Thank Heavens for Hair Dye!

This weekend I finally cracked and reached for the hair dye. Late last year I had a meeting with a BBC exec who advised me that I should update my look, and cut out the peroxide hair. The bleached Billy Idol thing dated me and might put producers off asking me to work on their show. I took the advice and have spent the last 6 months au natural in the barnet department.

At first it was a relief to no longer have to battle to home dye, which can a real pain when you’re a wheelchair user with a metal rod supporting your back. Rinsing the dye off can make you swear never again every time you d it, only to be forgotten when your roots get too much to bare. (I stopped getting my hair dyed at a salon after a disaster so terrible I shall not scar you by recounting it) I must admit I found the colour of my natural hair a bit of a shock. Instead of the colour I remember from when I was a teenager, which was the last age I had natural hair, it transpired I had a much lighter shade of sandy brown. There was a little grey, but not much. In fact I was let down by the amount of grey, as I had always wanted to go white grey like my Granddad. Imagine how much effort I would have saved if under the bleached blonde was a shock of pure white hair! But alas no. My head was topped off with a light brown mop with a smattering of ginger. Where that had come from I had no idea.

I gave the natural thing a go, and hoped that this new look might lead to some work on TV. As I waited by the phone and scanned my Inbox, I found that who I was started to change. I felt my confidence draining away, and the very thing that made me so good as a TV and radio presenter drained away with it. Slowly the desire to get dyeing grew inside me. I began looking at the hair dye section when visiting Superdrug or Boots, and gazed enviously at my wife’s dark purple razor cut. After six months I had heard nothing from the wonderful world of the media, and no longer felt like I was still Mik Scarlet either. Then while my wife was getting some photos ready for my next article in Disability Now, she altered my hair colour using Photoshop. She showed me what I might look like with a selection of different colours and the red won out. The very next day I purchased a box of Live Colour XXL Red Passion.

After some hilarious activity washing the colour off, which did end up with me having an accidental shower over the kitchen sink, I found myself feeling like myself again. Sure I no longer have the peroxide do that I sported through out my earlier career, but having tried the natural experiment coming back to unnatural hair is just so great. So my advice to any of you out there is sod conforming. Be yourself. I know now I have a huge selection of vibrant colours to try out, this period of being boring is over for good.

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Blonde Ambitions

A few months ago I had a meeting with a BBC exec who works with talent, to see if the BBC might be interested in getting me back on our TV screens. We had a productive chat, and fingers crossed things might happen. One thing that threw me was the comment that my peroxide hair dye job might be stopping me get work. The exec thought it didn’t look right for current tastes and advised me to try for a more natural look. Through out my life people have reacted badly to my alternative image, from before I entered he media and worked in a dole office to my short period as news reporter for BBC News. I never really took much notice, and saw my bleached hair as part of the Mik Scarlet brand. I mean my sign name is the signs for Mouthy with Blonde Spiky Hair, so it is part of who I am.

Or was. You see I really want to get back to work, and decided to give it a go. I mean with the Paralympics coming up and there’s window within the media for disabled broadcasters like me to either get on board or miss out forever. So I went natural, and changed my hair style to something more current and put away my leather trousers.

Now I won’t deny that I don’t miss the hassle of bleaching my hair. Leaning over the sink, with peroxide running in my eyes as I try to wash off the chemicals is not fun. I started dying my hair at the age of 16, and after a period of going from blonde to red to black and red and then black before going back to blonde, I began sticking with peroxide around the age of 23. So that’s exactly half of my life with a blonde spiked hair do. But the spiky thing goes back further. The treatment I had as a baby caused my hair to grow very thick and spiky. Nothing my Mum did would get it to lay down, and so everyone nicknamed me Tufty. This left my hair with a natural need to spike up, and getting it to do anything else is real battle, even today.

