Gray is the New Black - Images by Claudia Paul

Gray is the New Black - Images by Claudia Paul

Growing up I can remember my mother taking time every month to dye her hair. Baby Boomers have been conditioned to think that getting old, and everything to do with it, is the worst thing imaginable. Ergo, my mother's grey hair had to go. I have even helped my father and grandmother dye their hair. Men and women alike want to hold onto their more "youthful" look. But we are now in a time that it is fashionable to break from the norm. Young girls are actually dying their hair gray and people are becoming more comfortable in their own skin. It is sexy to embrace yourself and getting older doesn't have to be a bad thing anymore. You are distinguished, wise, and beautiful!

Jejune magazine was very excited when we spoke to Claudia Paul, a commercial photographer based in New York, who is fascinated by hair. "I find that it tells you so much about a person. Hair can be an accessory, it can be comforting, or call for attention - it can even be a mirror of our souls." Working with a lot of different hair companies in the commercial world got her thinking about what society expects from women and men as they age and start to go gray. While Claudia loves "the artistic vision behind coloring hair," she wishes "that women and men of all ages can feel free to wear their hair naturally - no matter the color, shade or texture."

Therefore, she decided to photograph and connect with a beautiful collection of gray haired women and men to celebrate their comfort with themselves, in their skin and hair. This is about "feeling beautiful at any age".

 



 

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Walda

Gray at: 24
IG: @paha_minne_nahghi_win

What does being gray mean to you?
Comfort in my skin as I am.

How does it make you feel?
Free & fearless

A gray experience:
When my Gray's came in it was like a whole new energy I had to understand. My grays have their own personality kind of wild and wirey going in their own direction compared to my darker hair. But, over time I've had to learn how to care for them and nurture them so they could work w the rest of my hair. A little extra TLC. Overall I'd say trust the process of change as you are and you'll find that people really admire that authenticity because it inspires them to dare to embrace their own hair.

What do you think of the new(ish) trend of younger people dying their hair gray/white?
I thought 'oh perfect timing! I'm the trend now. lol'. Its cool I think young ppl not only like it for trend but somehow they desire something of distinction. I was shopping a few weeks ago and when I walked up to pay, the cashier, about 22 years old said he couldn't wait until his hair turned gray and was envious of his mom because she grayed early. There is something about the silver esp when you fully embrace it naturally, or not.
 

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Andrew

Gray at: 17
IG: @andrewjnemr

What does being gray mean to you? 
I count it as a marker of life fully lived. It makes me mature, substantive. I feel close to my dad, too (he started going gray early as well), and a little like Gandolf.

A gray experience:
I've gone in between really long and really short hair over the course of my life. When I started growing my hair I got to have amazing conversations with women about hair. It was like I was let into a secret club. Right now my hair is the longest it's ever been. It holds something... maybe time, space, feelings, experiences, or just energy... I'm not sure, but whatever it is, it feels right.

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Millie

Gray at: 50

How does being gray make you feel?
It makes me feel great and powerful - I always wanted light hair, now I have it naturally.

A gray experience:
My hair tells you how I feel - if I chop it off, then there is turmoil that needs to be cleaned out. And for me releasing of my hair means, releasing of all, freedom, power, but most of all finding me and where did I lose her- is coming back to myself - It gives me strength, as the hair grows, so do I, always changing and learning. We never stop learning.

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Michael

Gray at: 55

A gray experience:
As usual people make too much of it. I remember when I was 14 spending quite a long time in front of a mirror trying to get the hair right - it provoked comments from relatives. It had to do with how I perceived myself, with identity.

But now that I’m older and have lived through some things I know that true identity is so much more. Hair is just hair."

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Maria Patricia

First Grays : 17
IG: @marianube

What does being gray/white mean to you?
It means that I am open about who I am, about my essence as a strong, healthy, attractive middle-aged woman. I have nothing to hide, I feel no need or desire to alter my appearance, for any reason.

It feels free!

A gray experience:
My hair is a big part of feeling beautiful! So many mature women cut their hair short, but I love having long hair, even more now that it’s so white. And because it’s not only white, the length shows off all the different colors. It makes me feel more sensuous.

