Celebrities tend to be style chameleons by nature, changing their looks to suit their latest roles. This means that, somewhere along the way, the celeb sheds their original look. And it all seems to start with the hair! What don’t stars do to their coifs? Coloring, cutting, straightening, curling — celebrities tweak their hair more than most people change their sheets. So, when their natural hue or texture makes the occasional cameo, it can, frankly, come as quite the shock.
On one hand, it’s almost impossible to imagine that certain stars’ iconic tresses aren’t natural (we’re looking at you, Mandy Moore). But, while the following celebrities could likely rock any kind of locks, there’s something undeniably cool about seeing their authentic hair. It’s like peeking behind the Great and Powerful Oz’s curtain.
Here are a few of Hollywood’s natural hair transformations that’ll surprise you — they very well may inspire you to update your own.
Close your eyes and picture Mandy Moore. You’re thinking of Rebecca Pearson from This Is Us, aren’t you? Ever since NBC introduced the hit tear-jerking series, it’s become difficult to separate Moore from her TV mom persona. So difficult, in fact, that it’s rare for us to recollect that the star actually got her start as a teen belting out bubblegum pop in the ’90s.
Although Moore’s mane has been chestnut brown for more than a decade now, her hair’s original hue is closer to her circa 1999 "Candy" music video blonde. In an interview with PopSugar in 2017, Moore said those OG locks make her "shudder a little bit to myself" — her trademark brown "feels the most like me."
It’s no wonder she never looked back after dying her hair darker for 2002’s A Walk to Remember. She told Entertainment Weekly. "It was transformative because it came at a time in my life when I was only seen from the pop music landscape and through that lens. There was a real significance to coloring my hair."
When you step into the spotlight as young as Zendaya did (she was barely a teen when she landed the role of Rocky Blue on Shake It Up), your "look" can become synonymous with who you are. For years, Zendaya straightened her naturally curly hair to align with her public image. "Growing up, I wasn’t very confident in my curls," she told People StyleWatch (via Mic). "It wasn’t like the hair that girls around me had. And nobody really knew what to do with my hair."
Fast forward to January 2017, and The Greatest Showman star shared insight into her natural hair journey: "When you’ve spent the past however many years growing your damaged hair back, avoiding heat, wearing wigs and trying every natural product in the world and you finally see a little curl pattern comin back," Zendaya wrote on Instagram, underscoring the sentiment with multiple praise hands emojis. In the time since, she’s rocked it everywhere from award shows to movie premieres, and often doles out advice on caring for natural black hair.
Blake Lively is a bona fide movie star, and the wife of Deadpool‘s Ryan Reynolds. But to fans of the iconic teen drama Gossip Girl, Lively will always be Serena van der Woodsen. It was during her years on the show that Lively first elicited hair lust in, well, everyone. She had (and still has) the highly sought-after beachy blonde waves that hair dreams are made of.
Hair deity that she is, it wouldn’t be hard to believe she was born with these enviable locks. In reality, though, little Lively was born with hair considerably darker than her signature blonde shade. She nearly broke the internet during her pregnancies when she stopped dyeing and revealed her real roots. Lively’s colorist, Rona O’Connor of the Lukaro Salon, confirmed to Allure in 2011 that, yes, Lively makes regular visits to maintain her "natural warm blonde" with "ivory highlights."
That isn’t the only hair revelation Lively has hidden up her sleeve. At one point, it was even super curly — just like her daughter James‘!
Here’s an ironic twist for you: Like her Gossip Girl costar Blake Lively, actress Leighton Meester does not share her character’s hair color naturally. However, Meester’s roots are closer to Lively’s character, and vice versa! In fact, it was Meester’s willingness to go dark that won her the iconic part of Blair Waldorf.
"I grew up with blonde hair and it turned ashy light blonde around 13, 14, I wanted to recapture it as a teenager," she told Elle in 2018. Accordingly, Meester had been a blonde through and through when she auditioned for Gossip Girl. That wasn’t going to stop Meester, though. "She came in and she was really funny, and really smart and played vulnerable. But there was one problem: she was blonde," series co-creator Josh Schwartz told Vanity Fair in 2017. So what did Meester do? She went right to the sink and dyed her hair brown to secure the role which, c’mon, was pretty darn Blair Waldorf-y of her.
In March 2017, Gabrielle Union launched her own haircare line called Flawless. The concept? To provide quality products that would allow women with textured hair "to have great hair days." Union opened up to her Instagram followers that year about coming to terms with her own natural hair. "Around 25 years old, I stopped using relaxers and slowly grew my natural hair out," she revealed. "It’s been a helluva hair journey."
