Billie Eilish’s dramatic hair transformation this summer went much deeper than the follicle level, the pop star revealed.
Eilish, who debuted as a silvery-haired teen with the commercial release of her SoundCloud hit “Ocean Eyes” in 2016, became known over the past few years for her signature black hair with lime green roots. In May, Eilish unveiled a bold, new look in a cover shoot for British Vogue, which included platinum blonde hair.
In an October cover story with Elle magazine published Thursday, Eilish said the drastic change was partly inspired by the unrelenting attention her chartreuse locks would attract, particularly from paparazzi.
“I couldn’t go anywhere with that hair because it was so obviously me,” Eilish spoke to the outlet. “I wanted anonymity.”
Eilish said that with the dyeing of her hair, “she suddenly felt free, like she was reintroduced to the world.”
“I went to a park with a friend, and I was like, ‘No, I can’t take off my hood!’ ” Eilish told Elle. “But my friend was like, ‘Don’t worry: You’re okay. Nothing’s gonna happen.’ And I took my hood off, and I felt like a new person.”
The 19-year-old record-breaking Grammy winner also said the hair change was an aesthetic choice, one meant to accompany the rollout of her sophomore album “Happier Than Ever,” which was released in late July and peaked at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 in August.
“I had no goal of ‘This is going to make everybody think differently of me,’ ” Eilish told Elle. “I’ve had different-colored hair and vibes for everything I’ve ever done. I wanted this album to have its own thing.”
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Meghan Gillen, an associate professor of psychology at Penn State Abington, who studies developmental psychology and body image, said this change in appearance is typical of the “identity shift” found in someone Eilish’s age.
“Good for her for changing (her appearance) — she should be able to do what she wants with it,” Gillen told USA TODAY.
Eilish told Elle that some of her fans opposed her shift in style, taking to social media to express their discontent.
“The other day, I posted a video from when I had green hair, and I saw people go, ‘I miss this Billie, the green-haired Billie,’ ” Eilish said. “I’m still the same person. I’m not just different Barbies with different heads.”
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StyleCaster fashion and lifestyle editor Bella Gerard said this kind of resistance reflects a double standard faced by women in the pop music industry.
“Many feel that multiple different aesthetic eras cannot all be genuine to one person’s true self, so they assume female pop stars are changing purely to fit the times and not as a means of self-expression,” Gerard told USA TODAY. “Some people might go as far as arguing that staying the same over time is a sign of a male star’s commitment to identity.”
Eilish kicks off her Happier Than Ever world tour Thursday at the Firefly Music Festival in Delaware.
Contributing: Hannah Yasharoff, USA TODAY