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.
If it helps you work-wise, then just look on it as a temporary costume. It is the same for me; whenever having to do something academic out comes the nose ring and gone is the red hair. If it doesn’t help you get work, then sod it! I will always see you as a blonde though 😀
I don’t think you’ve compromised your ideals at all, Mik. It’s a huge risk to leap outside one’s comfort zone, and that’s where the magic happens!
Confidence does come from within, I totally agree. But we all know that, when in flux, we have to blag it til things settle and the room stops shaking.
I think you’re entitled to borrow the perceptions of learned friends who know, follow and ‘get’ who you are. I dunno if my opinion carries weight but I see you as uber-cool highly intelligent media personality deserving of a permanent seat on Mock the Week, Never Mind the Buzzcocks, any up-to-the-minute, call-them-as-you-see-them, thinking woman’s crumpet-type show.
You’re a dish. Try different looks and see which one works for YOU. I rather suspect that Armani and Hugo Boss shirts, black jeans, upscale-edgy-yet-casual would work a treat.
WITH the blonde hair, imho. It’s iconic, a kind of trademark. Then it’s an evolution instead of a revolution. Does that make sense?
My last two words would be ‘Ask Diana’. Whatever moves your beloved will absolutely move your, it must be admitted, mainly female fanbase. :))
Can I talk to you a bit about disableist hate at some point, bro?
I must say, I rather like the new look (albeit one that has been forced upon you). I wonder, though, whether you can go about the change in another way? It’s like…if I feel I’ve been forced into giving something up, I am likely to find it hard to be without it. But if I say, right, I’m going to try this new thing and see if that fits in with a me I didn’t realise existed…then it becomes much more of a positive.
Either way, the shades are fab.
I’ve been a fake blonde for years even though my original hair colour was blonde, it darkened by the time I was in my late teen years. I think your new look suits you though. But don’t think of yourself as an ‘old duffer’, at 46 that doesn’t really apply. Think you will feel more confident if you don’t define yourself by a number. You’re as young as you choose to be
Martin Cameron says
I’ve always admired the way you have refused to fade into the background and have had this ‘Hey! I’m here!’ look. Do what feels right for you; be yourself and look for those who appreciate what you are – not what they want you to be. (If the new look is getting you loads of work then do what most people do; have a work look and a relaxed look for home and leisure – although it will mean using the peroxide more often.) 🙂