Me as 14. Umeå, Sweden, 1993.

I was born with raven black hair as my father.  When the baby hair fell off, it was replaced with the golden hair of my mother. I got to keep the black eyebrows and eye lashes, something I learned is desirable amongst other blondes. As a child I was, if anything, the goofy kid with thick glasses that inherited my brother’s old clothes and liked to make awful funny faces.  It was first at the age of 14, when I got contact lenses and my scoliosis doctor finally announced that I would be let of my thick, plastic corset with the: Now you only have to get rid of those braces, and you can become a mannequin!, that I realized that my long blonde hair actually might be a resource. In secret I started to nurture dreams of becoming one of those beautiful blonde women on the covers of magazines. It didn’t last long though. In leftist city Umeå during the 1990’s, teens would rather fancy black or henna died alternative ideals from grunge or the vegan movement and becoming a feminist was a common choice for most of my girlfriends.  The cover girl blonde became the image of the non-enlightened, oppressed woman. Therefore my hair started to bother me – I didn’t want to be perceived as shallow. I cut it into a bob, which seemed more sophisticated to me, but it was not enough. When I moved to France to study at the age of 18, I came across the foreign image of the Scandinavian blonde. Every other day, boys would yell the only words they learned in Swedish: Sug min kuk! (Suck my cock) and we had to handle plump attacks from all kinds of men. Soon we started to buy covering caps and discussing which shade of brunette that would fit us the best. At 19, when I got to practice as a photographer at a newspaper in Umeå and after being fed with stories of a former, very feminine photographer trainee (Her skirt was THIS short! She took “artistic” pictures of soccer, hahahah!), I finally colored my hair dark brown. As if some punishment for my vanity, the bottle only covered half of the hair, leaving me with one side blonde and the other side brunette. It still gives me a good laugh whenever I think about it.

My younger self’s complicated relation to blonde hair might seem trivial, but it’s an example that shows how the image of the blonde is anything but neutral. It has been surrounded with different kinds of conceptions and prejudices through history. During my trip, I want to meet some of the women behind these myths.

– Elin Berge