Why I Love Being A Redhead–And Why I Want To Go Even Redder

portrait of the author as a young ging

portrait of the author as a young ging

Being a ginger has its ups and downs, but I straight up love being a redhead. When you have red hair, you are inevitably described as “the redhead” to friends and strangers, so you might as well embrace it early and learn to love the flame.

Fair warning: this post makes frequent use of the word ginger. If you are offended by such filthy language, step away. Also, examine your life choices. Us fair haired children are, redhead bullying aside, not and have never been a subjugated, repressed, or otherwise systematically oppressed people. Therefore, ginger is not (in my opinion) comparable with certain other slurs and I will use it as I please. I’ve earned the right through my own years of teasing at every pool party and beach I’ve ever been to, OK? Also, I worshipped Ginger Spice as a child and refuse to see the ginger label as anything but awesome. #rantover.

The Little Mermaid came out the year I was born. Coincidence? photo: Disney.

The Little Mermaid came out the year I was born. Coincidence? photo: Disney

I never gave much thought to wanting to be anything but a redhead. Any time I have to identify myself, “redhead” is one of the descriptors that comes to mind right along with hometown, height, and religion. I am all of the things redheads are supposed to be, fiery and independent and sexy and a little weird. Plus, I have the blonde brows, invisible eyelashes, and ghostly skin to match, so changing my hair color at all would be pretty futile. I spent a summer desperately wanting to be platinum blonde (if Soo Joo Park can do it, I can too!) but friends convinced me my entire person would be one color and I abandoned the idea. And I would look decidedly ill, I think, with darker hair.

You have to be a little overconfident as a redhead, because red hair is one of the visual characteristics that it’s still absolutely cool to make fun of. I have been told, “you’re pretty hot for a redhead” more times than I can remember. This is right up there with, “but you don’t look Jewish” as a not really appropriate thing to say to someone you don’t know very well. Are you looking past my genetic mutation of a hair color to see the real me? Or do you just not generally fancy ladies with a melanin deficiency? Better to keep those thoughts to yourself. A normal person would probably be offended by such a backhanded compliment, but I am a fiery ginger (and a Leo) and can’t help but take the love where I can and say “thank you.” I credit my hair for a good chunk of my self-confidence.

Which is why I will not concern myself with shenanigans like Kick-a-Ginger Day. Why would you kick an endangered species? We are a special breed, people. You’re supposed to take extra care of limited edition models, not kick them. Whenever I get a compliment about my hair (thank you, hair stylists and catcallers of the world!) I have to smile extra big because they are acknowledging the truth that red hair is great. Yes, it is my natural color and yes, the carpet matches the drapes. Thanks for asking.

The most awesome hair color does come with a serious flaw: completely transparent white skin that only contains pigment in the form of freckles.

No, I cannot, will not, do not tan. Yes, I absolutely need to reapply sunscreen every 2.5 hours at the beach. SPF 80 is not too high, I do not want a “base color,” and I am absolutely serious about reapplying facial sunscreen before venturing out for a coffee if you ask me between the peak sun hours of 10 am and 3 pm. Your golden glow is my searing burn. Someday, I will hopefully look ten years younger and my vigilance will all be worth it. I once read an interview with Julianne Moore where she admitted to walking on the shady side of the street, and she looks fantastic. I would do anything she recommended for great skin and I now dart between patches of shade on the sidewalk like a rabid vampire whenever I’m outside. Sunshine is simply not your friend when you are a fair maiden with the complexion of a freshly peeled apple (which is, incidentally, the skintone that genius and apparent racist George Balanchine desired of his ballerinas).

Another ginger pro approved by Ms. Moore? You learn to work a hat. I fought them for so long before giving in to the glory that is a personal parasol you can wear on your head. Breezy trucker hats will do in a pinch, but floppy straw hats large enough to droop down over one shoulder are glamorous miracles. And, if you’re going to wear a sunhat the size of an umbrella, you better have some red lipstick and sand-friendly wedge-heeled espadrilles to go with it. Sun protection is the beauty equivalent of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. If you’re going to strive for porcelain, you may as well have a full Dita von Teese moment any time you step outside. Turn your weakness into a trademark.

kryptonite for brooding rockers. photo: Getty

red locks = kryptonite for brooding rockers. photo: Getty

Peaches and cream skin is also a fabulous excuse to spend much $$ on primo skincare. If you find a light enough BB cream or a bronzer that doesn’t look like dirt on your freckles, you buy that shit immediately no matter the cost.