Chatting with WWD in 2017, Union revealed: "I went through a phase where I would leave my relaxer on so long, thinking the longer I leave this relaxer on, the straighter it’s going to be," she said. "Cut to lesions, like open wounds in my scalp, trying to chase something that was unrealistic, and eventually probably in my mid- to late-20s I decided to give up my relaxer, and I went natural." But Union is also adamant that everyone’s individual hair journey is "amazing, valid, worthwhile and beautiful, no matter what." Well said, Gab. Well said.
When Nicole Kidman first burst onto the Hollywood scene in the 1990 film Days of Thunder, her cascade of gingery corkscrew ringlets nearly stole the show. As the actress’ star continued to rise, though, that captivating coif of curls gave way to hair that was straight and blonde. It’s a look Kidman has cultivated so well over the course of her career that her natural hair is little more than a distant memory.
However, let it be said that no one regrets the transition more than Kidman. When asked by PopSugar Australia what advice she’d give her 20-year-old self, the actress didn’t have to think long. "I wish I had left my hair alone!" she said, laughing. "Because I kept straightening it I would always be told, ‘Your curls are so beautiful’ and I never believed them."
She reiterated this regret to Australia’s WHO Magazine (via Today), saying, "I wish I had my curls back. I tortured them to death. I always say, ‘Don’t ruin the ringlets!’" Admittedly, it would be killer to see Kidman’s ringlets resurrected.
Stunning Sanaa Lathan isn’t afraid to try out new styles when it comes to her hair. "I love weaves and wigs and all of that!" she gushed to Hype Hair in 2015. And, in 2017, she readily shaved her head in preparation for her role in the Netflix film Nappily Ever After. But in recent years, Lathan’s love for wearing her hair natural has sparked more buzz than any buzzcut.
"I’ve been wearing my hair natural a lot lately," Lathan told Hype Hair. "For me, it’s all about changing it up. In terms of my real life, I’ll put it in cornrows and put some conditioner in it and then take it out and it’s really big and wild. I’ve been loving that lately."
In 2018, Lathan really seemed to embrace her short, tight natural curls — showing off the look while listening to Ella Fitzgerald at home, relaxing with her cousins on Easter, and vacationing in Mexico.
Red hair is a thing of beauty, but not everyone can pull it off — especially people who don’t naturally have the distinctive hue. If ever there was an exception to this rule, though, it’s La La Land actress Emma Stone. You may be thinking, "Wait, she’s not a redhead IRL?" The shade comes across as so organic on the actress that it’s hard to believe she’s really a blonde. Yet, true story.
Tracey Cunningham, co-owner of the Byron & Tracey Salon in Los Angeles, often works with Stone to color her mane. And according to Cunningham, Stone feels most like herself when she’s red. "I forget Emma is not a natural red-head — she’s a blonde! She looks like such an authentic red-head with this coloring and her personality!" Cunningham told People in 2017.
To keep Stone’s hair healthy despite the constant coloring, the celebrity colorist relies on twice-weekly applications of Olaplex No. 3 at home. "All my girls, including Emma, love it," Cunningham insisted.
Taraji P. Henson
Can Taraji P. Henson do no wrong? The Empire actress is essentially on top of the world, and rightly so. She’s a relentless advocate for women, and that includes encouraging them not to cave to societal pressure when it comes to straightening hair.
"We have shame when it comes to our hair. What we’ve been told, ‘Your hair is nappy.’ It’s not nappy, it’s curly. That’s a curl, that’s a coil. That’s energy leading up," she explained during an interview with HuffPost. With this in mind, Henson — who’d been wearing her natural hair under wigs and weaves or straightening it for years — made 2017 a turning point by chopping her hair off and wearing it naturally more often.
She hopes that in doing so, girls will see their natural hair for what it is. "It is a crown that God gave you," she told HuffPost. "Our hair defies gravity without any products. Do you know how powerful that is? That’s powerful."
Not everyone can pull off red hair, but Amy Adams certainly can. In fact, she does it so well you probably thought her tresses were natural, right? What makes Adams’ dye job so extraordinary is that — despite being known as one of Hollywood’s most in-demand redheads — she didn’t dye her hair this distinctive hue until she was 27 years old.
In 2004, then-blonde Adams was cast opposite Rob Lowe in the now-defunct TV series Vegas. However, there was a hitch. Another blonde had also been cast and, apparently, two blondes don’t make a right. Producers insisted one of the actresses would have to change their hair color. "She’s tan with these beautiful lioness green eyes and this mane of blonde hair," Adams told Backstage in 2012. "And I looked at her and me, with my pale freckles, and thought, Gee, I wonder which one of us is going to go red!"
