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FAIR PLAY: BLONDES ON BLONDES; SIX VERY DIFFERENT WOMEN PUT THE STEREOTYPE TO THE TEST.

Byline: CHRIS MORRIS

SCANDINAVIAN BLONDE

Johanna Ostman, 23, from Sweden, is an assistant manager at Harvey Nichols department store in London. She lives with her boyfriend Marcus, 25, a trainee financial analyst.

`Iwas 19 when I moved to England to study for a degree in economics. I did know about the image blondes have over here because it happens in Sweden too. There are lots of blonde jokes there as well. People make jokes about everything and blonde is just another subject matter. If it makes them happy, so what? It doesn't bother me and I don't take it personally.

`It's a myth that all Swedes are blonde. I'd say about half are and some of them highlight a little, as do I, but it doesn't suit everyone. My mother and sister are blonde but my dad has brown hair.

`In Britain some people ask if I dye my hair because I have brown eyes, which is unusual. But in Spain or Italy, where people are darker, I get more comments about how much people like it which makes me feel good. Being blonde there is very exotic, you get looks from both men and women. I suppose I do like the attention it can bring. But then very dark people, like Italian men, get attention in Sweden.

`I have to be quite organised for my job and am in charge of a team of 15 people. I don't think my looks were important in getting the job, and I don't think I face any prejudice because I'm blonde. Maybe being Swedish, people don't think about it so much because they expect it. There might be dizzy blondes but there are probably just as many dizzy brunettes out there. I like to think of myself as energetic, happy and ambitious. Being blonde is no different to being tall, short, fat or thin.'

TV BLONDE

Lara Lewington, 23, is Channel 5's weather girl. She is single.

`My earliest memory of being blonde is being with my mum and grandma at Chichester Festival Theatre. Omar Sharif was starring in a play there and Mum asked if he'd meet me because I was named after Lara in Dr Zhivago. I remember him playing with my hair and saying, "Oh, you have lovely blonde hair like Lara, too." I was white-blonde then. I was only five, but from that moment on, I knew I always wanted to be blonde.

`I'm a dark blonde naturally but I have highlights. I used lemon juice when I was younger and used to go out in the sun to lighten it, but resorted to colouring because I wanted to be a proper blonde. I'd be scared about being any other colour because being blonde suits my personality. I feel blonde - typically bubbly and outgoing.

`I always get asked if I'm the next Ulrika. There are a lot of blonde TV presenters and perhaps being blonde is part of the package producers go for. But having said that, there are also several brunette weather girls.

`I've worked in all areas of TV. I've acted alongside Paul Whitehouse in Happiness, been a showbusiness reporter on Liquid News, and interviewed celebs like Jerry Springer and Jonathan Ross. I also have a degree so I'm no dumb blonde. People do stereotype you though.

`I often find I have to explain myself quite a lot. The other day at work, a colleague came into the newsroom and said he'd just got back from Iraq. I asked, "What were you doing there?" I meant was he a reporter or cameraman or something.

But everyone burst out laughing like I didn't even know there was a war on! I usually just laugh it off. Sometimes I even play on it if I've said something silly. "Sorry! Just being blonde!" I'll say.'

BUSTY BLONDE

Hayley Finch, 23, is a glamour model and presenter on Playboy TV. She's currently single.

`I've been blonde since I was old enough to buy a bottle of bleach. I liked Sharon Stone and Michelle Pfeiffer's look then, but now I think Pammie Anderson is the girl. I had long, mousey-brown hair and first bleached it when I was 14. I immediately felt more confident and loved the attention it attracted, especially from men. I've always loved being the centre of attention. Even now I'll go to a club, dressed really tartily, in the tightest top and shortest skirt. I love causing a stir and everyone looking. I've always had large breasts but had a boob job just over a year ago and now I'm 34F, 24, 34.

`I do make a living out of my image but I also think it's me. Blonde, buxom, outrageously dressed, princessy, cutesy. My nickname on Playboy TV is "Glamour puss", and I'm always dressed in pink and sparkling diamante, as glamorous as glamour gets. I play along to the stereotype of being the dumb blonde. I've got seven GCSEs and two A levels but it works to my advantage that people think I'm the ditzy blonde glamour model. I get what I want. I only have to phone a club and tell them I'm coming and they let me and my friends in free. Then I get bought champagne all night.

`People also assume blondes are shallow. I probably am in that how I look is a primary concern. But I make over pounds 60,000 a year looking like this and have bought my own house and a convertible. I originally got into modelling because I wanted to pay my way through college. I qualified as a teacher but the modelling took off, so I chose that instead. I must earn three times what I would as a teacher.

`I reckon if you did a survey, blonde and busty is what most men would say they like. I don't know why that is but they do. I have trouble meeting men though. The type I attract are generally idiots. They just want one thing - sex. I'm still waiting for the man who can see through the image; see Hayley, a nice, fun person and not just Hayley the Page Three girl.