There is also a spiritual aspect to allowing my hair to grow.

When I sing, and when I meditate, my hair must be loose, because it becomes a mass of vibrating antennas connecting with an energy greater than just myself.

Also, if I cut it, the person who touches my head must have a very clean state of being, because I feel their presence through their hands and their breathing.

The gray hair that I have now, is a kind of badge of self-love and self-acceptance, and THAT is a truly liberating experience!

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Carlos

Gray at: early 40s

How does being gray/white make you feel? 
I feel absolutely awesome having gray/white hair! There is a sense of being grounded. I feel that the outside is reflecting the growth and maturational processes that have been taking place internally.

A gray experience:
In world with so many cultural, religious and racial conflicts, I find that gray/white hair is a “passport” of sorts that allows me to almost freely engage persons from other cultures and races. When I meet someone with white hair, in just an instant, we acknowledge (glance) one another’s white hair, smile and proceed to talk. White hair softens human anxiety for some reason.  White hair is safe and understanding. For me, white hair unapologetically announces to the world that life can be lived fully as white hair bursts forth in celebration!

Do you feel beautiful?
I feel handsome…I feel that I have paid my dues on this earth and my hair and moustache announces that to the world.

What do you think is the difference for men vs women going gray?
One major difference is that women are discouraged to gray, while men are embraced when they gray.  It took many years of encouragement before my wife stopped dyeing her hair.  She’s as stunningly beautiful as she is vibrant.

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Maria

Gray at: late 30s

How does being gray make you feel?
It makes me feel happy and myself.  I love to feel that I can look good at any age.

How was it going gray young?
I became gray in my late 30s. The culture that we lived in did not approve of my gray hair, people use to say horrible things to me. Someone told me that I look too old to have small children, and my sister told me that I looked older than my husband. My husband always encouraged me to keep my grays, and today he is very happy with my gray tones.

I believe society has learned to accept that I am going to do what I want to do. I have never felt better! My gray hair is simply beautiful.

What do you think of the new(ish) trend of younger people dying their hair gray/white?
I think it is wonderful! Everyone is learning that GRAY is not just elegant it is beautiful.

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Bob

Gray at: 15
IG: @bobk4d

How does being gray make you feel?
I feel different—but I’ve always had a young face with gray hair. I feel unusual; in a good way.

A number of times (more than 10) I have been told that my hair looks fake, and that I’ve done a bad job dying it… funny!

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Jodi

First white: 18
IG: @jshdoff

If you turned gray young, what was your experience with the gray hair at a young age vs today ? 
I have a friend who has been yelling at me to dye my hair since I let it go white/grey completely, saying it makes me look older. Maybe it does, but I don't really care, the softness of the white and pale grey makes my skin luminescent!

A gray experience:
I like hair that makes a statement- whether it’s my hair or someone else’s. It’s the thing I have always like best about my physical appearance. It’s a blank canvas and one of the ways I express my artistic or playful side. The thing about hair is, it’s an easy fix, especially this short. If I don’t like what I’ve done, in two weeks or two months, it’s going to look completely different.

How does being gray make you feel?
I love it. The white is really complementary to my skin tones, making it practically glow. It means I can add subtle color and not have to bleach my hair. Sometimes I add silver glitter, just in the front. No one is really aware they’re seeing it, but it’s a pretty powerful subliminal thing. In the beginning, I was a little annoyed when folks would offer me seats on the subway, and I’d want to say “It’s just the hair, dude. I’m not a little old lady yet!” Now, I just figure, the hell with it, and if I’m tired, I take the seat. Also it got me a 10% senior discount years before I was entitled to it. And senior prices at movies and things.  Yup, I take that too. I happily take full advantage of other folk’s ageism, gender bias, and assumptions.

Have you ever been pressured by anyone (partner, children, friends, family) to cover up the gray in order to appear younger?
Ha! Yes. I have a cousin I meet for lunch regularly – she’s been bugging me to color my hair for years. In her words, “You can look 70 when you are 70.” I heard it every time we met for a long, long time. She almost had me the day the doorman to her office building asked if I was her mother. But, she finally gave up, just about the time I started coloring random parts of my hair blue, or pink, or green. I saw it as a blank canvas, she saw it as a sad badge of old age.

