I can't really remember a time when I ever thought that gray hair looked bad or was something to be avoided or hidden. My own mother faithfully covered her own gray during my formative years and I remember her being very unhappy about her gray, saying that it was the result of her kids stressing her out, or her husband stressing her out. She thought it made her look old. I watched over the years as hair dye became a necessity on our shopping list-As much of a "must have" as deoderant or dish soap. But I didn't yet understand what the big deal was.
Fast-forward to 2007 and I'm a twenty-three-year old who opens her monthly subscription of Oprah's Magazine to see an incredible spread on gray hair. O Magazine had taken an array of gorgeous silver-haired women and polished them up just a bit with new hairstyles. I was in love! I thought, "Why don't women just embrace this?! It looks incredible. I can't wait to be gray." I shared the article and my feelings with my mother, who assured me that I wouldn't feel the same way when I was older.
Well, eventually, she came to feel the same way as well, and at fifty-years-old, less than a year before she passed away, she fully embraced a gorgeous silver crop. I thought she never looked more stunning. It complimented her skin, made her hazel eyes pop-She looked YOUNGER to me than she did with the hair dye. More vibrant. More HER.
As the years went on, I dyed my hair a bevy of fun colors; from blond and burgundy to rainbow and blue. But then, in my early thirties, I found myself far in-between dye jobs as I hadn't yet found a colorist in my new home of Los Angeles, and I noticed I had quite a bit of silver crowning the top. I decided that I would stop dyeing my hair so that over time it could all just take it's course and come in naturally. But I still had no idea that embracing gray hair was swiftly becoming a movement!
It was in a Los Angeles Facebook group that I stumbled upon the woman who would introduce me to the "silver sisterhood." Mandy May Cheetham was creating a podcast called "Going Gray In Tinseltown" and she was looking for women to interview. As a creative talent in Los Angeles who had decided to ditch the dye, she was grappling with all the things that come along with that-especially in the entertainment industry.
I reached out to her simply because I wanted to be kept in the loop once the podcast was launched. I thought the idea was so cool! But she invited me to be interviewed instead. A few weeks later I found myself in her beautiful Downtown Los Angeles flat, enjoying a cup of hot tea and talking about women and aging. She was the one who told me about this growing online and local community of women who were sick and tired of the aging standard and had chosen to band together in support and celebration of silver hair. Amongst this movement was the incredible Silver Sister's International.
(IMAGE BY NICOLE BARTON PHOTOGRAPHY FOR SILVER SISTERS INTERNATIONAL)
Over the next year, I would come to design the logo, branding, merchandise and website for Silver Sisters International, as well as shooting all their promotional images and videos over several shoot days. Being in rooms with stunning silver women, bonding, networking, laughing-This WAS the matriarchy. THIS was what women have to look forward to. It SHOULD be celebrated.
The more I participated in the silver movement, and the more women I met, the more I began to understand just why the silver hair thing was such a big deal. As women, it seems like there's almost never a time in our lives when we are not being pressured to be SOMETHING other than what we already are. When we are very young we are sold the idea of looking older, looking sexy, being "beautiful." The older we get, the more we are pressured to be thin or to have big boobs, or whatever. Still the older we get, the more we are pressured to be thin, look young, fill those wrinkles, cover those grays. Let the media and advertising and entertainment tell it, and we are never, ever good enough just as we are. When we are teens and in our twenties, we still have icons to look up to and style to aspire to-but only until our thirties because after that, it seems that the "trend-setters" and the cover features and the lead characters are no longer US.
Well, I wasn't okay with that. I've intentionally curated my library and my social media and my social circles and my entertainment to be inclusive-of all sizes and ethnicities and abilities and I feel like being pro-aging is part of that. And so, Crowned In Silver was conceptualized.
I knew I wanted to create some fine-art images that featured silver-haired women adorned in silver crowns; They would both be crowned in their own silver hair as well as literally crowned. Originally, I imagined photographing these women and then displaying the images in a gallery event at my studio. But once the global pandemic hit, and everything shut down, I knew I had to shift my vision. Interestingly enough, this very pandemic put many women in a position of being unable to cover their gray anymore, as many salons closed their doors. Now even more women were going gray, and trying to cope with all that this means. I saw an opportunity to produce something that could be delivered into their homes-A way to highlight the beauty of silver hair, share the stories of incredible women, comfort and inspire those who are newly gray, and bring more attention to this movement. I decided to put out the model call for a magazine.
Over the course of several shoot days, women flew in from Seattle, Phoenix, Houston, and Orlando. They drove from all over as well and we spent our time getting glammed up and being given the royal treatment. I wanted to showcase women of every shape, age, hair texture, and lots of personal styles. These women came to slay! The experience was incredible. Professional hair and makeup from top Hollywood artists, treats and refreshments, styling, music.
So, a magazine was born. Stories were shared, connections were made, artists were highlighted and hopefully, lives were changed. I know that mine was. I am looking forward to the next lineup of silver queens ready to show off their crown in the upcoming issue.
To read a FREE digital copy of Crowned in Silver, click HERE.
To purchase a print copy, click HERE.