So you may be looking at my hair thinking, 'WTF? Black hair cannot go that blonde.' And yes, you would be right. It simply can't. Not without frazzling up and completely snapping off. I spent every summer between the ages of 19 and 25 dyeing my hair "blonde" only for it to completely break off in winter, leaving me with short, jagged hair. I even told my best friend, "If I ever even mention that I want to go blonde again, remind me about what happens!" Well, the bug was too strong…
When Bleach opened their salon in the back of my salon, WAH Nails, in 2010, they managed to find me a solution. We buy hair extensions that are pre-dyed with a blonde-ombre effect. This can only be done mechanically to cheap, synthetic hair; it can't be done to expensive virgin hair, which is usually the type of extensions I have. We then dip-dye the blonde pieces in whatever magical colours they come up with, and then we bond them in-between my real hair, so it looks really natural. I'm not a massive fan of big weaves, lace wigs, sewn-ins, etc. To be honest, my own hair, thanks to my Indian father, is really quite nice and doesn't need chemical processing. That said, having extensions cuts down my getting-ready time from one hour to 20 minutes, which is important when you have a two-year-old son who can't yet dress himself. Or feed himself.
I'd been thinking for a while that I wanted to go back to a blunt, long bob, which I had experimented with when I was pregnant. My hesitation was that only two people can cut my hair: Alex Brownsell and Alisha Dobson from Bleach Hair Salon, but they were both always busy. Alex is a session hairdresser and she just got back from two weeks in Miami, and Alisha is popstar Jessie J's personal hairdresser and flies everywhere with her. But a few weeks ago, during fashion week, I really wanted a change, so I decided to just go for it.
When Alex and Alisha aren't available, I have a Jamaican hairdresser called Cindy. I've been going to Cindy for around seven years now and she knows my hair so well that I can take a nap while she's doing it. In Dalston where I live, there are so many African and Jamaican hairdressers. They rent chairs in different salons and sometimes they'll fall out with the owners and move around. I lost Cindy for a year when she moved and I didn't know where she went and the salon wouldn't tell me! I just had to wait until I bumped into her in the street. But alas! Cindy wasn't available either. Now I was scared. I bought my cheap blonde extensions from Pak—the mecca of ALL things hair in London—and walked down Kingsland Road. I chose a salon at random and haughtily explained what I wanted, sure that she wouldn't be able to do it how I liked it. And she didn't.
Her main problem was that she didn't blow-dry my hair properly and she put in too many rows of extensions, so that I had what I call "Square Weave Head." This is when the hair is so bulky that it doesn't follow the natural lines of your skull and instead goes big and square. And I didn't even think about asking her to cut it. Now I looked like a bad version of Lil' Kim. But it was ok; I knew I could repair it at home. Afro hair is like a science and sometimes you have to be master of your own laboratory. My plan was to blow-dry it and straighten it further at home with my GHDs, and if I couldn't find someone in my building (lots of fashion people live there) to cut it, then I would just slick it back for the party I was going to that night.
So, I put my cap on (if your client puts a cap on when she leaves the hairdressers you know you've done a bad job, right?) and walked further up Kingsland Road to my house. But what was this?! The lights were on at Bleach! Hallelujah! The shutters were down but the lights were on and I shouted Alex's name through the letterbox! She was sitting there at 8pm, drinking rum and making wigs for the Nasir Mazhar show we were both working on the next day. She laughed at my hair, poured me a rum and ginger, then sat me down in the chair and straightened my hair. And cut it. And all was right in the world.
I like being blonde, but against the greys of London I feel like I stand out too much. I like to be a bit incognito sometimes. I think that I'll go back to my long black tresses next week (ah the joys of black hair! Brings new meaning to the phrase "chop'n'change") and save the blonde until summer. It does feel sexy, and right now I feel like a cross between T-Boz, Nastassja Kinski from Paris, Texas, and a bit of a Japanese school girl. But now that LFW week is over, I think I just wanna go back to being 'hot mom' again.
Photos courtesy of Sharmadean Reid.