Minutes before a fashion show last month in New York City, a cluster of hairstylists huddled around a model backstage. They were standing over Charlotte Free, a slight 19-year-old from Los Angeles who has become known in the fashion industry as “the pink-haired model.”
But instead of trying to cover her hair with a wig or dye it blonde, the stylists backstage were debating how best to accentuate Free’s eccentric hair color. Despite the muted palette of the collection (and the bevy of blonde and brunette models also walking in the show) it was decided that Free should go even pinker—with the help of fuchsia extensions.
Gone are the days of the Meg Ryan shag, the Jennifer Aniston flip, and even the natural blonde highlights that used to dominate requests at top salons. This season, one hair trend has emerged larger—and brighter—than any other: pink. Celebrities from Katy Perry to Sienna Miller recently have gone pink—and now it’s starting to pervade the high-fashion world as well. It was all over the front row during New York Fashion Week, on runways such as Thakoon—where models came down the runway with candy-colored hair—and even on the rapper Nicki Minaj, who frequented the shows in a ball of pink frizz.
Though Free began dyeing her tresses four years ago, only recently has she become sought after for her unique hair color. “People always ask me, ‘What possessed you to dye your hair pink?’” she tells The Daily Beast. “I used to always get shit for it. It’s kind of strange that now, all of a sudden, it’s very accepted. And it’s not just accepted—it’s everywhere.” Ironically, Free says, now it’s her height—she’s 5-7, which is short by fashion-industry standards—that keeps her from booking jobs rather than her hair.
And it’s trickling down, too. “Pink hair used to be hair-show hair because it was very avant-garde,” says George Papanikolas, a colorist at the Andy Lecompte salon in Los Angeles. “I never thought I’d have to use it in the salon. Now I dye hair pink at least once or twice a week.” He says he uses products by a company called Joico that washes out in two weeks so it’s not as much of a commitment. “Pink has become more popular with blondes,” says Jen Atkin, an L.A.-based hair stylist for The Wall Group. “It can be very boring just being blonde.”
But while Dianna Agron makes waves on Glee for her new pink hair—and Katy Perry continues to inspire copycats—Free is already contemplating her next shade. “People keep telling me I should go blonde. But now,” she says with a laugh, “I want purple.”