My goodness, Queen Letizia of Spain, 50, is beautiful. That skin. That figure. And that hair — luscious and brown and now with a single grey streak running down one side. Although on the hair front, if I may be so bold, Your Majesty, are you sure you’re OK with the grey?
I know it’s become a thing, the whole #GreyHairDontCare movement, and I know we all want to be our authentic, natural selves, but does it actually look better?
And if I may be even bolder, what are your other half’s thoughts on the subject?
I’m only asking the question because when I decided to embrace the grey, my other half wasn’t happy about it at all.
Not that he dared tell me at the time. It was only after I’d ‘gone back to myself’, as he put it, when I caved in and started dyeing it ashy blonde just over a year ago, that he admitted how much he had hated it.
Queen Letizia of Spain pictured earlier this month, sporting a streak of her grey hair at an engagement
And if I only had a fiver for every person who was with him on that, I would be a very rich woman now.
But let’s scroll back to six years ago. I was 57 and had been thinking about grey for a while, having started to go noticeably so in my late 40s and getting tired of having to cover it up every eight weeks.
However, it was not until 2017 — buoyed, probably, by Kim Kardashian who showed up at a Tom Ford show with a silver platinum mane — that I decided to actually take the plunge.
My colourist, Josh Wood, the superstar responsible for model Kristen McMenamy’s waist-length silver locks, was reluctant, warning me that it would make me look older and would take several goes because of all my red undertones.
But I was adamant. He was right. It took three visits, with a ton of blue titanium rinses in between. It also required a weekly professional blow-dry to look at its best.
Don’t get me wrong. I was mad for it at first and frankly didn’t care a hoot what anyone else thought. It just felt so ‘current’ every time I caught a glimpse of it in the mirror. And clever, too. Yes, one can be grey-haired and sexy, I thought to myself.
And then came lockdown when I didn’t have access to a salon for months. Oh dear. There are some pictures of me at my 60th birthday with literally three-tiered hair: orange or red on the ends; blue-grey in the middle; and then, at the top, dark brunette with lots of wiry white bits sprouting out the top.
As Queen Letizia will know, those disobedient grey hairs march to the beat of their own drum. But then, as Josh had warned me, that is the problem with being a dark brunette, wanting to go grey. It requires almost 24/7 maintenance, especially as the grey starts to overtake the brown.
As Queen Letizia will know, those disobedient grey hairs march to the beat of their own drum
Honestly, I looked about 103. It’s maddening the way grey hair is such a potent semaphore for old age. Which is fine if you are, say, the magnificent Christine Lagarde, 67-year-old president of the European Central Bank, but I am very much not.
Unless it’s styled and blow-dried within an inch of its life, grey spells ‘I’ve given up’. It shouldn’t be that way, and it doesn’t apply to everyone.
I adore, for example, how it looks on Meghan Markle’s mum, Doria, 66. The 64-year-old actress Andie MacDowell, with her silver ringlets, just about gets away with it, but readers, that’s because she’s a model as well as an actress. As Josh put it: ‘The grey was way too cold on your skin tone. It looked good when it was blow-dried, but still, it was a too strong, slightly sad colour.’
Christa, pictured, asks: ‘I know it’s become a thing, the whole #GreyHairDontCare movement, and I know we all want to be our authentic, natural selves, but does it actually look better?’
I know what he means. It ended up draining me, and how I looked eventually had an effect on the way I felt and perhaps the way others reacted to me.
I belong to a WhatsApp group called The Hormonal Voyagers — a bunch of good female friends in which I am the oldest but had never felt that way.
Well, with the grey hair, suddenly I was the Granny of the Group. Meanwhile, whether I went to the beauty salon or not, I was offered many more seats on buses and trains than I am now. My two sons would never say anything, not because they’re diplomatic, but because they don’t care one way or another.
My younger son’s wife, though, noticed, big time, and when I ‘went back to myself’ she heartily approved — as does, I think, every single one of my friends.
It is such a liminal space, that period between 50 to 65 (obviously I keep moving the goal posts the older I get). You’re neither one thing nor the other. And yet I see too many women — particularly British women — ‘give up’ before they have to.
Glossy chestnut, with not a hint of grey, looks a little ridiculous on a 90-year-old, I agree, but do I want to look my age if I don’t have to?
Wasn’t hair dye actually a key step forward for female empowerment? As Nora Ephron said: ‘It’s the most powerful weapon older women have against the youth culture.’ Obviously, we all want to be our authentic selves, but in today’s youth-obsessed world you don’t get extra marks for looking exactly the age you are, just as you don’t get extra marks for, say, not having an anaesthetic for a filling or even an epidural when you give birth.
Fighting a battle against the grey by going blonde not only suits my skin colour better, but it’s also a lot cheaper, needing to be retouched only every three months or so, especially if I’m going to be in the sun. And, like I said, I cannot tell you how much my other half prefers it.
Queen Letizia, I feel you. Why should you kowtow to the ageist beauty industry — indeed, why should any of us?
But let’s circle back in 18 months or so. You may well feel very differently about the grey by then.
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