Ty Alexander is a popular voice in the Beauty blogosphere, with her aptly titled beauty and lifestyle site, Gorgeous In Grey! She’s been on our radar since we first met her at our “You Can Touch My Hair” exhibit and we’ve enjoyed watching her celebrate and embrace her authentic self ever since. Here’s her hair story.
Tell us about your hair journey in four sentences or less.
I’m kind of a carefree person so my hair journey is everywhere. I’ve been short, long, I’ve had a Halle Berry haircut, I’ve had braids, I’ve had a wig and I now have a Mohawk; so my hair journey really is of all over the place and I’m not ashamed of it (laughs).
How did you wear your hair when you were younger?
When I was younger, I wore my hair however my mother styled it. My hair was really, really long, so I would always have pigtails because my mother couldn’t braid. They were like, pigtails with big poofy twists and those annoying little ball things at the bottom that would always hit me in my face when I would run, talk or whatever. When I got to be a teenager, I tricked my mother into thinking that I let the stylist cut my hair off on one side but I actually requested it (more on that a little later). When I was younger, my hairstyles were definitely dictated by whatever my mother could muster up styling and she wasn’t the best stylist.
As you grew up, what kinds of things did you do with your hair?
I dyed it a lot. I’ve had grey hair since I was fourteen…
Were you fully grey since you were fourteen?
Not fully grey. I’ve always had this streak that’s kind of over here somewhere. So I’ve always dyed my hair and because I was grey, it led to me having highlights. If I dyed my hair brown, I’d end up with blond highlights. Or if I dyed my hair a dark purple, I’d have purple hair, but with light purple/lavender highlights. So yeah, I dyed my hair until I was 25. When I was 24, my hair fell out because I dyed and permed it at the same time. And she (my hair) was like, no! (laughs) This isn’t going to work out. So I said, let me just stop dyeing my hair and see what this looks like all grey. So at 25 I said, I’m not going to dye my hair anymore. I then started doing black rinses for a little bit and then I completely went grey. But for the most part—I’ve never done anything super wild, except for this mohawk. My hair has either been short or long.
So when you went fully grey, did it do anything to your psyche in terms of being so young and having grey hair? I think I’ve always been a cool kid, so even before I was grey, I was always kind of cool! When I went grey, it made me more of a cool girl, and people would be like, “Who is this cool Storm chick? What’s she about?” I lived in a small town in Maryland, so everyone knew my parents and both of my parents have grey hair, so it wasn’t a strange thing for me to have grey hair. It wasn’t until I moved to Baltimore and started blogging that everyone was like, “oh my God, who’s this girl who looks really young but has grey hair?” But it was never a bad thing for me. It’s always been a cool, unique thing.
What are three of the most different hairstyles you’ve worn over the years?
One is the one that I have now; it’s been in a mohawk for the past two years. I got a phone call from Stacy London from the TV show, “What Not to Wear” two years ago and she asked me to be in her book. So I was in her Truth About Style book and my makeover style was a mohawk. In the beginning I hated it. I was like, what am I supposed to do? How am I supposed to style it? How am I supposed to go to work? And then I got on Youtube. I read some tutorials; got me some roller rods and figured out how to style my hair and I’ve just been letting it grow out ever since then.
I can’t remember what grade I was in (I think I might have been in the seventh or eighth grade) because I wasn’t in high school yet and I was in love with Salt and Pepper. I wanted how Salt and Pepper had their hair on the side and a patch was shaved, so my mom dropped me off at the hairdresser, which was literally around the street and she [asked], what do you want to do today? And I said, well, I want you to do my hair like this. So I showed her a picture of—I think it was Salt at the time. And she was like, are you sure? Is your mom going to be okay with that? And I was like, yeah I already told my mom; it’ll be fine. So of course my mom knew nothing about it and it was not going to be fine but I didn’t care. So I get home, I’ve got this shaved side; my mom’s like, what did you do to your hair?! And I was like, I don’t know, I felt the lady cutting my hair but I didn’t know what was going on. I felt really bad because we never went to the hairdresser again and she was like I’m not taking you back no more and I eventually got into trouble for it.
The last look would have to be my pigtails. My pigtails were my signature look growing up, but I actually hated them because they made me look extra young. I wanted to get a jheri curl but I couldn’t get one, because my mom said that my hair was too good for a jheri curl, so I kept my pigtails until I was in the seventh grade.
Is there a style that you’ve been most drawn to?
I’ve always been drawn to weaves. I’ve always wanted a dumb, long weave that comes down to my butt that I can style. I once had a U-shaped wig and had to get it specially dyed to match my grey, but I would love to wear different color weaves.
And what’s been your favorite look? Is it this Mohawk?
I think so, it kind of gives me this extra edge, so it’s not just like “oh, she has grey hair.” It’s the grey hair plus she has a Mohawk. I put some blue it in it a couple weeks ago so that kind of upped the ante a little, but the Mohawk has definitely been my favorite look. I’ll miss her when she goes…I can’t keep her forever.
Is there a style you’ll never wear again?
That big chop situation is for the birds (laughs). I look back at pictures of maybe three years ago and my hair was down to my chin before I went completely natural and then I cut it off to about maybe, three or four inches and it was so odd. You have to wear makeup all the time and you try to make it curl, but its not quite curling and you don’t know what products to use. Also, I find that it takes a really secure woman to look at herself with a little itty-bitty, bit of Afro hair. So I don’t know if I do the big chop again. I think next time I’d wait for it to get a little length before cutting it off. I’m not here for the little Afro.
Tell us a little bit about your hair routine. This morning, I washed my hair and put Beautiful Textures, Manageability System in it just to make it straighter. I literally blow dry it then I flat iron each piece, little by little so it takes me FOREVER to do my hair. If I were a trained hairstylist, it would be better, but I hate sitting in the salon, and I hate waiting for people. The whole experience bothers me so I’d rather do it myself and take five hours. So, it’s literally: wash, blow dry, flat iron and then I’m done. To maintain it during the week, I’ll pin curl it, put it in a loose ponytail on my head and then wear a headband to sleep. If it took a lot to do my hair, I probably wouldn’t have any. I would just wear weaves or something. I don’t know how people do it and spend all day doing their hair.
What products can’t you do without? I swear by Beautiful Textures Manageability System. It keeps my hair straight and I absolutely love it. Ouidad has this mangolian oil that’s very light but it still keeps your hair shiny and moisturizes your tresses, but it’s not heavy and doesn’t leave it stringy. Those are the two products that I swear by and always have in my closet. Everything else, I’m a chameleon; I use what people send me (laughs).
Is it safe to say that you’re the face of the #GreyMovement and how does it feel to know that you’re inspiring this new beauty aesthete? What’s funny is, the grey movement was actually started by Cynthia Alvarez – she’s a celebrity hairstylist that wears grey weaves and she’s kind of inspired by grey hair. When I met her I started using the hashtag, and when I started using it, people just assumed that I actually made it up, but I didn’t. I have to give credit wear credit is due – Cynthia made it up. It does feel good that I inspire women. I get emails all the time from women that are young and old and have grey hair and they’re like “omigod, I stopped dyeing my hair, because I see you with your grey hair” or “what products should I use?” Where should I get my hair cut? It definitely feels good to inspire other women.
On that note, is there a different way to approach your hair because it’s grey?
Definitely! My hair is premature grey so I attribute it to genetics. I’ve always had it. Grey hair has no pigment at all, and is wiry so it takes a lot to manage, but my hair is officially trained to be straight because I blow dry it so much, as a result of being all natural now with no relaxer.