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What happens when your hair goes white? Celebs tell their tales

Five celebrities reveal insecurities and secrets

brunch Updated: Jan 29, 2018 12:43 IST
Renu Bhatnagar
Renu Bhatnagar
Hindustan Times
Dil Dhadakne Do,Anderson Cooper,American journalist and TV personality
There are a few women and men who have gracefully embraced their greys and they look stunning

A lot of people I know are flirting with the idea of going grey; trying to find the courage to stop colouring their hair. This really does need courage if you’ve been colouring your hair for over a decade or more. The regrowth is long, unaesthetic and painful.

Yet, there are a few women and men who have gracefully embraced their greys and they look stunning. In fact, there was a phase when dark-haired women were asking for their hair to be streaked silver white, because it was cool to not dye your hair.

“That was a style statement probably made by a designer or a celebrity or just someone who is younger and genuinely not interested in colouring her hair,” says veteran hairstylist Nalini Naegamvala of Nalini & Yasmin fame. “This turned into a trend followed by some younger persons! It was short-lived and it passed!”

Five people, all in the public domain, share how they embraced their grey hair gracefully, and how you too can liberate yourself from camouflaging your hair without feeling overwhelmed or insecure.

It’s a hard decision

Ratna Pathak Shah
Theatre actor

Ratna says the best work she’s done is post the time she stopped colouring her hair

Ratna noticed a few grey strands when she was 30, and started colouring her hair. By 2010, she stopped that and embraced her grey.

“I was a bit worried about it particularly because of my profession,” she says. “Most men my age don’t colour their hair. It immediately becomes an issue of who is going to act opposite me. But I thought it was just the time for it to happen and I took the plunge.”

Ratna was lucky because her hair dresser gave her a smart short haircut as she grew out the dyed portions of her hair. “It helped that I wasn’t working at that time, so it was not in the public view,” she says. “But I understand it’s a hard decision, people look at you in a different way.”

Though she had worried about how her hair colour would affect the roles she’d get, Ratna believes that ultimately, it made little difference. “The best work I’ve done is post the time I stopped colouring my hair,” she laughs. “It didn’t affect my ability to handle work. In certain professions, grey hair would be a great advantage. If you were a doctor with grey hair, people would trust you a little more. But people in the fashion industry would be affected.”

If you imagine that since grey hair makes you look older, you need to change your wardrobe to match it, let go of that notion. “I don’t remember my grey hair unless I look in the mirror,” says Ratna. “My personality has not changed. I’m very happy about the fact that I’m 60, that I’m older and therefore calmer, and able to understand the world around better than I did 10 years ago. I love the way my mind and body have developed; I’ve looked after it and feel closely connected to it.”

As for coming across as an ‘amma’, Ratna has no issues. “People do seem to have a problem about age, they expect us to remain the same forever,” she says. “It’s ridiculous to hold on to one stage constantly, particularly with this horrible contrast between face and hair, when your face is obviously ageing and your hair is looking ridiculously dark. Almost anyone who accepts their age gracefully and with confidence is an attractive person. Look at Waheeda Rehman and Nafisa Ali. It has largely to do with your self-confidence. I know many people who have turned grey very young and decided to keep that grey. It’s a wonderful decision and speaks of their confidence in themselves.”

I never dyed my hair

Dolly Thakore,
Theatre actor

A lot of women have told Dolly that they envy her hair

Dolly Thakore doesn’t quite remember when the first strand of grey hair popped. It was never something at the back of my mind,” she says. “I just let it grey.” Sometime in the 1980s when Page 3 perennial Queenie Sethia wanted to do a makeover on Dolly and asked her to colour her hair, Dolly told her “Nooo way... I never dyed my hair even for a performance.”

Clearly then, grey hair does not affect your career. “I’ve done theatre, films and even modelled,” she shrugs. “Many youngsters are streaking their hair and they look very smart. It’s your attitude that influences people much more than grey hair. Some of these young hair dressers say “Ma’am you have lovely hair, how lucky you are... A lot of women have said that they envy my hair,” she laughs huskily.

I don’t remember when I started greying

Milind Soman
Model and actor

Milind says many people tell him that they’ve stopped colouring because of him

Fitness freak and former supermodel Milind Soman doesn’t remember when he actually started greying. “I can only remember from pictures with my then girlfriend,” he says. “I must have been about 38 years old, about 15 years ago.”

As a model, Milind was used to colouring his hair if the clients required it. He used a hair mascara, and about five years ago, he endorsed a hair colour called Just For Men for which he had to have completely black hair.

After that campaign, he stopped. “It was never the way I wanted to present myself,” he says. “I like the look (with grey hair). Right now there’s no reason for me to colour and I feel free.”

People tend to colour their hair when they’re insecure about the way they look, says Milind. “Many people tell me that they’ve stopped colouring because of me. But actually, it’s not because of me they stopped. It’s because they felt comfortable doing it. If people like you, they like you regardless of the colour of your hair.”