What do you think is the difference for men vs women going gray?
Well, that's the age old trope of men getting dignified as they age and women turning into crones. Grey hair in men still signifies wisdom and experience, while in women we're fighting that image of being dried up. The model Cindy Joseph was an inspiration to me. I'd see her in the J. Crew catalogs and there was nothing crone-like about her, she was simply beautiful and sexy, with long flowing grey and white hair. It was an eye opener. I love that women are claiming it, and having fun with it. Adding fun colorful streaks to the white, or dyeing the underside of grey hair a deep blue.

Do you think going gray has become more or less accepted? 
Grey hair will always signify aging, so it depends on what sector you're talking about. When I was job hunting, I colored my hair, because the white/grey gave the first impression of old, before they even got to know me. In fashion and art, it's more accepted. In business, no, except perhaps for executive, and even then, only for men. Personally, I've always thought that until a man turns 40 and starts to go grey, he's still just a boy, so I look for a touch of silver. And even now, for myself, I miss the rainbow colors I used to play with, but now I only color the back of my head - there's not way I'm taking the white away from my face. 

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Edward

Gray at: 50
IG: @sternfoto

How does being gray make you feel?Getting older in general I feel more respected. People say Sir to me a lot more.

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Carol

Gray at: Doesn't remember 

How does being gray make you feel?
It means I have aged. I feel lucky to be here.

I feel attractive because men flirt with me in the street.

How was it going gray young?
I started turning gray at a normal age. I can't say exactly when it started to happen, but I was always proud of my gray hair. I felt like I earned each and every one of them. I thought if gray hair is associated with aging, my gray hairs are a testament to my ability to survive life's challenges.

What do you think of the new(ish) trend of younger people dying their hair gray/white?
The first time I saw it, I was stunned then tickled. Younger people love to challenge preconceptions/norms. It's became a fashion statement.

Do you think going gray has become more or less accepted?
I think gray hair has become more accepted. The population of older people is growing, so normal is changing. The concept/look of aging is also changing. It's exciting to be a part of it.

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Evan

Gray at: 25
IG: @xrhindcorex

How does being gray make you feel? 
Distinguished perhaps? That’s what I’ve gotten from a lot of people. For a while I tried coloring it because it didn’t like it but I’ve learned to be accepting and one with myself wear it for the color it should be.

Have you ever been pressured by anyone (partner, children, friends, family) to cover up the gray in order to appear younger?
Absolutely not. If anything when I’ve asked whether I should dye my hair or not my friends and family have helped to encourage me against using color products.

What do you think is the difference for men vs women going gray?
I think that it's a lot more accepted in men than it is for women and that women tend to be stigmatized because of it but I think it's really awesome. I have also noticed more women of my generation embracing it.

Do you think going gray has become more or less accepted?
Definitely a lot more accepted. In addition to seeing a lot more people wearing their true color I have personally heard a variety of things from family and friends over the years that definitely have gone from observational comments to supportive compliments.

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Susan

Gray at: 50s? (Not sure, since she had been dying her hair since she was 19)
IG: @susanslatin

What does being gray/white mean to you? 
I love my silver hair. It means freedom, acceptance and appreciation. It means I’m embracing who I am with pride.

A gray experience:
Not only did I color my hair, but I had it straightened. As I let the silver come in I now have curls which I love. Almost every day friends and strangers on the street compliment me on my hair. Also, as an actress I am booking more roles."

What do you think is the difference for men vs women going gray?
I think times are changing. A decade ago women with gray hair were old while men were distinguished. Not so much anymore. 

Do you think going gray has become more or less accepted? 
In my experience it has been very accepted. I feel beautiful. 

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Rodrigo

Gray at: 40s
IG: @salomonartsgallery

What does being gray/white mean to you? 
It means a great deal to me because I think my hair is like a gray cloud in my head moving with the wind and I feel good.

A gray experience:
The gray scale goes to black and gray is a lovely neutral color that goes with everything and it is very subtle. Don’t erase my Winkles or gray hair because it took me a long time earn it.

I always like gray hair, I think it will be an interesting experience because people would assume that you are an older person with experience and younger people would treat you differently. I always get complements from strangers in the street about how much they like my hair."

