Thursday, 16 April 2009

Girls, boys and their shadows

I apologise for rambling on and on about my haircut and the style dilemmas that have followed since. Almost exactly one year ago I was forced to have my hair cut short after a really bad dyeing incident, but back then I didn't have the need to change or question anything else. My hair was ruined, it needed to go. That felt drastic enough. I don't know what is different this time. Perhaps the fact that the haircut was inspired by Sam Riley and not Mia Farrow has something to do with it. Not that it should matter whose head the hairstyle was on, not to mention which sex that someone represented, but I have a feeling that it might have been the deciding factor in this case.

For the longest time I hid behind my hair. I felt that my long hair (it was down to my waist) was the one thing that made me feminine. I often felt too tall, too thin and too clumsy growing up, and always envied the girls in my class who had curves, and well, who really looked like girls. A friend once glanced over her shoulder, with me walking behind her, and without thinking said "sheesh, for a while I thought you were some random guy". Not that I even really looked like a boy, but to an insecure 14-year-old, the remark stuck for a long time. I started wearing my hair down more, and got acquainted with the wonderful world of make-up and high heels, in order to feel more like a woman.

When I started modeling at the relatively late age of 19, I always wondered why the jobs I got were all about making me look androgyne, or like an alien. I was always given either the clean look with no make-up whatsoever, or the totally crazy look with insane, tangled up hair and Blade Runner eyes... yes, believe it or not, this is me, back in 1999, in some random Austrian fashion magazine:

The few traditional beauty shoots I had never really felt right; not to me nor the client, I think. I learned about the strenghts and the weaknesses of my look as time went on, and somewhere in the middle of my brief career I recognised the types of looks that were right for me and that I was good at: a little weird, a little awkward, never pretty in the traditional sense, but still captivating. Most importantly, the look I was good at had nothing to do with sex. It was all about a blur, a mix of rough and soft, the undefinable.

These days it makes me a little sad to watch the make-over episodes of America's Next Top Model. The girls don't know themselves or their own looks enough to realise that a top hair stylist giving you cropped hair is the biggest compliment ever. I sometimes wonder how I would have reacted ten years ago if my booker had made me have short hair. I more often wonder why he didn't. Perhaps he could tell that I was not ready for it emotionally. Perhaps he knew that I would have cracked and lost the little self-esteem I had back then, just like so many ANTM contestants do. Despite the fact that I knew what I was good at, I was still grasping straws because I did not fully accept the way I looked.

Needless to say, my career never really took off. I was too old by the time I was any good, and I wanted to study more than spend any more time strugging from one casting to the next. The modeling world is harsh, but I think in the end it made me appreciate the way I look. It helped me find my inner quirk, and it eventually made me give up wanting to look like someone else. A defining moment for me was arriving at my last ever photo shoot in London, and have the make-up artist say "you don't need make-up, you already have the look you need for this shoot, which is to look like you". I have never had to think twice since.

Fast-forward to the current haircut issue: I guess what I am trying to say is that with the new haircut I am now physically going through those valuable lessons I learned in the end of my modeling career. Okay, I might still struggle to get my outfits together, but the past week has made me realise once more that I am happy inside my own skin, be it boyish or girlish, or both.

The editorial photos are from Citizen K and Velvet. This is what I wore today:


a cat of impossible colour said...

This was really interesting to read. Thank you for telling us this story.

I was told I looked like a boy all the time I was growing up - I always had short hair (more practical, and my mum made me), and I envied all the long-haired girls because they seemed so much more feminine. One of the low points was when I auditioned for a school play when I was twelve - all the long-haired girls got to play princesses, but because I had short hair, I had to play a rock. A rock!

I've only had longish hair for a couple of years, and I'm really enjoying it. Although now I've got my mother-in-law telling me, every two weeks at a family dinner, that it looks terrible and I should cut it. :P

Funny how much hair length has to do with your inner self, isn't it? I love that you can look so beautiful with cropped hair. I think it's the mark of true beauty - still being lovely when you have nothing to hide behind.

Wow, long comment, sorry!

A xx

wrennybird said...

I completely identify with hiding behind long hair. I've had long hair for quite a while now, mostly because I don't feel feminine otherwise. I, too, feel too thin and not really pretty without it. And it doesn't help that in high school I cut my hair super short and my best friend said I looked like a "bean head".
So, thanks for sharing this. It's inspiring. Maybe I'll work up the nerve.....

Anonymous said...

I think this post is so poignant, so honest, so well-written. You're such a good writer!You remind me of Virginia Woolf in a lot of ways...