Former One Tree Hill star Hilarie Burton has her second book, Grimoire Girl: Creating an Inheritance of Magic and Mischief, dropping this fall, and is about to go into production on the third season of the History Channel series, It Couldn’t Happen Here. She is also 41 years old and has gray hair, which she wears proudly. Smart and forward-thinking, maybe, but she still
doesn’t know what the big deal is. Here, a very personal essay on the choice:
It was the summer after seventh grade when I first had my hair colored. There were cruel girls at school. That was the catalyst. I wanted to be cool, and highlights were most definitely cool. I had gotten contacts the summer before, and that hadn’t been enough to change their mind about me. But highlights would certainly do the trick, right?
I was 15 when I dyed my hair red. Sophomore year, and I’d signed with an agent in New York. They’d told me it made me look average. I’d never book a job looking like that.
Go back to blonde. You were special as a blonde.
I was 21 when I went into the fanciest salon I’d ever seen after wrapping the first season of One Tree Hill. I was just meant to get my roots touched up. The stylist told me I didn’t look like a star. But he could make me look like a star. He bleached my hair until it fell out in great chunks, resulting in my infamous mullet of 2004.
I was 26 in the last season of that show when I started tinting my hair red again.
My boss had a blonde fantasy, and I hated him. The feeling of saying no was exhilarating.
Pregnant with my first child, I dyed it dark brown. Practically black.
In the mirror I was a stranger to myself. That’s what I wanted, to disappear. Dark hair always felt like a Halloween costume.
I’d seen my husband [actor Jeffrey Dean Morgan] slip into Silver-Fox territory with nothing but glowing adoration from fans and media alike. His silver made him better in their eyes. His age was an asset that made him respectable.
I wanted that.
So, I let it go. All of it. The idea of trying to hold onto a youthful version of myself didn’t make any sense. I wasn’t respected in my youth. It wasn’t some golden era of my life. It was trial and error…and more error. It was experimentation.
As my silver grew in, I liked how I looked—perhaps for the first time. I liked what it did to my eyes and skin tone. I liked other women reaching out, pleased to have someone to virtually hold hands with as they shed their own dye. I liked that I was free.
And so, I don’t begrudge anyone hanging on to their version of beauty, even if it’s fabricated youth. But my version of beauty is the power of this next phase, what comes after youth.