To fit into the glamour world, a girl doesn’t only need to be fair, tall and slim. She must also have ‘long and beautiful hair,’ because the industry firmly believes that ‘long hair is universally attractive to men’. Those who believe otherwise, and cut their hair short, face rejection and ridicule.
Model Luna Cafieiro from Brazil who came to India last year, was shocked to realize that there was no work for her because of her boycut. Back home, agencies loved her hairstyle. “I wondered what was suddenly wrong with me. I didn’t want to grow out my hair but people made it clear that unless I do it, there will be no work for me,” says Cafieiro, who thought of packing up her bag and leaving India at one point.
“Girls with short hair become the victim of prejudice in the glamour world. The idea of a girl with a boycut wearing salwar suit or sari is alien to them. Top online fashion portal bluntly refuse to take girls with short hair. The ramp too, is no different. Designers insist that they want girls with long hair,” says Sam Abbasi, director, Sky Model Management.
Luna did get some work in South India, but she could not convince creative directors in North India that even short hair can be beautiful. Agrees Sunny Sapra, model coordinator, Strawberrifox. “It’s tough for girls with short hair to get ethnic wear or jewellery shoots. While I think short hair is refreshing and it’s an expression of individuality, few are convinced. Designers insist that they want long haired models,” says Sapra.
Bollywood and television, too, nurture the same prejudice. Actor Mandira Bedi, who cut her hair short while she was doing a reality show, says it’s difficult to break the stereotypes. “The protagonist would never have short hair, unless it is for roles such as a cop or a journalist. Short hair is reserved for the questionable characters, the vamps,” she says.
Mandira cut her hair short seven years ago, when she was hosting a non-fiction show. “I wasn’t even playing a character, and yet the production house insisted that I wear a wig. I had to wear it but thankfully they realized that I looked better without it,” she says.
She says that nothing has changed since then. “People have a limited vision. While abroad actors such as Halle Berry have done many positive roles, we still associate short hair with negative characters. The good woman, who makes all the sacrifices is always the one with long hair,” she says.
Mandira says that girls should not let anyone bulldoze them to look a certain way unless they are auditioning for a period drama. “Everyone with straight, shoulder length hair will end up looking like each other’s clone. Why not be different, and be who you are. I think that short hair teamed with sari and bindi looks fab,” she says.
No wonder Bollywood’s fascination with long hair influences reality. Bollywood is the biggest inspiration when it comes to wedding fashion. Makeup artist Naina Arora says that a bride with short hair is also unacceptable. “The mothers make it clear that we have to use extensions and wigs to style their hair. One of my clients changed the date of her son’s wedding because the girl had short hair. She asked the girl to grow her hair and even asked me to remedies to make her hair grow faster,” she says.
Actor Teena Singh, who made her debut in AR Murugadoss’ Akira, too believes that women should not give in to the pressures of conforming to set norms. “From ‘She has broken up with her guy’ to ‘why are you trying so hard to be cool’, I have heard the meanest of things due to my haircut. One casting director clearly told me, ‘Ek toh tum fair nahi ho, upar se chhote baal. Ya toh wig laga lo, ya foundation. (You are not fair, plus you have short hair. Either wear a wig, or wear foundation,” says Singh.
“From ‘She has broken up with her guy’ to ‘why are you trying so hard to be cool’, I have heard the meanest of things due to my haircut,” says Singh.
The roles that Teena gets are that of vamps, the home-breaker, drug addict, the seductress, the bully or the bitchy girl with tattoos. “While ad makers are more open to refreshing ideas, Bollywood is very regressive. People here firmly believe ki heroine ke baal toh lambe hote hain. When filmmakers are portraying current times, I don’t get the need for such conformity,” she says.
However, Singh is confident that things will change. “I’m not going to grow out my hair. I’m sure soon people will take me for who I am, not who they want me to be,” says Singh.