`I might tone it down when I'm older. I've already stopped bleaching my hair because it started breaking off. Now I just have my roots done every three weeks. But I wouldn't change my hair colour for the world. Not being blonde would disable me, I wouldn't feel confident. I look at girls who have the same image as me and think, "She's nice!"'

BRAINY BLONDE

Julie Unite, 27, is a consultant psychologist with the private London practice, Career Psychology. She lives with her boyfriend, David, 35, who's a neurosurgeon.

`As a career psychologist, I meet clients on a day-to-day basis. It's a job I've been doing for over three years after completing a science degree and then an honours degree in psychology. At the moment I'm studying for my masters.

`Despite my qualifications and experience I still get some clients - particularly the parents of teenagers who, when they first clap eyes on me, wonder if I can do my job. It's a kind of wary look rather than direct comments. `It's a case of "You're young and blonde, what do you know?" So I meet them head on by being completely professional. I wear sensible clothes and sometimes tie my hair back to be taken seriously. Some male clients will flirt with me but I'm careful not to respond and play up to their idea of what they think I'm like.

`I was brought up in Australia and over there blondes come in for even more stick. Australians are more blunt than the British so there are lots of blonde jokes. I've always been a natural blonde but I do have highlights. Some people seem so surprised if I tell them about my job or qualifications. When I got my job, even my own mother joked, "Was it a man that hired you?"

`In my professional life, I do perhaps have to work that bit harder to be respected. In my personal life, like most blondes, I do play on it from time to time though. The other day my friend and I were moving house. She's also blonde and we knocked on a neighbour's door to ask for help moving furniture upstairs. We were two helpless blondes, fluttering our eyelashes. The guy helped us straight away. How could he refuse!'

FUNKY BLONDE

Tolula Adeyemi, 19, a model and singer, is currently single.

`Iwent blonde two years ago. I was working at Vidal Sassoon at the time as a hair assistant. I was bored one day and someone suggested cutting all my shoulder-length hair off and dyeing it blonde. The salon was quite avant-garde. I knew it was a bold thing to do but I thought: "Why not?" It was a really tight crop and when I saw myself for the first time, I thought: "Oh my God!" It was so drastic, especially the colour. My mum and dad were speechless and said I looked like a boy. I'd catch sight of myself in shop windows and it didn't look like me. `Over the next few days though, I got used to it and it was great. The only other blonde black girl was a rapper called Eve and I used to get mistaken for her. I started to secretly enjoy the attention. I've always been one for being noticed. People would stop me in the street and say: "Wow. Look at your hair. It's great!"

`I'm champagne blonde at the moment but I have been different shades: platinum, strawberry, and a browny-blonde. This is the colour I prefer. It's more striking. I've always liked edgy fashion. I like to wear things like hot pants and crocheted tops and the hair goes with that. It's helped with my work as a fashion model too, because I have a certain look. There aren't many black girls with blonde hair and it helps me stand out. I've also been mistaken for Skin from Skunk Anansie, which I take as a compliment because she's gorgeous.

`I'm not sure what image it gives me. My agent told me she thought I had the happy-go-lucky, devil-may-care look. I can't imagine going back to black now. I think being blonde is me.'

CLASSY BLONDE

Lucy Allen, 21, is operations manager for Capital VIP, which organises parties for up 2,000 society teenagers. She is single.

`The other day I was at a dinner party and we decided to come up with three words to describe each other. One male friend described me as having a good sense of humour, outgoing and... blonde. I thought: "Ummm. What does he mean by that?" I know the blonde stereotype is supposed to be an airhead but I'd never had it levelled at me before.

`I've always been naturally blonde, but I do have highlights. It's lighter than I like it to be at the moment because I had it coloured for a photo shoot. Occasionally, I model for Vidal Sassoon, where I get my hair cut.

`Most of my friends are blonde. We're like the "blonde set". I don't know why it is - perhaps it's the genes. In the Chelsea set there are a lot of blondes and perhaps that look attracts more extrovert men, who like partying too. I do think of myself as a party girl. It's also my job in a way.

`I work for Capital VIP who arrange parties for society children. The parties had a bad image a couple of years ago for being a bit raucous. My job has been to turn that around. I used to go to the parties myself and I'm sure some people wondered if a young, blonde party girl was up to the job.

`I'm in charge of a team of five people, all older than me, organising six parties a year, making sponsorship deals, sorting out the venue and tickets, booking entertainment and handling media relations. I have to be organised. Princes William and Harry have been, as has Peaches Geldof and the actor Daniel Radcliffe who plays Harry Potter.

`People assume because I'm from a privileged background I've had everything handed to me on a plate, but I have to work as hard as everyone else, blonde or not!

`On the night I'm in charge of 40 people all together. Nobody has ever questioned my authority because of my look. If they did, we'd have to let them go. I like to think of myself as confident, outgoing and fun. I just happen to be blonde too.

`The whole dumb blonde image is created by the media, dating from the dizzy roles Marilyn Monroe used to play. I'm not sure how true it is. Everyone has their dizzy moments whether they're blonde or not. I do think blondes have more fun though.'
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:May 3, 2003
Words:2154
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