An Expert Council On Changing Your Hair Color

Karla Cornejo Villavicencio

Author, The Undocumented Americans

When did you first start coloring your hair?
I’m 31 now, but I started dyeing my hair my freshman year of college. My parents are South American immigrants and evangelical, and though the goal at the time was J. Lo’s highlights from the Jenny from the Block music video, I told my dad I had been inspired by Rachel Ray.

Do you think you’ll ever stop?
I have a ton of thick hair that never falls out. I understand that bleach is damaging but I like the texture it gives—my hair naturally is so straight that I look like a very good girl, and I am not a good girl. If anybody concern-trolls me about this, I’ll bleach my eyelashes with 40 volume.

What is your hair color right now?
When you see me with dark brown hair, like I have right now, that’s me trying to stop and embrace nature. I want to look like the kind of girl who makes her own nut milks and marmalade. To me, that girl just lets her hair be and piles it on top of her head.

Which hair color have you liked the most? And the least?
My favorite hair color was pink done by myself, on top of a blonde I had done professionally. I think pink looks the most natural on me. It fades beautifully and looks different every single day, so I always see somebody new but familiar when I look in the mirror.

I haven’t hated any of them. You can serve a look with any color if you have charisma.

What’s the shortest amount of time you’ve ever had your hair be a certain color?
I was about to pitch a show in LA, and I had pink hair at the time. For a brief moment I thought, what if I want to look like what they think a Latina looks like? I dyed my hair with dark brown box dye, but because of the color wheel my hair turned green. I went to see my friend and said, “My hair is green” and he said “It’s not green,” but everyone at the studio agreed it was. That night, I dyed it black.

Did your style change when you had different hair colors?
The makeup I wear to communicate my nut milk vibe is two dabs of the Charlotte Tilbury Hollywood Flawless Filter to color correct, some Saie highlighter, and the Westman Atelier Lip Suede blotted on my lips. No mascara. I think I have greater liberty with color when my hair is blonde or dark. I am more likely to wear my hair longer when it is a natural color—when it’s something like purple or green, I wear my hair in a bob.

Did people treat you differently when your hair was different colors?
Art on your body seems like it’s meant to be remarked upon, so people feel entitled to. I grew up wearing gold nameplate rings and bracelets, and my dad and I fought a lot about which way they should face. He used to tell me to wear the letters facing outside, but why should others be able to read them and not me? The tattoos I have that contain text also face me, because I don’t give a shit if people on the L train can read them. Both of those things mean a lot to me, in terms of claiming ownership of my body and living for myself. So if I’ve learned anything it’s that sometimes you are freaky for yourself and not to be someone else’s freak show.

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