That doesn’t mean there’s no prejudice against grey hair as a sign of ageing, Milind adds. So keeping the grey can be a sign of confidence. “Rajdeep Sardesai, Ratna Pathak, Nafisa Ali, all people in the media, have kept their grey hair because they know they can carry it,” he says. “Nafisa used to be a model in her teens, but today she’s still stunning. Grey hair is an issue because we, as society, have a fear of ageing. There’s so much emphasis on presentation and making an impression.”

Grey hair fetches respect

Nafisa Ali
Actress and social activist

It’s hard for people to accept the fact of ageing, says Nafisa

Nafisa spotted the greys when she delivered her first baby at 24. But she called it “mother’s blessings.” In any case, she didn’t realise she was greying, because she used henna. “Mehendi is a conditioner and it covered my grey hair as well. So I never really knew if I had grey hair. It’s actually a way of telling you that you are becoming a mother,” she says.

It was at the age of 37, when she shaved her hair and offered it to Tirupati Balaji as a mannat that she realised she was grey. “After it started regrowing, I saw I had quite a bit of grey and decided to leave it as it was. That was so empowering.” Her granddaughter teases her, however. “Nani, your hair is black underneath and white on top.” So I jokingly tell her, “I wish my black hair was on top and grey hair underneath!” I try to simplify my life. I thought colouring was a waste of time and money. One more grey hair and one more wrinkle is part of the journey.”

It’s hard for people to accept the fact of ageing, says Nafisa. “At 37, I had people telling me, ‘oh you’re so young, why don’t you dye your hair?’” I said, “Either you talk to me for who I am or you don’t talk to me, it’s your choice. The work I do, and places I go, nobody looks at my hair. In fact, it fetches you more respect. When you’re young and beautiful, or a Miss India, or an actress, you’re praised for physical attributes, so it’s difficult to let go. But it’s important to realise that there’s so much more within yourself.”

It kind of makes me look sincere

Rajeev Masand
Entertainment editor and film critic at CNN-News18

Rather than work against him, Rajeev’s grey mop made him more attractive to women than perhaps black hair would

Now in his 40s, Rajeev has a fine mop of grey hair. Had you met him 20 years earlier, you’d still have seen that grey mane – and Rajeev’s complete confidence and lack of self-consciousness about his look. “I was definitely greying when I was a teenager,” says Rajeev. It was not one or two strands, it was a fair quantity. I’ve always had fewer black strands than grey.”

This meant that he was always assumed to be older than his actual years. “About 20 years ago, when I interviewed Govinda, he said ‘yaar, tu toh meri umar ka ho gaya.’ Govinda must have been 38 or 40 something at the time. I was 19 or 20 and I found that very funny.”

He adds, “It wasn’t only because of the hair, it was also because of my weight, and the fact I started working very young. I don’t think anyone believes that I’m 40; they think I’m much older and weather-beaten.”

Even in his teens, it never occured to Rajeev to colour his hair. “The only one time in my life I dyed my hair was when I joined STAR News, where all the presenters had to go to the salon and get their stuff done. I didn’t realise while it was going on, but when I came out, I was like, “O God!!! The experts coloured my hair black.”

Rajeev was afraid his then-boss Raveena Raj Kohli might tell him to continue colouring, but was relieved when she said, “‘No, you are the grey...’ That’s exactly who I am,” laughs Rajeev. “I’d feel like a fraud if I suddenly started to colour my hair black.”

Rather than work against him, Rajeev’s grey mop made him more attractive to women than perhaps black hair would. “It kind of makes me look sincere, intelligent and smarter,” he grins. And while several professions and industries do emphasise on youth, youthful looks or otherwise are generally not an issue.

There are issues of image, however. “When I look at Anderson Cooper (American journalist and TV personality), I am like, “how cool is that!, but I’m unable to think of a woman (greying) who’s regarded as sexy; it’s a very unfair media conditioning,” he says. “You can have the media talk about a silver fox when it comes to men, but in the case of women it immediately becomes an age issue.”

For some film stars, whether they are male or female, grey is a no-no. “In Dil Dhadakne Do, Anil Kapoor had a mop of grey hair, and he told me that it took him a lot to agree to do the film because of the grey,” says Rajeev. “Grey was a big factor. His son convinced him that he should embrace his age. And now he’s going grey for a film again.”

Hair stylist Nalini Naegamvala of Nalini & Yasmin Salon & Spa after and before she went grey
Guru of grey
  • How does one embrace the grey?Most women go grey at around 40 and understandably colour their hair. However, when they grow older it is not easy to wean them away from the colour. As a stylist, I help by encouraging to accept their age. I myself turned grey many years ago and was comfortable with the change.
  • Should I trim my once- coloured, now-greying hair short?It is sensible to have a short haircut at this stage as the dark hair is cut away and then you are left with a regrowth that has shorter strands of dark hair which are cut off in a few months.
  • Any tips for maintaining grey hair?You can add interesting colours to cut down the yellowness of grey hair. I use a mixture of a blue/grey toner, or use a shampoo that tones the yellowness. Grey hair does not need any special care other than using the right shampoo, conditioner and the usual treatments for healthy hair.

From HT Brunch, January 28, 2018

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First Published: Jan 27, 2018 20:05 IST