Wednesday, January 07, 2009

6 Questions with Sascha de Gersdorff of Boston Magazine

When I told the lovely and talented Sascha de Gersdorff of Boston Magazine about my Undercover Blonde project, she instantly got it. Sascha has also traversed both sides of the color wheel in the name of research while editing the magazine's much-beloved "Best of Boston" issue.

Here's a little glimpse into Sascha's take on blonde- vs brunette-ness:

Kitty: Are you a natural blonde? If not, how long have you been dying your hair blonde?

Yes. Well, natural enough. I was very light blonde as a kid, right up through my teen years. I started getting highlights in college, not because I really needed them but because it was the thing to do—and a nice escape from the class-bar-class-bar routine. I probably got a partial twice a year (shout-out to Joseph’s at the Carriage House in Syracuse!). As a “grown-up,” I get highlights three or four times a year.

Kitty: A few years ago you conducted an experiment for Boston magazine that required you to dye your blonde hair brown, then back to blonde. What was it like to be a brunette all of a sudden? Did you like the experience? How long did it last?

Sascha: I loved it. Alas, I was the only one.

I had my hair dyed very dark brown in November; it lasted through March (albeit somewhat faded). Being brunette was great. Almost immediately, people took me more seriously, especially new acquaintances. I’m aware of all the stereotypes, but it was amazing how much people played to cliché. It was like I had a sudden anonymity—no cat calls on the street, no lewd stares—which, again, was surprising in the fact it seemed so scripted. I wavered between missing the attention and reveling in looking “brainy.” Of course, it was also somewhat annoying as the great majority of blondes I know are smart, intuitive people, and blonde is a hair color choice, not an intellectual status meter.

The biggest (and only) compliments I got were about my skin and eyes. Most people told me both looked much smoother/striking surrounded by brown hair. But just about everyone I talked to said he/she preferred me as a blonde. Period. Now, when I mention going brunette again, I’m met by a host of sighs, eye rolls, and quick dismissals.

Did the color changes affect how you saw or felt about yourself? Or was it mostly an external thing?

Sascha: No. Ok, maybe a little. It’d be hard to measure but I’ll say I might have been slightly less outgoing as a brunette. (Another huge-but-unfortunately-somewhat-true stereotype: Blondes will be forgiven anything.)

Having experience both ends of the color spectrum, what did you like and dislike most about being blonde or brunette?

Sascha: Blonde: I feel/look like myself.

Brunette: It was nice to step outside my physical comfort zone for a while, switch it up. I thought I looked like a totally different person, which was fun while it lasted. The worst part for me was the constant re-dying. Because I have a naturally light base, the brown would fade after my first hair wash. Going to the salon every three weeks proved way to high-maintenance (and expensive) for me. Also, I had to wear double the amount of makeup I typically do to keep from looking washed-out.

Your best friend is about to dye her hair blonde for the very first time. What’s the one thing you think she NEEDS to know about how her life will be different before she reaches for bleach?

Sascha: People will stare. Or, at least, stare more than she’s used to. I won’t guess at the sociology behind it here but, in my experience, there’s something about blonde hair that draws the eye. If you’re not comfortable with attention, don’t go for superblonde hair. My advice would be to take it slowly and make sure your skin tone can handle the change.

Kitty: Who are your picks for best color & corrective color (going brown to blonde again) in Boston? Anyone you’d refer a girl to in a heartbeat?

The best colorist in Boston, in my opinion, is Jeffrey Lyle at Emerge on Newbury. No one does natural blonde like he does. I’m not sure Emerge does color correction, though. When I wanted to strip out all my brown I went to Umi; they did a great job.

Sascha de Gersdorff is Executive Editor of Boston Home and Boston Weddings and editor of New England Travel, as well as travel editor for Boston.

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