Diary of a colour change: "I wanted to feel like a rainbow Paddle Pop"

Image: Stella Young (via Twitter)

UPDATE 9.12: We’re so saddened by the news of Stella Young’s death. We’re leaving this post as a tribute to an articulate, hilarious, compassionate woman who had impeccable style (and incredible hair).

Writer, comedian and activist Stella Young is no stranger to crazy coloured hair, but her latest dye job may be her most impressive to date. She went from a faded pinky-blonde to a rainbow-mermaid-streaks.

This is how much rainbow hair will cost you

We spoke to Stella and her colourist Karen Lewis about how the technicolour transformation came about, and what was involved.


Do you change your hair regularly?

“I do! My mum is actually a hairdresser, so I’ve always changed my hair pretty regularly. I think of her three daughters (I have two younger sisters) I was probably the most adventurous in the hair department. Although we’ve been subject to the perm rods at one point or another!”

Who is your hairdresser? How did you find them?

“These days I live too far away for my mum to cut my hair. I go to Fluff Hair on Smith Street in Collingwood. I originally found the salon because I ran into a girl I went to school with in my hometown. She’d always had long hair at school but when I bumped into her she was sporting a gorgeous pixie cut. She had their card on hand and passed it on. I have my hair cut by Mario Italiano (yes, that’s his real name) and coloured by Karen Lewis (who you can follow on Instagram at @blondieshair).”

How long was your hair in the style you had prior to this cut?

“I haven’t had long hair since I was about 16. Once I cut it short I could never live with the daggy stages of growth long enough to grow it back. And really, I don’t think long hair suits me. I don’t have much of a neck, and long hair just accentuates that. I’ve played with different short styles over the years, but colour is where I have the most fun.

“Prior to this I’d been getting a really bright copper colour that faded to a lovely peach with washing. Because I really liked the colour that it started as, but also all the phases it went through while fading, I had been reluctant to change it. Not all colours still look as good on the way out.”

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What made you decide to make a big change?


“Karen has been doing these amazing pastel colours for a while now, and I’ve watched her Instagram with great jealousy! I’ve done pastel pink before, which I loved, but my hair fades quite quickly. I can’t get away with not washing it every couple of days. Even though it’s a big change, my mum always said that anything you do with your hair is temporary. I actually didn’t even think about it being a big change, even though I went in with peachy blonde hair and came out looking like a rainbow Paddle Pop in human form!”

Have you had any major life changes lately?

“I went through a major break up last year and I think I’ve felt more free since then to change things up when I want to. I’ve gotten a tattoo since then, and I probably wouldn’t have done this with my hair. I’ve also had a really great year professionally. I’ve become more aware as I’ve gotten older that having a disability, being a wheelchair user, living in a body like mine means that I’m actually always on display. If people are going to stare, you may as well look as interesting as possible!”

What sorts of things were you looking at to get inspiration for your hair transformation?

I’d love to say that this was all my idea, but in fact I just told Karen I was open to change and she got really excited. I think partly because I grew up with a mum as a hairdresser, I’ve always seen hair as a tool for self expression. And it doesn’t have to be my expression. I was pretty happy to be Karen’s canvass!

What images (if any) did you take to the hairdresser?

Karen did tell me beforehand that she was keen to do a lilac colour with a bit of a difference. So I looked up a few things on the net. Like:

Image credits: 1, 2, 3, 4

and of course...Nicole Ritchie.

From two-toned mess to beautiful balayage – The Chop

How did you describe what you wanted to the hair dresser?

"I told her I was definitely up for the lilac plan and I didn't mind what else she incorporated into it. It's fun to give hairdressers free reign sometimes! I was there for about four hours, which is completely fine with me. I love the trashy magazines and eavesdropping on the other clients!"


How long did this transformation take?

Stella started her appointment with a consultation between Mario of Fluff and myself. Mario and Stella discussed her haircut. From there Mario and I discussed the plans for colour and where length needed to be left within the haircut to make the colour work, while still giving Stella a functional and fashionable haircut, not just a great colour. From start to finish the process took about 4 hours.


What is it about this new style that’s exciting for you?

Major colour changes are my favourite thing to do, I love seeing how happy and shocked clients are after it.

What sort of inspiration did you have in mind while you were doing Stella's hair?

Stella is a confident chick with a bunch of attitude, which, in the hair dresser world, means she can wear any colour no matter how loud or especially unnatural it looks. I don't really follow hair trends too much, I tend to try and push clients' boundaries a little with each colour appointment. Stella was my inspiration; I wanted to give her a colour she had never had anything like before, that no other hair colourist could give her. I thought lilac would be fun and completely opposite to the vibrant copper she had been wearing previously.

What did the transformation involve?

For the colour, we gently removed the copper pigment in order for the lilac to work. Because any decent hairdresser can make someone's hair plain ol' lilac, I wanted to amp it up with other colours. From there I strategically placed some foils in custom-mixed pastel colours to give her hair more dimension; transforming the colour each way Stella swishes her hair. After the foils had been placed I applied the lilac and processed the colour.

Did you do anything else special we need to know about?

I always like to mix up custom colour pigment for my clients to refresh the colour a little with each wash, so in Stella's case I added some lilac to her conditioner to keep her hair a nice colour between appointments. This way it keeps them happy and looking great for the whole duration between appointments

Karen and her partner are opening their own appointment-only salon in North Fitzroy called Blondies of Melbourne. Appointments can be made by emailing Karen directly at [email protected] and you can follow their work on Instagram - @blondieshair

Have you had a major hair cut or colour change recently? Tell us about it! Email [email protected]