Not that Adams is complaining now. During a 2016 TimesTalk event, the actress admitted the dye job changed her career. "People began to see me in a different way, for different roles," she said (via People).
No one can accuse Katy Perry of being timid with her style choices. The pop star has rocked nearly every haircut and color one could imagine, and it seems unlikely she’ll stop switching it up anytime soon. But Perry’s constant hair overhauls kinda make you wonder where she started.
The hair color most synonymous with Perry is arguably inky black — the hue she sported when One of the Boys, the first album under her stage name, took off. But back when she was Katy Hudson, the singer still had the lighter hue of youth. "I’m naturally the most boring dishwater squirrel brown," Perry told Glamour in 2015, confessing she’s been "playing with colors" since she was 15.
In 2016, Perry made headlines when she chopped her hair into a super-short pixie cut and dyed it platinum blonde. Of the decision, Perry told Siri Sat Nam Singh during a live therapy session that the change was prompted by a desire to be more authentic. "I so badly want to be Katheryn Hudson," she said (via PopSugar), "that I don’t even want to look like Katy Perry anymore sometimes."
While Angela Simmons was once only known for being the daughter of hip-hop icon Rev Run of Run DMC, she has since made a name for herself in her own right as a socialite, entrepreneur, and reality TV personality. And back in 2011, Simmons really landed on the public’s radar when she revealed her natural hair.
"Nobody was negative," Simmons said of the big reveal. "They just didn’t know I had so much hair underneath when I wear weaves." Simmons would go on to explain to Curly Nikki that, at that point, she’d already been natural for three years. Calling her natural texture "soft and big and thick," Simmons credited its healthiness to multiple trips to her stylist each week.
But don’t expect to catch Simmons with her natural hair too often. Per the Run’s House star, "I’m the girl who changes my hair all the time. My friends just stopped commenting."
Olivia Wilde boasts the sort of ombre hair that everyone asks for — warm and rich brown at the roots with subtly sun-kissed ends. When she first came to Hollywood, though, Wilde was a true blonde. It wasn’t until she decided to go darker that she had a hair epiphany. "I spent the first couple years of my career as a very blonde blonde," she told Into the Gloss in 2013. "And then I went brunette for a role, and suddenly all my offers changed — the types of roles people approached me with totally changed."
It’s no wonder Wilde has, for the most part, held onto her adopted brown hue. Still, she is always open to switching her hair up for roles and, well, sometimes just for fun too. Dyeing "so often" hasn’t gone unnoticed either. Wilde told Cosmo in 2013 that fiancé Jason Sudeikis can’t help but tease her about her hot-potato hair color habit.
Can it really be? Is Joan Holloway naturally… blonde? Okay, so we all know that Holloway is just the character Christina Hendricks played on the AMC series Mad Men. But, c’mon — she played that role so well that it’s practically impossible to imagine Hendricks as anything but a feisty redhead.
As it turns out, Hendricks has always felt the same truth was evident. She first dyed her hair from blonde to red at the tender age of 10. "When I was young, I was very much into Anne of Green Gables, and Anne had red hair. I also watched Gilligan’s Island, and of course, I loved Ginger, and even though I Love Lucy was in black-and-white, I knew she was a redhead. There was just something about her… something sparkly!" she told Glamour in 2016.
The hue has been good to Hendricks over the years. In 2015, she told People it helped her book more modeling gigs in her pre-screen days. Plus, she credits the color — which has "always felt like me" — with securing her career-making role on Mad Men.
Tyra Banks will be the first to admit she spent a long time covering up her "real" hair. "Like I’ve worn weaves and wigs and pieces and clip-ons and clip-outs and clip-downs and around since I was 17, 18, and I wanted to show the real me," Banks said on Larry King Live after finally, in 2009, going au naturel (via E! News). "My natural hair texture is very kinky," the supermodel and TV host told King at the time, inviting him to touch her tresses.
And while she no longer hides her natural hair, Banks explained to W Magazine in 2018 that the journey to self-acceptance was a long time in the making. When she first started out, her natural hair almost led to her losing her big break at Victoria’s Secret. "I was sent home the first day because the hairdresser didn’t know what to do with my African American hair, so it looked crazy," Banks said.
Happily, a year later Banks convinced the lingerie company to give her one more chance. They agreed, and, she explains, "After that, they hired people who could do my hair for 10 years."
