Redheads clockwise from left: my kangaroo paw, my sister Pietra, Joan Holloway and Princess Merida from Brave
I'm not brave enough to embrace the bright red though (my skin is too ruddy) and I'm kind of disappointed in myself that I don't....I've only been really red in my Sun-In years.
|My Sun-In Years...|
For the past two years my true blue redhead sister Pietra has been quietly filming a documentary about redheads "to celebrate my tribe. What is the point of it? Maybe I want to make redheads into super heroes, thereby exorcising my own demons of growing up a redhead."
Technically red hair is a chromosomal deficiency often coupled with white skin and freckles - making it the rarest (1%) hair colour in humans. It's this rarity that attracts the pain and the fame.
Throughout history, redheads were prized as chosen ones and feared as aggressors. In Polynesia red hair was seen as a sign of a a ruler and in Mediaeval times artists were obsessed with capturing redheaded beauties. Boudica, who led the British uprising against the Roman Empire was always depicted with flowing titian locks (my husband was so taken with the image he wanted to name our daughter after her - overruled.) Joan of Arc was red and Elizabeth 1 took the throne with a copper mane, later replaced with a vertiginous wig.
But redheads are also much ridiculed. Some of the insults my sister Pietra collected in her research: Gin-ga (with a hard "g" all the more damning) Orange Goblin, Piss Brindle, "Freckleface your Dad thinks you're a big disgrace!" "Carrot top, carrot top, catch her quick or else she'll pop" "Redhead, mad as a bar, 'cause the silly little thing has ugly hair!" And F.O.T (F****ing Orange Thing) - which is what redheads are called in the Australian Army.
There is the quiet denial. Recently I heard a mother insist her toddler daughter was a "strawberry blonde" while behind her a family portrait showed the child - with incandescently flaming red hair.
This year I've seen red fast become a by-word for glamour, with rise of actors Jessica Chastain, Bryce Dallas Howard, Emma Stone and lately Damian Lewis (is he the first redhead leading man ever?) in Homeland. Redhead models are all over the magazines, a far cry from when 80's supermodel Angela Dunn was dismissed with the line: "Redheads can't sell yoghurt - or even the fridge to keep it in."
Redhead Joan in Mad Men has paved the way too, as a sure and sexy but most importantly three-dimensional character. Traditionally, the Hitchcock blonde (in this case Betty) emerges as the likeable protagonist. But here Joan steals all our empathy. Funnily enough, in real life actress January Jones is taking a visible break from Betty by dying her hair a very bright red, below.
Who's your favourite Red?