Star-Bulletin Features

Sunday, July 8, 2001


Stylist Deneé flips Milli Andrade's retouched locks. Deneé is
a natural blonde who lightens her color. Andrade is half-
Chinese with Filipino and Spanish in the mix,
who was born to be blonde.

Yes, blondes
have more fun

Well, maybe not, but women
who've had their hair
lightened sure think so

By Nadine Kam

How do you make a blonde laugh Monday morning?
Tell her a joke on Friday night.

After years of enduring jokes and being perceived as objects of male fantasy, blondes are having their revenge. They've taken control of our hearts and heads. Just look at the sun-kissed locks cropping up all over town.

Sure, we all know the bleaching effects of the summer sun, but do you really believe all those tresses are lightened au naturel? What's your age again? The question is no longer "Does she or doesn't she?" but "Who does her hair?"

Being blonde will get a push when the Reese Witherspoon comedy, "Legally Blonde," opens Friday. And tomorrow marks National Blonde Day, during which we must pause and consider that perhaps blonde is really not the international sign of stupidity.


Mauka Makai cover

In ancient times, genes decreed your right to be a blonde, a color rare enough to cause minor commotion wherever the flaxen-headed appeared. Yet, to many a baby blonde's disappointment, this coloring often changed as they aged, most often turning into a dull, lifeless, dishwater blonde or mousy brown.

It was not a change to take lightly, for being blonde becomes key to one's very essence and identity. A color change meant a loss of status, from being the Golden Child one day to a face in the crowd the next.

Gloria Ah Sam, who works at Malama -- an Aveda Lifestyle Salon Spa, was one who would not go gently into brunette-land.

"I was born blonde, a little towhead. At 13, my hair turned into a dishwater, dirty blonde," she said. "My mom is the one who suggested coloring my hair. There was a box she used to buy, Summer Blonde. I can still remember the song: 'You can have that summer look, all you need is Summer Blonde, by Clairol.'

"I don't know why she did it. My mom had dark hair and I think she just wanted me to be her same little girl. But secretly, I wanted to do it. I was glad she suggested it because I couldn't bring it up.

"I was an avid reader of Seventeen magazine and Cheryl Tiegs was one of my favorite models, a famous blonde."

Assured over the years, thanks to Madonna, that their hair will not dry up and fall out due to constant coloring, more women feel it's safe to try color. These days, there are Black, Hispanic and Asian blondes, but credit for inspiring most of the local blondes goes to J. Lo, whose naturally dark hair is full of highlights that accentuate her golden skin, giving her an all-over glow.

Showing different degrees of blondness, from highlights to
full color, are Rebecca Sanada, left; Suresh Singh, front center;
and Malama Spa stylists, from right, Hazel Balmaceda,
Alden Amion, Lititia Thomas and Katie Ringwood.

Sanada before she lightened up.

"Asian women want that sun-kissed look," said Taryn Lee, a stylist at Malama at Ala Moana Center who has red-on-black locks. "Most of the women who come in for highlights say they want their hair to look like Jennifer Lopez's. It's hard to tell from photos which colors she has in her hair, but it's not just one shade of highlights, it's three to four shades."

Those numbers add up to money. At Malama, lightening your base color starts at $50. Adding partial highlights costs $75; full highlights runs $100. Then there's maintenance. Covering your inch-long roots every month-and-a-half starts at $50.

So while teens must usually stay home with their lemon juice or bleaching kit, it's women with means who can best afford to go blonde. Not that the cost means anything to the true blonde personality.

Colorist Deneé, who runs her own shop on King Street, above Washington Saimin, said the blondes she knows would starve their kids before skimping when it comes to hiding those roots.

"It's true!," said the platinum-haired stylist. "It doesn't matter whether they're working, not working, whether they paid the rent. It's that important."

Deneé was born a blonde-haired, blue-eyed Mexican in San Diego, Calif., but adopted her bombshell color 15 years ago while in New York for a hair show.

"I saw this platinum blonde on the street and she looked so cool that I took her picture. I had to look like that. I did it in my hotel room, I just couldn't wait."

Blonde is the only color she'll tolerate on herself, although she admits to having gone incognito to a club she frequented.

"I wore a brown wig and nobody recognized me, not even my own brother! They were so used to looking for a blonde. Whenever I've had darker hair, for a costume or whatever, I look very plain. Blonde gets so much attention. I'm sure everybody does it for the attention."

Deneé said she gets about six to seven customers a day, ranging in age from 20s to 60s, wanting to go blonde. And, because being blonde has its own rules and prerogatives, her fees are flexible.

"It depends on my mood and how nice you are to me," she said.

No need to hold the blonde jokes though.

"I think they're funny. I just laugh at them," she said, especially knowing that being blonde has its rewards. She's always been popular and said, "I'll be like, 'Excuse me, excuse me,' when I'm in line or in traffic and people will let me go."

Staying blonde takes commitment more enduring than some marriage vows.

"If you notice, even Hollywood stars usually don't do it for very long," Deneé said. "It can damage your hair if it's done wrong. Bleaching breaks the cuticle down. Once it gets to a light stage it breaks, so you have to catch it at the right moment."

That has never deterred Kauai real estate agent Milli Andrade, who visits Deneé every month-and-a-half to refresh her blonde locks, which she describes as Beyoncé blonde, based on the tresses of Destiny's Child singer Beyoncé Knowles.

But Andrade had the color first, having taken the plunge in high school, when she was just another raven-haired Filipino-Spanish and half-Chinese girl.

"My hair reflects my personality, then and now. I'm a light, bright person. I like a lot of light in my life and I wanted my physical being to show that. Light attracts light.

"I really had this vision of how I should look and I knew that I could pull it off."

She's now a true blonde who goes "ballistic" at the sight of roots. "I have to wear a hat!"

Ah Sam once tried going back to her natural color, but that experiment didn't last long.

"I just didn't feel like the same person. I felt flat, I didn't feel as energetic. It made me realize how important color is. Younger people wear so much black, but when you're older it makes you feel tired. Color is the antidote."

If blonde is the color of vivaciousness, could there be any shy blondes? Andrade guesses, "Maybe just the natural ones."

But for bottle blondes, she said, "It changes you. It's such a drastic change that it forces you to come out of your comfort zone, and if you can grasp that, you can't help but make changes in other aspects of your life. ... Does that make sense?"

Only if you're not a blonde. Just kidding.

Features editor Nadine Kam went to a coppery No. 6 Dark Golden Blonde with highlights two months ago but doesn't have the true blonde personality that would make it her life's mission to maintain it. She thinks violet is her color.

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