If there’s an ideal protocol for a pop star relaunch hype cycle, Dua Lipa has been following it flawlessly. First, she archives all of her Instagram posts. (And her followers mourn the loss of all of her vacation photos). Then, she comes back with a headshot captioned simply, “miss me?” We did. But the headshot signifies something much more exciting than a return to social media. She now has red hair! It’s a sign! Of what? We don’t quite know yet. Until two weeks later when she reveals her new single’s name and release date: “HOUDINI NOV 9TH 11PM GMT PRE ORDER IN BIO” the caption reads on the next image she posts which also shows off her new cherry red hair.
The hair was a clue. It’s always a clue. It’s the elusive Hollywood friend that tells you “something’s coming” but they can’t yet say. It’s the picture of a male elbow and two cocktails uploaded for the first time to a girl’s Instagram stories. Hair color is the soft launch indicator of a new era of pop stardom. Pop divas, the song birds they are, need their plumage to reflect their new personas.
We have Dua Lipa to thank for the years of the “money piece” trend being in style. She got a two-toned bleached job right before the pandemic and we fed off of that inspo for far too long. (Cooped up in our houses and convinced it would be fun to try at home.) The blonde on top, black on the bottom hair is forever linked to her 2020 album Future Nostalgia. The image of her driving the car on the cover with her high-contrast hair is incredibly memorable, as was the time it came out and everyone copied her style. Since then, she’s done a reset to more natural-looking shades, making her fiery new hair color all the more apparent. Hinting at a more passionate or intense side of Dua, perhaps? Time will tell.
The pop star hair color change is something we see it over and over again. Miley Cyrus’s hair is more like her diary or a scrolling blog post because it seems to keep getting updated forever. She is always transitioning trom one hairstyle and color to another — blending her eras together into one long evolution. In the past four years alone, she went from a Hannah Montana reboot hair in 2019 to her Joan Jett mullet for Plastic Hearts in 2020, to letting her hair grow out and go curly again for the release of Endless Summer Vacation in 2023. Now, she’s back to brunette, and we have to wonder what’s in store.
Pop stars will even change their hair color when they’re venturing away from the spotlight. Ariana Grande has all but disappeared from the public eye, but has been fully transformed into a light-browed, platinum blonde. Sure, she is playing Glinda in the upcoming Wicked movie, but wigs exist. I don’t think anyone tells Ariana what to do with her hair. She’s trying out something new and different and that’s okay. Change your hair color, change your energy.
When a non-celebrity aggressively changes their hair color or cuts bangs unprovoked, their friends know to ask if anything deeper is going on. (It’s one of the most universal signs for help after SOS.) But maybe next time, if you find yourself on the receiving end of a serious dye job, don’t think of it as a mental breakdown, just think of it as entering your next pop girlie era.