When Blake Lively decided to ditch her "Gossip Girl" blonde for her role in the new movie "Hick," she immediately consulted with hair colorist Rona O'Connor of the Lukaro salon in Beverly Hills, who has been maintaining Blake's blonde mane since she was a teenager.
In an exclusive interview with Beautylish's Ning, Rona reveals Blake's inspiration for the shade and gives tips on how to find the right red hue for you.
Q: Blake debuted her new red hair at the Time 100 awards last night in New York City. Was it hard to keep her color change a secret?
I did the color three weeks ago and we kept it under wraps before last night's big reveal. Then I met her in New York City yesterday to touch up the color. Blake didn't have to wear a wig or anything to hide the color. It was funny because with her red hair, people didn't know it was Blake. She was complimented by people who didn't even recognize her. She's been having a lot of fun with it.
Q: Isn't it risky to go from blonde to red? Was Blake worried about damaging her hair?
I think with most actresses, if they have hair that they want to keep in great condition and they have to do an extreme color change for a part, I always recommend a wig. I would never want to take someone from a light blonde to black because lifting the black back out is very damaging. It would definitely compromise the health of the hair and make it break off. With Blake, we decided to keep the red light enough so that it will fade easily—because we're going back to blonde when she starts filming "Gossip Girl."
Q: Red seems like a difficult color to pull off. What did you do to make sure it didn't clash with Blake's golden complexion?
If you have cool skin, you need a ruby hair color. With warm skin, you need warm-toned hair. Blake is golden, but she also has cool blue eyes, so we mixed cool and warm tones. We didn't want the red to be too yellow. It has three main shades running through it—a golden strawberry, an apricot, and a ruby copper orange. There are also pops of orange copper. I like my reds to sparkle so I always add in some foils with them. I like to layer lots of colors instead of just pulling one color through the whole head. I kept it very dimensional so it looks more natural and will fade easily.
Q: How long did the transformation take?
We did it in two rounds in Los Angeles, just before she started shooting the movie. It took about 10 hours total. It was really cute because Blake was so excited because the color looked so beautiful and amazing on her. I prepped her hair first by clarifying it and putting on a conditioning pre-treatment, then I did eight or ten test strands. First I put a red wash over everything and then I started to layer in the reds. I didn't put in a dark base and then lighten because that wouldn't fade as easily. Instead I put in a base that's ligher than the red color. I finished with a toner over the blonder, strawberry pieces. The final color has at least six shades going through it. Lighter and brighter pops of red on top to give it a sparkle and darker shades on the bottom for depth and anchoring. If you saw the bright red color on its own, it's really bright. But blended in with the rest of the hair, it contributes to revving up the color to create a brighter overall look than the color actually is. And the dimension makes the color look more realistic.
Q: What inspired the fiery crimson hair color?
Blake brought her niece and nephew in—they were our live hair swatches. They're redheads, so we looked at their hair color. Little kids with red hair have golds, coppers, oranges, and apricot tones in their hair. They were so cute and yummy. Blake and I always name the shades we do for her hair—her "Gossip Girl" look is "New York Blonde"—this one is called Fire Opal because she brought in a fire opal to show me a few months back. She loved the stone and it has all these colors in it.
Q: Any advice for someone who's thinking of going red at home?
Do some test strands first. To pick the right shade, take swatches and hold them up to your forehead and see what they do to your skin and eyes. Hold it as if it's a bang and fan it across the forehead. You'll see immediately if the color suits you or not. Blake's shade would be a level eight red-orange type tone, which is really popular these days—look at "Mad Men." People are really drawn to this type of orange or ruby red right now. Red is a statement color, but it's more acceptable these days. People aren't as afraid to try red now. Before, you had to have the personality and confidence to support the red. You had to be funny, like Lucille Ball. That's why I made Debra Messing red for "Will and Grace." Red's never sad. But now it can look glamorous instead of punk or clown-ish.