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I Was a Red Haired Child

It ain't easy being red. One woman shares her story.

| June 22nd, 2012
Pixar/DisneyMerida in Pixar's "Brave"
Merida in "Brave"

The other day, I went to get a manicure and the technician said I reminded her of a celebrity. “Julianne….” she trailed off, blanking on the last name as she stared at my red hair. “Moore?” I said. She nodded profusely. I get this all of the time. It doesn’t matter that Julianne Moore and I look completely different. We both have red hair and therefore look alike.

Funny, I never see the same thing happen to blondes and brunettes. But I guess I should be happy that society no longer lumps us ginger-haired gals into those all-too-common stereotypes—from being called the “unwanted, redheaded stepchild” to making the assumption we’re all seductive Jessica Rabbit-types. (Though there are still guys who dare to ask if the “carpet matches the drapes.” Cringe.)

RESEARCH: Redheads Feel More Pain

Choosing Hair Color By Skintone

The best hair color for your skin tone isn't a whim or a trend. The shade that'll make your skin glow and your eyes sparkle is rooted in color theory, chemistry and science. The biggest rule of thumb? Stay within three shades of your natural hair color. Go too far outside of it and you’re likely to wind up with hair that looks fake against your skintone. Why? Because your skin and natural hair color have the same underlying pigments.

Read More: Hair Color and Skintone

Now there’s the animated movie “Brave," which opens today: The lead female character, Merida, has a beautiful explosion of bright red hair. Sure, she’s described with the usual adjectives associated with redheads—“passionate,” “fiery” and “headstrong”—but most of all, she’s brave. And chances are, lots of little girls are going to be influenced by this strong character and proudly donning bright red wigs come Halloween.

There’s also been a recent surge of strong redheaded actresses on TV and film (some natural born, some bottle-born), including Amy Adams, Emma Stone and Jessica Chastain. Nearly every hit TV show has a redheaded character these days: from Joan on “Mad Men” (Christina Hendricks), to Jessica on “True Blood” (Deborah Ann Woll), Emma on “Glee” (Jayma Mays), Julia on “Smash” (Debra Messing) and Lily on “How I Met Your Mother” (Alyson Hannigan).

MORE: Beauty, Inside & Out with Christina Hendricks

While watching an hour-long TV show recently, I noticed at least three different commercials featured redheads—something I never saw growing up. We’re everywhere these days, even though we apparently make up only about 2 percent of the world’s population.

In other words, we’ve gone mainstream.

Like Merida in “Brave,” I was born with bright red-orange hair—a shade that seemed to defy nature, along with fair skin and freckles, a gift from my Irish father. There was no blending in with this color. By junior high school, the shade thankfully subsided to a more palatable, but still comment-eliciting, strawberry blonde. But growing up in L.A. and surrounded by a sea of sun-kissed blondes, it was hard not to feel self-conscious about my coloring. I didn’t want to be unique. I wanted to look like everyone else. So I squeezed lemon juice into my hair and used Sun-In to make it more blonde. And since sun tanning was futile—I would only burn and get more freckles—I used to wish that all of my freckles would somehow magically morph together to form a tan.

MORE: Hollywood Goes Red

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