Sharmadean Goes Blonde


Dear ITG,

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.

Let’s Talk About It! JOIN IN
  • Bonnie Clyde
  • Phoebe

    "my own hair, thanks to my Indian father, is really quite nice" ???

    • bluesky557

      I think she maybe means it is easier to work with hair that is half African, half Indian than hair that is just African. My college roommate was half African/Indian and she had the greatest, most amazing hair I'd ever seen.

    • Riley

      I had the same reaction tbh.

    • Sabah

      yeah...I noticed that too. It
      smells of that view that to have good hair you have to be mixed..

  • Angela_E

    Love the hair. She has great energy. And I want that jacket! (anyone know where to get it?)

  • Parkrg
  • Local & Opulent

    Cool look.

    A new outfit post is up on Local & Opulent - spring finally comes to Canada!!!

  • London

    i love her. i wish she was on ITG every day

  • cherry_on_top

    Gorgeous hair (+style, face, evrythang), beautiful name, hilarious writing - from now on I'm your dedicated fan, Sharmadean!

  • Natalie Lane

    I instantly thought she looked like T-Boz...
    shes so cute, i love this :)

  • Guest

    She's gorgeous. Love her hair and love seeing a person of color here--something which has become all too rare. That said, as women of color I feel we MUST get away from the soul crushing idea that "African" hair is somehow "bad."

    • Trace

      I agree. As a black woman who wears who own hair natural, I've always found the idea one has "good hair" because its straight (caucasion/indian/anything but afro textured etc...) archaic and offensive. I've got an afro, and I see nothing "bad" about it. I think she's gorgeous too, and think her hair looks lovely on her, but thought the comment a bit off putting.

      • Sabah

        Should have scrolled down before I commentated, completely agree with you. It's a little ignorant...

  • Marla Vender

    Cannot believe that is a weave!

  • lili

    Come on! I have really fine hair and its annoying - I don't know anyone who is happy to have fine hair - its ok to grumble about hair and manageability without it being a race thing! Its about learning to work with what you have to suit what you like which I think Sharmadean recounts really well - she's hilarious!

    • Guest

      Actually, Sharmadean herself made it a "race thing." And I quote: "To be honest, my own hair, thanks to my Indian father, is really quite nice and doesn't need chemical processing."

      "Need" chemical processing? Which is to say that straight hair is "good" hair. And that, in my view, is a problem.

      BTW: when you are of color, nearly everything is a "race thing" whether one likes it or not. Better to confront this head on rather than leave an elephant lingering in the room, I say.

      • sharmadeanreid

        Hey Guys, you are right, I DO sound a little ignorant. I guess what I'm trying to say is that I'm not wearing a weave because I'm trying to hide my natural hair, I LIKE my natural hair, but I also like being able to stay in bed an extra half an hour every morning because I don't have to style it. Natural Afro hair, despite is effortless connotions, is not easy to manage. I'm very bad at doing my own hair. When I move to Jamaica for a year and become an island girl, I'll probably shave it all off. Thanks for reading!

  • NoScrunchie

    Yes her hair is quite nice, she acknowledges it is due to her heritage. Nowhere does she say, unlike all you who have bad hair. Yes natural hair is nice regardless of your ethnicity, she is not taking anything away from anybody.

    Now back to the weave, it's real pretty. Do you know the salon name, or was it totally random?

    We would love to have that salon review on our site, just so other ladies know about the service. If you have a minute, please?