The inspirational activist reflects on the #powerofhair

Writer and activist Paris Lees spoke to DIVA about becoming a Pantene ambassador, media representation, and heartbreak hair changes.

DIVA: How do you channel the #powerofhair to express your identity?

Hair is a powerful and transformative tool – it was one of the first tools I had to express my identity. I guess I’d never really thought about it that much growing up, but I always knew I wanted long hair and when I grew it out and started getting it styled, it made such a difference to how people responded to me. I find that so interesting, that this thing that grows out of my head, is actually communicating all this information about me. I can genuinely feel good about the Pantene Power Of Hair campaign, as it’s so inclusive.

In our society, hair is highly politicised. How do you deal with our preconceived notions about hair?

Well I have to say, if I wasn’t trans I think I might be a bit more keen on taking a stand when it comes to things like underarm hair. I really admire women who grow theirs out as it’s become such a taboo, which it’s nuts when you think about it, because why should we be ashamed of the way our bodies naturally are? So, I guess I feel conflicted, because I do shave my legs and get my armpits waxed because I prefer it, while simultaneously thinking that it’s all a bit of a con?

Full disclosure – is there a secret in your beauty routine that you are willing to share?

Everybody’s hair is different, of course, so there’s no one-size rule on how often to wash it, but my hair’s quite dry, so I try not to wash it too often. When I wash it, I make it into a full event and do a full self-care pamper session, giving my hair lots of love using the Pantene Pro-V Repair and Protect shampoo and conditioner to fight any damage from hair dye, as well as the Pantene Rescue Shots hair mask to add that extra shot of moisture to make my hair shiny and healthy.

When was the first time you dyed your hair blonde? Is it true that blondes have more fun?

I actually did go platinum blonde during a cyber punk phase as a teenager, but my friend did it and my hair was like cheese string… I think it pretty much fell out in the end. I guess I always knew I’d go blonde again at some point, and the last time was down to a bad breakup. I’d always avoided changing my hair during a heartbreak before, because it’s such a cliché, but the thing is, it works. It helped give me a new voice and definitely functions as a sort of dividing line in my life, before I went blonde/since I’ve been blonde. And, yes, I’ve had an obscene amount of fun.

How do you think your involvement in the campaign will influence media representation of the transgender community in the UK?

I just never saw trans people being celebrated when I was growing up, so to be included in something positive like the Power Of Hair campaign is so exciting. I grew up feeling excluded, so it’s satisfying and validating to be part of a campaign I genuinely feel good about. Although, it is really important to remember that just because there might be more opportunities for trans people in the public eye in 2019, if you’re growing up LGBTQ+ and poor and bullied – as I did – life is still going to be pretty tough. And we know so many young trans people feel like they want to take their own lives. This is why I believe every school in Britain should have a robust anti-bullying police, because no one should feel unsafe to go to school.

Can’t get enough of Paris? Her book, What It Feels Like For A Girl, is going to be released July 2020 by Penguin.

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