By Maria Del Russo
ALL PHOTOGRAPHED BY SAVANNA RUEDY.
Big hair has always been a part of my life, no matter how hard I tried to fight it. As a kid, my mother would blow my hair out for special events so that it framed my face like a gigantic mane. I hated it. So it should come as no surprise that when I was finally old enough to take my strands into my own hands, I began hot-tooling the shit out of them. I wanted the same hairstyle that all high schoolers wanted (and apparently, still want): long, one layer, pin-straight, and zero frizz. My naturally poofy strands were a curse that I desperately tried to break. Sorry, mom.
Every morning, I spent hours flat-ironing my hair (I got really good at it), regardless of where I was going — whether it be a party, school, or even the beach. It wasn’t that I hated my coils, it was just that, without fail, they’d get fuzzy. My battle against frizz had actually gotten so insane that if I wanted to wear my hair curly, I’d blow it straight and then curl it, so that I could control the inevitable frizz. It was one of the most pointless things ever — and also pretty terrible for my strands.
The handful of people who saw my hair in its natural state always told me I was insane. “People with straight hair would die for your hair,” they’d say. “Why are you straightening it?” But my fuzzy strands just weren’t cute to me — they were an unruly pain in the ass.
Around the time of my first beauty internship, the internet introduced me to Alexa Chung and her glorious bedhead. The bits of fuzz that would spring up from her strands weren’t unkempt — no, they were gamine and desirable. All I wanted was to be able to wake up with a mane like that, but I continued to use hot tools. But a few months ago, as I stood in front of my mirror curling away, I asked myself, Why the fuck are you still doing this?
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The next time I washed my hair, I let it air-dry, but it didn’t turn out anything like Chung’s. So I called my brother Billy, who just so happens to be a hairstylist (lucky me) and asked him how to get locks like my new hair muse. “You just need the right cut,” he advised. Although my brother’s a brilliant stylist, we’ve both agreed that where scissors are involved, it’s in everyone’s best interest that I get my hair cut elsewhere — lest a disagreement over my strands causes a family riff of epic proportions. (Love ya, Bill!)
So I booked an appointment with the incredible Wes Sharpton of Hairstory Studio. Sharpton is a genius with strands — he sits down for 10 minutes before every appointment and really gets to know you and your mane dreams. “I don’t want to use a single hot tool this summer,” I said to him. “I want to embrace the frizz and the texture.” I almost couldn’t believe those words came out of my mouth. But an hour later and with a few expert snips of his scissors, I emerged with a French-girl-inspired shag. I adored it, but the real test came when I woke up the next morning and air-dried it myself.
At first, I panicked. My curls were big — and they were sprouting fuzzies every which way. Instead of trying to cover them, I took a deep breath and rocked out. I spritzed on some salt spray, mucked it up with my fingers, and walked out the door with my stomach in a knot. But the response was totally positive. My coworkers complimented me, the shameless selfie I posted to Instagram got beaucoup likes, and my friends dug that I’d finally embraced the fuzz. “This is it. This is your hairstyle,” my best friend Justin told me over brunch.
I had to agree with him. I began to welcome days of high humidity so my hair would get huge and frizzy. I just smoothed some Bumble and bumble’s Don’t Blow It cream into my damp strands and then let them do their thing. My morning routine went from an hour to a mere 15 minutes — makeup included — and I haven’t had to lug my hairdryer and curling iron to the gym in the mornings.
My big hair makes me feel cool, sexy, and totally in control — not to mention a lot more relaxed — but I’d be lying if I said embracing the frizz didn’t come with naysayers. I recently went to a market event on a particularly humid day with my hair ballooning from my scalp. The product being promoted was an anti-humidity spray and a representative at the event took one look at me and said, “Oh, you and your hair will love this product.” With my most saccharine-sweet grin, I chuckled and said I loved my fuzz and then mentally rolled my eyes at her.
At the end of the day, embracing my frizz is a great lesson in tossing aside those “beauty don'ts” that we tend to live by. I didn’t realize it when I was younger, but frizzy hair is what suits me. It helps me feel my best. Now there’s nothing I love more than putting together a great, polished outfit and pairing it with my mop of fuzz. While everyone may opt for updos when the humidity gets hellish, I see it as a challenge: Just how big can Maria’s hair get?
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