t be able to bleach it.” Women with textured hair or those who simply don’t want to do a double process can highlight some pieces, or curls, a light blond.

Layer in Color

Ms. Bodt used Redken Shades EQ, a demi-permanent gloss — “meaning it has both ammonia and dye so it deposits the color inside the hair shaft,” she said. It’s not as durable as regular permanent color, lasting a few weeks at best. “The colors are also dusty, which helps the overall look be more muted,” she said. “And since I’m using real hair color, not Manic Panic, which is just pigment, the colors are more natural rather than cartoonish.”

Ms. Bodt painted rose onto the roots and pulled the color through to the ends of pieces scattered throughout the hair. “The key to this look is leaving a lot of the blond visible,” she said. “That way the pastels don’t hide or distract from the beautiful blond. It’s a complement.”

After rinsing the rose gloss, Ms. Bodt added diulted rose and violet glosses all over. The effect of this step is more transparent, leaving a light tint to the hair. This “ties everything together, so it’s not just pink roots and then suddenly blond hair,” she said. She finished the look by painting on ribbons of violet throughout.

“If you really want to go for it, you can do a semi-permanent rose or violet all over the hair,” Ms. Bodt said. “If your hair is highlighted, the dusty pastel shade will pick up more the palest blond hair, but your whole head will have a beautiful dusty pastel cast.”

In very curly hair, the roots aren’t always visible. So Ms. Bodt takes a more customized approach. “You have to look at how the curls fall around the face and paint those that are most flattering — perhaps around the cheekbones or at the ends of some curls,” she said.

Style With Texture

Leave the hair textured, Ms. Bodt advises. Don’t use a flat iron or blow-dry it pin straight. Since the color is woven throughout, it will be hidden if the hair has no movement and volume.

“Seashell hair is actually the perfect summer color,” Ms. Bodt said, since we’re all straightening and blow-drying less anyway. “And you don’t have to maintain it. The color just washes out, so you can do it once or twice and then let your blond base color come through. It’s like jewelry for the hair — sparkle without commitment.”

Where All Bodies Are Exquisite


It’s 2009, and I’m in Philadelphia to deliver a talk at a conference. During a long break, I decide to visit the Mutter Museum. I teach anatomy, and the Mutter houses a collection of so-called medical curiosities. I examine the wall of skulls, the cases full of skeletons, and go downstairs, where preserved specimens wait for inspection.

And there I am confronted with a large case full of specimen jars. Each jar contains a late-term fetus, and all of the fetuses have the same disability: Their spinal column failed to fuse all the way around their spinal cord, leaving holes (called lesions) in their spine. Some extrude a bulging sac containing a section of the cord. These balloons make the fetuses appear as if they’re about to explode. This condition is called spina bifida.

I stand in front of these tiny humans and try not to pass out. I have never seen what I looked like on the day I was born.

But this is essentially what my mother saw soon after I was born. I’m awe-struck that she didn’t flinch, didn’t institutionalize me, but kept me, fought for me, taught me how to fight. Still, I feel shock at the pure strangeness of my body, an old, old shame, and finally, sorrow. Not for myself; I feel it for my preserved kin, because their bodies were stopped in time. Historical artifacts marking a moment when medicine had nothing to offer.

Every human body is a marker in time. I was born in 1958, just as surgeons found a way to close the spina bifida lesion. At that time, the fatality rate hovered around 90 percent. It was medical practice to wait until a child reached 2 years old before doing any surgical intervention. A child that lived that long was considered strong enough to survive. But very few did. I was lucky to have had a surgeon who was trained in the newest techniques and had not bought in to the sink-or-swim bioethics. He performed the surgery immediately after my birth.

By the time I was 5, my surgeon, Dr. Lester Martin, had operated on me several dozen times. This is not unusual for children with my form of spina bifida (called myelomeningocele). It was unusual that I could walk, and did not have hydrocephalus (spinal fluid on the brain), which is standard for the condition. I did, however, have organ damage, an asymmetrical body, mobility problems and a limp. It was the beginning of a life among a chorus of strangers, all singing, What’s wrong with you? What’s wrong with you?