Jennifer Aniston is nothing if not a hair trendsetter. First (and, like, obviously) came her iconic Friends haircut, "The Rachel." After that, Aniston segued into her now signature "bronde" hue. Who among us hasn’t asked our colorist to copy that oh-so enviable caramel color?
Aniston understands the desire for a natural hair do-over, given she long ago abandoned her brunette roots. After dying her hair dark again for a role, the actress alluded to the swap. "I was born with this color, and after a few years of playing with highlights I lost complete track of my natural hair shade, so it’s nice to be back," she told InStyle in 2014.
The highlights Aniston mentioned are the key to the hue we all covet, says her longtime colorist Michael Canale. "Work with your own color. Enhance the color you already have, and stick to the tones that God gave you," Canale explained to PopSugar in 2011. To that end, Canale relies on foil highlights for Aniston, paying special attention to the strands framing her face.
‘Twas the buzzcut heard round the world in the summer of 2017 when Kate Hudson shaved off her trademark beachy tresses. The actress spilled the scoop on her Instagram feed, posting a photo from the set of a project directed by Sia. "Freedom," she simply captioned the pic. Over time, as Hudson’s hair began to grow back, fans were once again surprised to see just how dark the actress’ natural color grew back. However, as shocking as the transition was for the public, Hudson maintains that the move has been a liberating one for her.
"You can get caught up in the fact that, ‘Oh no, what happens if the identity that people see me as is, like, gone?’ I just don’t care," she told ET in 2017. "I just don’t think about stuff like that so, for me, I was just excited to get rid of all the old hair."
When Keke Palmer got her start in the entertainment industry with early 2000s movies like Akeelah and the Bee, it seemed inevitable that the young actress-slash-singer’s star would quickly rise. But as her career progressed, Palmer ran into a few challenges — one of which, she told StyleCaster in 2018, was her natural hair.
"People say, ‘Why do black girls perm their hair? Why do black girls wear weaves?’ A lot of the time, that’s the only way you can get a job. A lot of the time in entertainment, black people couldn’t even get jobs if they came in with an Afro," she said.
Although Palmer readily admits she will still wear her hair relaxed for roles, she looks at doing so as part of the job. Outside of work, though, she routinely embraces her natural texture, telling Essence in 2015, "I like leaving the top part of my hair natural because it leaves me more flexibility."
When the cult classic TV series The X-Files got the reboot treatment in 2016 after more than a decade off air, fans couldn’t wait to see agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully reunited once more. However, that joy was short-lived for some fans — a huge scuttlebutt ensued when Gillian Anderson, who plays Scully, was spotted filming with a red wig (gasp!). "There’s a big dialogue about my f***ing hair," Anderson confirmed to EW at the time, laughing.
The issue, of course, wasn’t with the wig itself. It was over the fact that Anderson, whom fans had long ago attached to this beloved character, dared to wear her hair another hue IRL. Her character’s red hair is iconic, you know. Here’s the deal, though: Anderson is a natural blonde, and she had been lightening her hair for her role on The Fall. As such, her colorist advised her against returning to Scully’s signature hue.
Plus, if she’s really being honest, Anderson wasn’t a huge fan of the red anyway. "I don’t think when I was a redhead (back in the day) that I felt particularly sexy," she confessed to NewBeauty in 2016.
Though the public has become accustomed to seeing the Duchess of Sussex rock long, sleek (sometimes loosely curled) locks, fans suspected perhaps Meghan Markle — whose mother is African-American and father is Caucasian — could have naturally curly hair. One of those fans, TV host Kamie Crawford, proved persistent enough to ferret out a few throwback photos of Markle pre-fame (and pre-Prince), showing her natural hair. "SOLVED MY OWN CASE!" Crawford exclaimed on Twitter. "We got curls in the royal palace y’all!!!" Crawford also joked about wanting to start a petition to "get Meghan to wear a fresh wash & go around the palace."
And why not? Markle’s hair looks gorgeous both ways, likely a result of how well she cares for it. In an interview with Beauty Banter, the actress-turned-royal-bride shared her secret for healthy relaxed hair: "Kerastase (masquintense & the oleo relax line) and Wella, which has a hair oil that I am obsessed with. It smells like vacation and makes your hair slippery and touchable." Sold!
Rapper Cardi B is known for many things, from her one-of-a-kind voice and cadence to her colorful outfits to her Grammy-winning verses. She’s also known for her ever-changing hairstyles, which range from long, flowing tresses to posh, angled wigs. Cardi B has stepped out with her hair every color of the rainbow, too, ranging from brunette to blonde to blue. She even had a ‘do that was dyed specifically to match her Lamborghini, according to Refinery29.
