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Legally Blonde Ten Years Later

Legally Blonde Ten Years Later

Yes, time flies.  It was July of 2001 that the wildly successful Legally Blonde was released to the delight of blondes and blonde lovers worldwide.

While the film definitely helped mold the successful careers of  famous blondes, Reese Witherspoon, Ali Later and Jennifer Coolidge, it also helped to immortalize blonde stereotypes.

New York Versus California Blondes

Famed hair colorist Joy Zapata was the department head on the film and tasked with design, creating and maintaining the luscious blonde locks for the modern Marilyn Monroes.

Helping her keep track of the blonde nuances was colorist Nancy Braun and Dawn Ellinwood to help out.

Afterall, it was a big job to keep all those blondes looking picture perfect without roots or fading color during the extended shooting schedule.

One challenge the hair colorists faced was creating an obvious differentiation between Ali's sophisticated New York blonde and Reese Witherspoon's California beachy blonde.

Traditionally platinum blonde hair signals sexy while honey blonde is more hometown.

Since the hair colorists were part of the storytelling process, using hair color to round out characters, they had to get the blonde hues just right in to make the character's intentions and desires obvious onscreen.

Creating A New York Blonde Hue

To create the perfect New York blonde the team of colorists used balayage on Ali for golden honey-blonde highlights.  They sprinkled in a few baby-blonde pieces around Ali's face for focal points.

Then they finished with a light golden blonde glaze.   Ali's blonde was very East Coast and perfect for anywhere on Manhattan from the Upper East Side to Downtown.

Reese Witherspoon's Sunset Strip Blonde

Meanwhile, Reese's Sunset Strip block locks were created at the famous Art Luna salon in Santa Monica.  The Art Luna salon has created an array of famous California blondes.  The focus on Reese was to go with a California beach girl who landed in the Ivy League.

Although the film's colorists definitely had to create a unique blend of blonde for Ali and Reese, Jennifer Coolidge's brash manicurist was the hardest of all the blondes to create.  Why was it hard?

Why Jennifer Coolidge's Bad Blonde Was Hard To Create

Because Jennifer Coolidge represented an unsophisticated character with very bad blonde hair ranging from obvious dark roots, orange infused highlights and an array of unintentional spots.

Jennifer's blonde was hard for the film's hair colorists because they had to work at creating bad blonde color, which was alien to their normal color practices of creating gorgeous hues.

Coloring By The Numbers

Before filming even got underway on the famous movie, Joy spent a lot of time meeting with the film's director, production designer, costumer and head designer.  They discussed the key factors involved in selecting the various blonde tones and shades and how the hair color would work with the set's colors, lighting design and wardrobe for each character.

As head hair colorist Joy was tasked with reading the Legally Blonde script before designing the hair color hues for all the main characters.  It was her responsibility to clearly understand each character's personality in order to match their shades of blonde (or other hair color) with the role they played in the film.

Joy also had to take the interaction of all the characters into consideration with regard to their individual hair hues.  The characters were clearly defined by the color of their hair.

While she designed the beautiful blonde hues for Reese, Ali and Jennifer, she also created the hues of blonde Jessica Cauffiel, brunette Selma Blair and redhead Raquel Welch.

Maintaining Blonde Continuity

The Legally Blonde film was shot over a three-month period which posed some unique challenges for the hair colorists.  The hair color and styles had to look the same day to day throughout the entire length of the film, including any re-shoots.  This requirement to keep hair color, length and style consistent is called continuity.  As you can imagine, it can be difficult to maintain.

Keeping continuity is challenging because of hot light onset which can oxidize hair color.  Hot blow dryers, constant shampoo sessions and the use of hot styling tools (hot rollers, irons) can also fade the actor's tresses.

Besides the abuse from the hot set lights and styling tools there is also the issue of natural hair growth.  Natural root regrowth is also an issue.

Being able to perfectly match all the individual actor's starting hair color and keep it constant was tricky.  The hair colorists created a special file for each individual actor with an array of photos showcasing the hair color and hair style which needed to remain constant throughout the film.  The colorists also kept detailed notes on the color formulas utilized or modified throughout the film as well as strands of hair for comparison.

At least once a week the hairstylists had to work on the actors to update their hair color and hairstyles to keep them fresh and consistent.  In essence the hair colorists were constantly working on the actors.  Their work was never done until the film was completely finished shooting.

Joy Zapata and her hair color team did an amazing job creating stellar blonde hair hue and styles for all the modern Marilyns in Legally Blonde.  Also, the hair color team set a new gold standard for creating stellar hair color on films for the future.

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