I coped by hiding myself inside a baggy wardrobe and a ferocious insistence that I was normal. I clung to the illusion that I was passing. I walked around without my glasses on (my myopia is impressive. So is that fact I was never run over) so that I’d never see my reflection in shop windows.

But nothing changes a disabled person’s sense of self like another disabled person. I am a painter, and in 1995, I was invited to join a group of artists, writers and performers who were building disability culture. Their work was daring, edgy, funny and dark; it rejected old tropes that defined us as pathetic, frightening and worthless. They insisted that disability was an opportunity for creativity and resistance.

Losing Their Clothes, Finding Themselves

Stephanie Thomas stared down the video camera, steeled to shed her clothes and share her deepest insecurities with a roomful of strangers.

Her audience at Zen House on the Lower East Side of Manhattan had arrived late last month for an open call to participate in a YouTube project called “What’s Underneath.” It was organized by Elisa Goodkind and Lily Mandelbaum, the mother and daughter who are the fashion impresarios behind a multimedia venture encompassing StyleLikeU, a popular website, and its offshoots on YouTube — and most recently, a book. Its message is explicit in its title, “True Style Is What’s Underneath: The Self-Acceptance Revolution.”

Self-appointed style-world evangelists, Ms. Goodkind, 59, and Ms. Mandelbaum, 27, gently prodded their subjects to talk about the emotional struggles and idiosyncrasies that underpinned their fashion sense. They aimed, Ms. Mandelbaum said, “to encourage people to value the things that make them different, even the things that they might hate about themselves — they’re what make you unrepeatable.”

Ms. Thomas, who is 47 and works at Trader Joe’s, seemed to have gotten the memo.

Ms. Goodkind asked Ms. Thomas when she last cried, and urged her to peel off her leggings. She obliged. Reduced to her brassiere and rose-tinted panties, she recalled that a recent visit to her former home in Baton Rouge, La., brought her to tears. “I was missing the sense of community,” she said. “You don’t find that much here.”

What was her favorite body part?

“My boobs are my favorite and least favorite,” she said, unabashed. Sure, her sizable breasts often drew unwanted stares. “But I love them, because they’re mine.”

Deft at pushing emotional levers, Ms. Goodkind, a former fashion stylist, and Ms. Mandelbaum, a documentary filmmaker, pressed on, encouraging visitors, some of whom had responded to online invitations — others who had simply wandered in from the street — to step to the makeshift stage, strip off their clothes and, with them, psychic inhibitions. The filmmakers’ ultimate goal is to showcase diversity in its myriad forms: racial and ethnic backgrounds, gender or sexual orientation, age and size. That last was of particular relevance to Ms. Mandelbaum, who struggled with her weight as a teenager.

“My mother was less accepting of my body at the time,” she recalled, adding quickly that Ms. Goodkind began changing her tune when the two began their project nearly a decade ago.

A Beauty Product’s Ads Exclude the Black Women Who Use It

Last week, the hair-care line SheaMoisture faced a powerful customer backlash. The offense was a series of online video clips that highlighted the versatility of the brand’s shampoos, conditioners and styling aids.

One clip features women discussing how much they struggle with their hair. Some of the women are white; the only non-white woman prominently featured in the clip is very light-skinned with loosely textured curly hair. The ad encourages women to reject “hair hate” and “embrace hair love in every form.”

When the video was released on social media, SheaMoisture’s black customers revolted. Social media users with huge followings, many of whom have provided years of free advertising for the brand, criticized it as marginalizing their loyal black buyers in an effort to attract white women.

Understanding SheaMoisture’s target market is critical to understanding this backlash. The brand has long been marketed to black women with “natural hair” — hair that is not chemically straightened. For black women, the choice to “be natural” is simultaneously private and extremely political. It shouldn’t matter what black women do with their hair, but racism means that it matters a great deal. Deeply ingrained bias against black women’s natural, unstraightened hair has tangible effects on women’s lives. Lighter-skinned black women and black women with straighter hair are more likely to marry than other black women. Black women with natural hair have been subject to discrimination at work and in the military.

When black women bought SheaMoisture products, they were rejecting powerful stereotypes about black women’s hair as inherently unattractive. Unwittingly or not, SheaMoisture was part of a political project for black women, helping us resist harmful biases about our natural hair that circumscribe our choices and well-being.