What do you think is the difference for men vs women going gray?
It depends how you wear your hair both men and women can be very attractive, When I was younger I liked very much women with gray hair, particularly when they have a streak of gray hair I found them quite interesting.

What do you think of the new(ish) trend of younger people dying their hair gray/white?
I think is flattering, is really cool looking.

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Mary

Gray at: 50
IG: @mary.lahti

Do you feel beautiful?
I have a great appreciation for natural outside beauty but I no longer wish or compare myself like I used to do when I was younger.  And there really is something to be said about how beautiful people are when they are beautiful from the inside.

What does being gray/white mean to you? 
Gray hair always meant old, like a grandmother, matching the stereotyped potential lack of physical capabilities and appearance that went with gray hair.  I figured it wouldn't happen until my 60s and when that were to happen, that would be okay.  I would just be following the natural pattern of life.  When I was younger, I swore I would never dye my hair.  I was in the lady's room at work once, and a colleague was complaining about her hair turning gray and said she was going to dye it.  I asked her why, and she said gray hair is ugly and nobody should let their hair go gray before it's "time."  I told her I was not going to dye my hair and let it go natural and she said, "Oh you just wait, you'll be dying it.  You'll see."  I was always rather insecure and used my hair as my protector.  I hid behind my hair.  I figured as long as I actually had hair, I was okay with gray.  But, when I did start to show gray hair before 60, I was slightly bummed.  I got over it pretty quick.  But losing hair?  A whole different story.  I greatly identified myself by my hair and seeing some hair loss - that bothered me more than the hair turning gray.

Once I turned 60, I decided to let my hair go natural and stop dying it.  It was freeing.  Not only a money saver and nice to not put chemicals on my head, but just to let the hair breath and blossom into its natural beauty.  I saw how gray and white hair could be beautiful.  Dirty and stringy gray hair - maybe not so much.  I was happy to see that it was more on the white side than gray.  Even if my hair did turn out dirty dishwater gray, I would accept it. 

Gray hair means a different part and phase of my life.  It does help me to reflect on my life's experiences, challenges and achievements. And I feel I've earned every one of those gray hairs.  HA! 

Did you ever dye your hair to cover up the gray?
Yes, but not because I didn't like it.  It was turning a dirty dishwater gray which was so dull looking compared to my natural blonde.  I was already self conscious about my looks in general so having an ashtray hair main around my face didn't please me but I tried to accept it.  I really didn't want to dye the hair.  Then a couple of casting people suggested I would get more acting work for my age range if I dyed my hair.  So, I gave in and tried to find a dye that made my hair look as natural as possible.  And yes, it did make me look more my age range.

A gray experience:
I feel more free!  Sure, I don't like losing hair and the texture feels different with gray/white hair.  But I feel whole to be able to accept this as me and not worry about what people think.  And if there is a potential acting role for me that requires a different color and it's a great role?  Okay, then I may dye it or wear a wig for that specific event.  But I am happy to just be my natural self from day to day.

Now that I have let my hair go natural and it is more on the white side, I was on a film set once and got moved to a different area on the set because my hair was reflecting too much under the light.  Probably upstaging the actor.  What can I say - once you have a halo..."

What do you think is the difference for men vs women going gray?
I really feel there is a BIG difference for men vs women. There is a greater acceptance for men as well as a status difference. It seems to be "okay" for men to look older but not as much for women. That goes for jobs, modeling and relationships. I'm sure that has something to do with a history of women being told they must look young and beautiful. Gray does not equal young.

Do you think going gray has become more or less accepted?
Currently, I do believe going gray has become more accepted. I'm glad because it happened around the time I decide to let my hair go natural. I did it to stop using dyes and also, my hair became more white than gray so it looks better with my skin tone. But it is more freeing to just be me. I'm hope others are feeling that freedom and acceptance.


To learn more about Claudia Paul please check out her website:
www.claudiapaul.com
and follow her here:
Facebook: @claudiapaulphotography
Twitter: @claudiacpaul
Instagram: @claudiacpaul


Article by Kira Bucca, Editor in Chief of Jejune Magazine 

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