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09.15.09

Yes, I Wear Fake Hair

Inspired by Tyra Banks’ appearance on TV without her weave, The Daily Beast’s Meghan McCain lets her hair way down and confesses to a lifetime of extensions and other salon magic.

While guest hosting The View last week, the subject of Tyra Banks appearing on her show without a weave or a wig came up during the Hot Topics segment. I have long been a huge Tyra fan and consider her an inspiration to young women, including me. The idea of her being seen without fake hair was another awesome moment of Tyra bridging the gap between reality and television.

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The conversation soon turned to our own hair—real and otherwise. Sherri Shepherd admitted that when she was little she wanted “Marcia Brady hair” like I had. For that matter, I said, so did I. If Tyra had the courage to go on TV without a weave, I wanted everyone to know this: Not all the hair attached to my head is real. Yes, I have been wearing different variations of permanent and semi-permanent hair extensions since high school. Even as far back as middle school if you count the banana hairclip with the sliver of hair attached to it I wore to my eighth-grade dance.

For those who watch Tyra, the buildup to her appearing sans-weave was a big deal. For men out there and women who have virgin hair (that’s never been processed, dyed, or had extensions or weaves put in it) let me explain that for women like Tyra (and myself) to go without a weave on television is almost unthinkable. I have appeared on shows with and without hair extensions, and I far prefer the way I look when I have them in. On the night my father accepted his nomination for president, I wore a giant Madonna ponytail extension (circa her Vogue tour)— much to the dismay of some of the campaign advisers, I might add.

On the night my father accepted his nomination for president, I wore a giant Madonna ponytail extension (circa her Vogue tour)— much to the dismay of some of the campaign advisers, I might add.

The problem now is a feeling that such illusions are necessary. I have been wearing fake hair for so long that I can’t help feeling my hair doesn’t look nearly as good without some pieces in it. Also, having your hair flat-ironed, blown dry, and teased so much takes its toll. I have worn my hair every single length and style you can possibly imagine, so people were surprised to hear that I am a member of the hair-extensions club. The response to this revelation both on Twitter and in my life was also unexpected. My friends and women following me on Twitter seemed to appreciate the fact that I was being real and revealing the extra help I get from extensions. For the men reading this column, it’s kind of like admitting to plastic surgery or getting your chest waxed.

It’s admitting that we as women—especially women who appear on television—don’t just wake up like this. It takes hours and hours of sitting in the hair and makeup chair. Sometimes when people meet me they are surprised by, among other things, how pale I look in person. Basically, because I don’t run around every day with fake eyelashes and extensions in, it’s all a part of the smoke and mirrors of television. Why do I feel the need to share all of this now and expose that I am a frequent user of hair extensions? Because all the young women that follow me should know that it’s OK to look like your real self and it’s OK to get a little extra help when sometimes Mother Nature doesn’t give you everything you want.

Meghan McCain is a columnist for The Daily Beast. Originally from Phoenix, she graduated from Columbia University in 2007. She is a New York Times bestselling children's author, previously wrote for Newsweek magazine, and created the Web site mccainblogette.com.