I didn’t watch any of the Olympics because I would rather be doing literally anything else. Plus, with social media, I didn’t have to. I knew what was going on down to the second, whether I wanted to or not.
One headline that I couldn’t escape was about Ryan Lochte’s new platinum blond hair. Normally, I’d be down for an athlete making a huge beauty change at a time when there are so many eyes on them. Enjoy your moment! Beauty is fun; that’s what it’s there for. (Jimmy Fallon literally dyed his hair to make a Lochte joke at the MTV Video Music Awards on Sunday, so if that's not in the spirit of fun, I don't know what is.)
I had to roll my eyes, though, for a few reasons. For one, it’s no secret that Lochte likes a little extra attention. Remember his E! reality show What Would Ryan Lochte Do? It’s OK, neither does anyone else. I can’t fault the guy for wanting to be famous. If the Kardashians can finally make themselves into America’s sweethearts, then anyone has a chance.
The thing that got me was, is a guy who spends all of his time in a chlorinated pool really going to try his hand at silver hair? It doesn’t exactly take a beauty expert to know that there is only one possible outcome: green.
And as fast as we all could get our “Ryan Lochte debuts new silver hair” headlines up, the hair had turned green.
A pretty lovely shade of mint green, I might add. In all fairness.
From the little I know about Lochte — the reality show, his grills, his drinking — he seems like a guy who likes to party, though not exactly a guy I’d like to party with. Still, silver hair, green hair, whatever, I can’t fault the guy for changing up his look, especially during the Games, no doubt one of the most exciting and stressful times of his life.
Maybe he was antsy and anxious and needed a physical change before the Games. I’ve been there (I mean, not before competing in the Olympics, but you get what I’m saying). Maybe he just wanted an hour to relax in a salon before flying to Rio. Been there too. Or maybe, god forbid, the man just wanted to change his look.
What exactly happened? I'm still not exactly clear on it (will we ever be?). Lochte said that he and his friends were in a car that got stopped and held up by armed robbers that held a gun to his head, when, apparently, they got drunk and vandalized a gas station bathroom. It didn’t take long for the authorities to figure out he was lying and call him out.
The Ryan Lochte Apology Tour
In an interview with Matt Lauer (who could still get it, by the way), he explained how he “over-exaggerated the story” and let down his team, etc., etc.
I was bartending and we had it playing in the background, on mute, but it was clear what was going on. It had all the markings of a good press stunt. The journalist America loves, the living room setup, the dressy-casual attire, the...brown hair?
I have rarely rolled my eyes harder. It felt so transparent. An athlete in the public eye at the top of his game felt like he could do whatever he wanted with his hair and get away with it, because he was going to the world’s biggest game and everyone loved him. He could get away with having green hair, as if having green hair is something you need to "get away" with.
But then, he behaved like a idiot and had to say he was sorry, which lead to him dyeing his hair back to his natural color to show he was remorseful and make people believe him. Because no one will take you seriously if you dye your hair, right?
Personally, I think changing his hair made him look even worse. It’s not like we don’t remember that days earlier, he was walking around looking like a Shamrock Shake (been...there). It shows how easily he thinks he can trick us into forgiving him: Just dye your hair back to brown and no one will remember it ever happened.
I know I talk a lot about beauty and hair color and identity because they all have something to do with one another. On the other hand, I know it’s not always that deep. People always ask me why I change my hair color all the time, what I’m trying to “say,” and it’s like, dude, I just like lavender hair more than brown hair right now, calm down.
That being said, it’s not like I’m ignorant to the fact that changing my hair color is going to change the way people perceive me. I try not to let it affect the way I act, and nine times out of 10, it doesn’t, but that still doesn’t change the fact that I’m hyperaware of it, all the time. Times when I’m meeting a friend’s family or going in for a job interview or trying to talk/cry my way out of a speeding ticket. The hair is always going to skew how people see me, so sometimes I have to pull things back in my favor.
Every day, I see more and more people with bold hair colors, and it's exciting because I would love to think that changing your hair color is beginning to be less taboo. But then motherfuckers like Ryan Lochte have to go and ruin it for all of us.
The green hair didn’t make him an asshole. The green hair didn’t cause him to drink too much and act a fool. I know this firsthand, as I’ve drunk too much on countless occasions, and not once has it ever been the fault of my hair color, nor have I ever dyed my hair back to its natural color when I had to do a few apology tours of my own.
Does that make sense? I love seeing more and more awesome hair colors on people in the public eye who normally wouldn't sport them, but when they're held accountable for something and change their look back to being as normal as possible, it's a reminder that there's still a stigma in expressing yourself the way you want to, even if it's something as inconsequential as changing your hair color.