What’s up with Carly Fiorina’s hair? ….oh.
I spent some time this spring in L.A., exposing me to an onslaught of news and advertising for the ongoing California elections. In truth, I didn’t mind. The state’s races almost always make for great entertainment even for outsiders, given the disproportionately large population of moneyed celebrities who decide in their infinite wisdom to skip retirement in Malibu and spend their millions scoring a high-stress, low-pay job in Sacramento.
It’s especially interesting this time around for observers like me because of two headlining contestants: Meg Whitman for governor and Carly Fiorina for senator. Two women, each the former top dog of a global tech brand. C’mon. No matter what side of the aisle you pee on, if you’re a chick, that’s pretty cool.
Meg Whitman’s campaign puzzles me. I met her a couple of times while she helmed eBay, including most recently over lunch in the executive dining rooms of Time Inc. She came across as witty, warm, charming — and as smart as they come. But in her California election ads, she thunders on about some giant wall to keep out those awful Mexicans. Maybe I’m missing something, but the Wall Street Journal says Hispanics comprise the state’s fastest-growing voter bloc. You kinda have to question a business strategy that alienates five million voters right off the bat.
But I’ll be frank. It was Carly Fiorina who shocked me. More to the point, it’s her hair.
Okay. Back when she ran Hewlett-Packard, Fiorina was this attractive, slender executive with a short, blonde do. It was one of those hairstyles that looked good without drawing attention to itself. The haircut said, “I’m a professional. And I’m a good-looking broad. Just deal.”
Let me expound for a moment on how important a silly thing like hairstyle is for a high-profile female. Take Hillary Clinton. Remember those horrible styles she sported back in the day? When she finally graduated to her current short, blonde do (quite similar to Fiorina’s old look, you might notice), we supporters breathed a collective sigh of relief. Now we could stop talking about how bad she looked and start talking about what a bad presidential campaign she was running.
See, good hair takes hair off the table. As a serious woman, you don’t want your coif to be the topic of conversation, the focal point of a photo op. You want your hair to flatter, stay in place and invite trust. When you land on a hairstyle that works, as Hillary finally did, you cling to it like Saran Wrap.
So when I saw the new pics of Carly Fiorina, I thought: what the hell did she do to her hair?
She didn’t do anything. Turns out: cancer.
Aren’t I the asshole.
Fiorina battled breast cancer a year ago. Out fell the blonde. In came the wiry gray.
Chemo’s effect on hair has been well documented (here, information from Breastcancer.org). After it falls out, often it comes in again a totally different texture, even a different color. My dear friend Anna was a willowy blonde in high school, her hair straight and soft. After chemo, she turned up at our 10-year reunion a curly brunette.
Breastcancer.org says most people return to their normal hair in time. But now that I know, here’s to Fiorina’s sassy gray crop.
UPDATE: Alas, alas. It appears Carly Fiorina herself can’t keep from a little hair critique — of her opponent, incumbent Senator Barbara Boxer. My pal Rebecca Winters Keegan (author of “The Futurist: The Life and Films of James Cameron,” in bookstores now!) forwarded me this Mediaite post, featuring video of Fiorina awaiting a CNN interview. She’s checking her Blackberry and chitchatting with producers, seemingly unaware the cameras are rolling. Right around the four-minute mark, she says someone saw Boxer recently “and said what everyone says: ‘God, what is that hair?’ Sooooo yesterday.” Sigh. Ladies, do we have to play into stereotypes? Why not just up and meow?