But it’s not only that my hair has been punk since the mid 60’s, but being blonde is now so much part of me that I don’t recognise the person I see in the mirror every morning since going natural. If you spend half your life looking one way, and then suddenly dramatically change it’s weird. It’s harder as I didn’t really do it because I felt it was time for a change, but more because someone else did. I broke a rule I set down for myself was a teenager. I changed the way I look for a job. Not even a real job, but the possible promise of one. As I write this I feel such a traitor to myself. Not only to me today, but to the young me. I mean I had real commitment to my beliefs back then that I would never have changed the way I look for anyone or anything. But that’s OK when you’re young and filled with confidence and belief that your generation will change the world.

Now I am an old duffer, and no longer feel that my alternative image is of such importance. I also want to avoid looking like an old git, dressed the way I used to over 20 years ago. But should I have to go so heavily the other way? Is there a middle ground? On top of that question, I am finding that the new natural Mik is not as confident and confidence is key to getting work in the media. I’ll never get the few jobs I get to audition for if I’m not on my A game, and changing my image has made me less “me”.

The most annoying part of all this is that I still have my hair. I always thought I’d be bald by now, with so many years of abusing my hair behind me. Sure it’s receding a little, but it’s pretty good for 46. So what should I do? Do I stick with the natural look and learn to love it, or reach for the peroxide, feel more Mik and maybe loose out on work as I don’t fit with the current ideas of a what a TV presenter looks like? Of course, I never fitted with the stereotype of a TV presenter, or a wheelchair user for that matter. All I can say is watch this space. I promised myself that if I don’t get any work within six months I would say “Sod it” and go back to the old Mik. But I am finding the wait too much to bare.

I ask you dear reader, if you have any thought’s on what I should do, please comment below.

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Showreel-tastic

I spent the weekend encoding and uploading a pile of old video clips from my TV presenting career, as well as editing a new showreel. I’ve now got that online too, and here it is….

What was really weird was having to sit and watch myself presenting, especially as the clips span a period of nearly ten years. I normally never watch myself, but I’m kind of glad I did. Not only because there is no way I will ever get any work with out a showreel but because it gave me a chance to actually realize I wasn’t half bad. Now I won’t blow my own trumpet too much. Just not me, but I do think that perhaps I was a bit too British in my past reticence at actually watching to work I did. Yes, of course I was a bit embarrassed at seeing yourself the way others see you and as I am always sure I am in need of a diet, I thought it was easier to do the whole “I never watch what do darling” thing that so many media types do. Now I have had to watch myself back as I coping hour of VHS tapes onto my computer, not only did I like what I saw but I also could see what I was doing wrong. If only I had made myself watch in the past I would have got even better at my job.

But this isn’t what I wanted to blog about. Something that struck me while I watched the most recent of my box of VHS tapes was how almost all of it revolved around disability based stories. Yes of the stuff I did with From The Edge had to be, as it was a disability magazine program, but also the news stuff, and some stuff I didn’t upload. But it was really good stuff. Fun items that would have been enjoyable to watch whether or not the viewer was disabled. Some pieces were thought provoking, some just light, some campaigning and some very political. All really good. Well written, filmed, edited and presented… watch it, don’t get too big headed there. But most of all what struck me was the language. It was so great to watch a good few hours of TV about disability and not hear “brave”, “courageous”, “tragic” or any other of the standard disability words… other than in the two items on the use of language of course.

It crazy to think that the oldest of these items was filmed in 1999, yet the media industry has gone backwards in it’s portrayal of disability. With the Paralymics coming up, and all the media gearing up for a frenzy of coverage I just hope they remember how well it used to be done. Whatever each Paralympic sports person achieves, they aren’t brave or courageous. Just bloody good at sport, after years of training and effort. Let’s hope we manage to get to enjoy coverage that avoids the standard clichés in 2012. And if anyone involved in making that coverage needs any help or guidance, take a look at my showreel. And if you need a presenter, give my agent a ring… please!

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