But equally as impressive as those styles is Cardi B’s natural hair, which is full of body. She took to social media to show it off, showing her millions of followers her natural hair in a tweet. "Look at my hair. This is dead-a** my f**king real hair," she said in the video. "Yes! Lemme wash it. Wow, I’m so proud of myself." We can see why, Cardi!
When Michelle Obama was the First Lady, she had to put a ton of work into styling her hair. That was especially trying during certain times of the year when she couldn’t give her hair a break. "Because we’d have [to host] parties every day. We’d open up the White House almost every day from Thanksgiving until like the 19th," she shared in an episode of 2 Dope Queens. "December was a tough hair month."
Indeed, Obama and her team had to develop "a whole strategy for hair that I’m sure a lot of white women are sitting over there going, ‘Man, I didn’t know all that was going on.’"
However, since leaving the White House, Obama has been rocking her natural hair in public more often. That included at the 2019 Essence Festival, where you could see her bountiful curls on full display, according to Glamour.
Singer Billie Eilish has made it clear that she likes to be seen, thanks to her oversized outfits, her accessories, her edgy manicures, and her bright hair colors. Whether it’s cobalt blue (which she apparently hated, according to an interview she gave BuzzFeed) or her signature neon green and black, Eilish’s styles always turn heads — even if they were a mistake, as her mullet look apparently was. "Somebody dyed my hair, and they … burnt half of it off. Now it looks like a mullet," she told TMZ. "That s**t is not on purpose, though. I’m growing that s**t out."
However, underneath all of the hair dye, Eilish’s natural hair color is actually blonde; she revealed exactly what that looks like in a post on her Instagram page. You can also see her au natural look in a compilation of her Vine videos. It’s hard to believe that’s the same person!
If you’re familiar with Ariana Grande, you’ve probably noticed that she always wears her hair in the same style. But as it turns out, there’s a good reason for that, something Grande opened up about on social media. "I wear it in a [ponytail] because my actual hair is so broken that it looks absolutely ratchet and absurd when I let it down," she explained in a Facebook post. "It’s all that works for now (AND I’m comfortable for the first time in years)."
That damage was due to having to dye her hair every two weeks when she was starring in Victorious, something Grande had to do for four years — and that took its toll. But if you were skeptical about her hair being terrible, you were right to be doubtful, as Grande showed the world her natural curls in a tweet in late March 2020. "Get a load a dis," she wrote in the caption. Who knew she looked so good with her natural hair?
Actress Kerry Washington showed the world just how talented she is with her portrayal of Olivia Pope in the television hit Scandal. In the series, Washington had her hair straightened, which is the look that many of her fans became familiar with.
However, Washington isn’t afraid to step out with her natural hair, something she does primarily for her children. "Wearing my natural hair on the red carpet has a lot to do with me being a mom now and wanting to reflect that for them," she revealed in an interview with Glamour. "Again, it’s that idea that there’s not just one way to be beautiful and that there are lots of ways to bring out your best self."
Actress and LGBTQ+ activist Laverne Cox always manages to stun when she’s on the red carpet. And, of course, part of that is due to her glorious mane of hair, which is always styled impeccably and cascades down her shoulders. But in order to make sure that her natural hair is happy and healthy, Cox turns to wigs when she wants to change up her looks. "I had been natural for two years but at the beginning of 2011, I relaxed my hair for a film," she explained in an interview with Allure. "By the end of 2011, my hair was brittle and breaking off. My hair does not like relaxers." So from that point on, Cox swore off them for life.
If you wondered what Cox looks like underneath the wigs, look no further than her Instagram page, which has shown her au natural and with no makeup. Of course, no matter what, she looks incredible!
When it comes to stars with staying power, Jennifer Lopez has proven to the world that you can’t ever write her off. Just when you think maybe things will slow down for the singer and actress, she comes back in a big way. "I hope I have that fearless quality, that impulsivity that I had when I was younger and first starting out in the business," she confessed in an interview with Glam Belleza Latina. Judging by her flawless performance at the 2020 Super Bowl halftime show, we’re going to go out on a limb and say she does.
Of course, Lopez’s intrepidness may have also been behind her many impeccable hairstyles over the years (via Allure), which have wowed audiences around the world. But while she is always at maximum glam when she’s performing, at home she’s more low-key — sort of. "I like to maintain a certain sense of fantasy," the celeb told Glam Belleza Latina. "At home, do I have the full hair and makeup? No. But I might have the nice dress on." And when rocking her gorgeous natural curls (via Page Six), Lopez looks stunning — and totally different than she usually does onstage.