By Kenzie Bryant. Photos: Getty Images, Courtesy of Instagram.
Katy Perry underwent a total rebrand post-election. The Hillary Clinton devotee deemed her new music “purposeful pop” and has trained her songwriting on issues, rather than candy-coated bangers. She accepted an equality award at the Human Rights Campaign Gala. Then, Monday evening, she revealed a final, visual piece of the puzzle, when she debuted a peroxided pixie cut.
Perry joked on the Grammys red carpet in February that a shaved head was something she was “really saving for a public breakdown”—a tone-deaf reference, unusual for Perry, to Britney Spears and her 2007 trouble. But the actual look is more of a liberated “short hair, don’t care”—a tribute to her post-election strength, and to how far we’ve come when talking about famous women and their short ’dos.
Take Mia Farrow’s pixie cut, which became famous after Rosemary’s Baby but was actually debuted by her character on Peyton Place. If you run back the tapes on how Farrow’s cut was written into her television show, the suggestion was that her character was childishly acting out by cutting her hair off.
Even in real life, her hair was the popular reason given for Frank Sinatra handing her divorce papers. Though beauty magazines often coo that Farrow made a brave and gorgeous choice, at the time stories were served with the implicit message that husbands leave the short-haired women. Farrow set the record straight in 2013, writing to The New York Times to clarify the cut was her decision, she did it herself, and it had nothing to do with her divorce.
Women cut and dye their hair for all kinds of reasons every day, but when it comes to the famous, you’re expected to have a narrative queued up. Michelle Williams said hers was a memorial to Heath Ledger, “the only straight man who has ever liked short hair,” and then she kept it for a decade. Jennifer Lawrence and Carey Mulligan blamed their drastic chops on follicular damage.
Now—and increasingly within the last month it seems—stars talk about the cut as a choice; one made with calculated purpose, not as an emotional response. Emma Watson got a pixie when she wrapped the Harry Potter series, calling it “liberating.” Kristen Stewart had been planning the change for a while, and also described the freedom of chopping it all off (it helped that the director of an upcoming film was totally on board). Emma Roberts and Cara Delevingne have discussed going short in interviews, though neither have fully taken the plunge.
Zoë Kravitz, the Big Little Lies star, posted a photo of her blonde pixie three days ago. She, too, long considered the look, according to her hairstylist Nikki Nelms. “We’d been talking about it for awhile, but we made the solid decision last week when we were in Paris,” Nelms told Vanity Fair in an e-mail. “From the beginning of us talking about a haircut, the pixie was both our first choice. It’s just hair and change is always good!”
Hair choices by famous women will always make headlines, and the current rash of bold, blonde crops prove how far we’ve come since studios mandated the cuts and colors of their starlets—or even since 2007, when Spears’s shaved head was widely seen as a sign of a breakdown. Perry and Kravitz may be part of a trend, but they’re also a sign of how much liberation can be found in the expert use of a razor—and as the positive response proves, how much they can inspire others. As Nelms puts it, “The only reason I hope there is that women choose to change their hair is because they freakin want to, and I hope it’s not to be accepted.”
This story originally appeared on Vanity Fair.
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