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05.26.09

Breakout Blondes

Once ripe for punchlines, a new crop of smart, talented, and young blondes is dominating the entertainment world, from Taylor Swift to Dakota Fanning. Alison Prato on the peroxide comeback. Plus, VIEW OUR GALLERY.

For decades, blondes have gotten a bad rap, especially when it comes to late night talk show hosts, dirty old men and tween boys. Take, for example, some age-old jokes about the fair-haired, often heard being spewed out of the mouths of the aforementioned: “Why did the blonde tip-toe past the medicine cabinet? Because she didn’t want to wake the sleeping pills!” “How many blondes does it take to make chocolate chip cookies? 100. One to stir the batter and 99 to peel the M&Ms!”

Today, the dumb blonde joke is deader than David Alan Grier’s Chocolate News, thanks in no small part to a slew of young, smart, talented women who are dominating the entertainment industry, from singer Taylor Swift to actress Dakota Fanning. Theories abound as to why: Some say it’s because we need some light during this dark recession. Others believe it’s because after years of anti-blondes taking the top spots in movies, music, TV and fashion (think Angelina, Jennifer Hudson, Kate Walsh and Gisele) pop culture junkies are ready—once again—for some comfort food, a.k.a. blondes. Whatever the reason, check out our guide to Hollywood’s most exciting bottled beauties—at least until redheads steal the spotlight again.

TAYLOR SWIFT, singer-songwriter

AGE: 19

IN A NUTSHELL: Though she hasn’t even been on the planet for two decades, this fair-haired spitfire—who got her start singing at festivals and dominating the karaoke circuit in her hometown of Wyomissing, Pennsylvania—has skyrocketed to the top of the country-music scene. Not content to share the bill with fried Twinkies and local drunks warbling “Sweet Home Alabama,” the singer-songwriter packed up for Nashville at the age of 11 and knocked on every label door on Music Row, armed with the plea, “Hi, my name’s Taylor, and I’m looking for a record deal.” Her latest album, Fearless, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard charts and was the fourth bestselling album—in any genre—of 2008 (after Lil’ Wayne, AC/DC and Coldplay).

BREAKOUT MOMENT: A crowd-slaying 2008 Academy of Country Music Awards performance of “Should’ve Said No,” during which she seemingly—and endearingly—surprised even herself.

THE GIRL’S GOT BALLS: After being dumped by Joe Jonas over the phone (OMG!), she talked smack about him on Ellen, released a video blog in which she tells a Taylor Swift doll juxtaposed to a Joe Jonas doll, “Stay away from him,” and wrote a scorned-teen breakup song about him called, “Forever and Always.”

WHAT’S NEXT: Touring the country in support of Fearless; a performance at the CMT awards on June 17.

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ABC

JULIANNE HOUGH, ballroom dancer, singer

AGE: 20

IN A NUTSHELL: It’s no secret that Dancing With the Stars is a smash hit because of its scorching female dancers (not because of you, Steve Wozniak). Case in point? This gorgeous hard body, who got her start in TV commercials and music videos, including doing the choreography for Gwen Stefani’s “Wind It Up.” After winning DWTS twice (this season she competed with her boyfriend, country singer Chuck Wicks, before the two were booted in week eight), she announced that she won’t return next season in order to concentrate on her budding country-music career. (Pervs everywhere, who favored watching the show with the volume down, flooded ABC with complaint letters.) Julianne’s self-titled debut album, which came out in May 2008, reached No. 3 on the Billboard charts, and she won the Top New Artist award—and got a standing ovation—at the Country Music Awards in April. The opening line of her speech? “It’s a good thing my dress ripped, because now I have something else to think about.”

BREAKOUT MOMENT: Shaking her hips—Elvis be damned—during a too-hot-for-prime time samba with partner Helio Castroneves in 2007.

JULIANNE IN THE WORDS OF FORMER DWTS PARTNER ADAM COROLLA: "We don't communicate. She's 19 and from Utah and has been dancing since birth. I brought up Vince Lombardi and I think she thought it was some kind of ice cream."

WHAT’S NEXT: Her name is being talked about to star in the Footloose remake, perhaps in the Lori Singer role of Ariel. Her possible co-star:  Gossip Girl’s Chace Crawford. Break out the teen Depends!

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Summit Entertainment / Everett

DAKOTA FANNING

AGE: 15

IN A NUTSHELL: Sure, you may always think of her as mini-Meryl, the precocious starlet who held her own alongside Denzel Washington and Tom Cruise in various big budget motion pictures ( Man on Fire and War of the Worlds, respectively), but this mega-talented actress (the youngest person ever to be nominated for a Screen Actor’s Guild Award, no less) is all growed up now, and so far avoiding all the trappings of child actor hell.

BREAKOUT MOMENT: Breaking hearts alongside Sean Penn in 2001’s I Am Sam.

SEE HER (OR RATHER, AMY POEHLER) IN ACTION

MAYBE SHE IS JUST A TEENAGER AFTER ALL: When recent prom photos of Dakota and her posse of tween bffs appeared online, she was chastised for everything from her super-short pink dress to her cheeseball date.

WHAT’S NEXT: Roles in the upcoming films Push and Winged Creatures, plus a highly anticipated appearance as vampire Jane in New Moon, the next in the Twilight series. Now filming in Vancouver, will she get caught smoking pot and carousing with older, bad-ass co-stars Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson? The tabloids are frothing at the mouth just thinking about it.

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AP Photo

AGYNESS DEYN

AGE: 26

IN A NUTSHELL: Born Laura Hollins (she changed her name at the advice of a numerology expert), this supermodel went from getting rejected at agency after agency to appearing on dozens of fashion magazine covers and landing highly profitable endorsement deals from a slew of big names, including Anna Sui, Burberry, Armani, Paul Smith, and Vivienne Westwood.

BREAKOUT MOMENT: Spring 2008, when The New York Times wrote about the impact her “boy-short, peroxide-blonde” hair was having on the fashion industry.

SEE HER IN ACTION

IN HER OWN WORDS: “My current style is Jackie O. crossed with Debbie Harry meets Stevie Nicks.”

WHAT’S NEXT: Expect more rock 'n’ roll from this music (and musician) lover, who dated Albert Hammond Jr. until earlier this year and has been linked to former Phantom Planet singer Alex Greenwald. Agyness groupies are dying to know: Will her band, Gene Jacket, ever release an album?

View Our Gallery of Other Breakout Blondes

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Alison Prato graduated from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she was awarded the Hugh M. Hefner magazine scholarship. She began her journalism career with an internship at Playboy magazine and eventually rose to senior associate editor. She has been the executive editor of Giant and the Entertainment Director of Maxim.