There are cons to being of the gingery persuasion, but it’s such a part of my identity that I can totally deal with the glow-in-the-dark jokes and the impossibility of finding off-the-rack hair extensions in my shade. I love it so much, I want to go redder.

Jessica Chastain as Merida. photo: Getty

Jessica Chastain as Merida is everything. photo: Getty

I spent a little time in Scotland, where I was told that I was not a full redhead. High standards for red hair across the pond, birthplace of all gingers, that shook me to my very core. Since then, I’ve been tortured by the fact that I may not be a true redhead. On the bright side, my reddish strawberry blonde is super fine and thin, a pretty manageable texture compared to those that look more like Merida from Brave. But it’s time to double down and add a little extra fire to my head. I am mildly terrified that I’ll ruin what I got and that some chemical disaster will turn my roots blonde or orange, but I’m going for it.

Now I just have to decide which red to choose. I’m undecided between Ariel red, Christina Hendricks as Joan Holloway copper, or goth lite black cherry, but the Glossies will be the first to know my decision.


You can reach this post's author, Mandie Williams, on twitter.
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    • elle

      I am so freaking jealous of my half sisters red hair, not even joking. It’s gorgeous, like a julianne Moore shade. I always wanted my dad’s red hair but that would have been genetically impossible, sadly. Redhair would also be very confusing with my skin tone and since I’m not Rihanna I can’t pull that off. But I’m curious why you aren’t considered a “full redhead” in Scotland. Is your hair not dark enough or something.

      • Mandie

        I’m more of a strawberry blonde, and I guess since redheads in general are more common over there, anything less then a full flaming red can get lumped in with blondes.

      • elle

        I wondered. You would look totally amazing with either of those shades but I agree with Samantha-you should do Joan Holloway red.

      • anna

        I actually know a girl with an Irish father and Jamaican mother and she inherited her skin tone and his red hair & blue eyes! She looks like a beautiful alien, it’s incredible.

    • Samantha_Escobar

      I honestly think you would look rad with every shade of red hair, as natural gingers seem to have that ability none of the rest of us have: to have ANY red look amazing. (Seriously, I hate it when people claim redheads shouldn’t wear red or red lipstick; it’s ridiculous because you humans are the ones who look best in it.) I vote Joan Holloway, though!

      Also: “portrait of the author as a young ging” made me LOL

      • AnnieC

        As a natural born redhead with 3 redheaded kids I can say that only one of us looks good in a red jumper, my eldest daughter. The rest of us, son too, look like we’ve been slaughtered. Pink, I can carry really well and plums n all shades of purple, but red? Definitely not. Blue is my best colour, all shades.

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    • Joanna Rafael

      I vote Joan Holloway, but you’ll look smoky no matter what.

    • Krusticle

      I’m also a blondie-redhead. Whenever I go to Boston for business, I get treated like I’m a member of the club!

    • Amanda Lee

      Ok… I’m kind of officially creeped out and excited all at the same time. I know I shouldn’t be revealing my last name, but my name seriously is Amanda Williams, I, too, was born the year The Little Mermaid came out, and I have blondish red hair. WTF lol.

    • Lindsey Conklin

      I love Jessica Chastain!! And red hair, like curly hair, is something I’ve always wanted!

    • Lex

      I’m just going to link to a photo of my own hair (I’m the ginge), my natural hair is a mouse brown colour but I’m as pale as they come, so I can get away with ginger I think! I use henna to dye mine, mix up henna, lemon juice and tea with lavender oil, slap it through my hair, put cling film round it, chill on the sofa looking very weird for 4 hours et voila! I use lush caca rouge if I’m being lazy and can’t get to the Indian store. Henna is amazing for getting gingerer, plus your hair keeps it’s own tones so it looks really natural, and your hair feels like normal real girl hair, it doesn’t damage it at all! Link to my hair > https://fbcdn-sphotos-e-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-frc1/904028_670399909677275_838579910_o.jpg?dl=1

      I cannot recommend henna enough.

    • Lena

      Just awesome! As if you read my thoughts :) I love being a ginger and Leo too ;) be yourself you are a real redhead!

    • HowtobeaRedhead

      Nothing is more special than embracing your red hair and realizing just how unique and special you are! Red hair is more than a color, it’s a lifestyle!

      Rock it like a Redhead!

    • Red Revolver

      Go for Copper! I’m strawberry blonde and I loved my copper color when I got it. It’s gorgeous! I’m addicted. I wish I had the money to keep it copper.