‘I Love Lucy’: Lucille Ball Wasn’t a Natural Red Head, Used Bizarre Technique to Capture Iconic Look

by Suzanne Halliburton

Fans adored I Love Lucy. They really loved Lucille Ball and all her crazy antics. Plus, she was gorgeous with all those red curls.

But did you know that Ball wasn’t a natural red head? Do tell.

Irma Kusely was the stylist for I Love Lucy. And she spilled Lucy’s hair secrets during a 2001 interview with the Television Academy Foundation. Ball died in 1989, so Kusely waited a proper amount of time before she talked about the beloved comedian and her beautiful hair. A good stylist is a woman’s best friend and Kusely stuck with the I Love Lucy star for years.

“A lot of people think of it as red — it’s not red at all,” Kusely said.

At first, Kusely said she used a normal hair dye. Then she changed because of a very bizarre incident, a celebrity kind of incident.

Kusely said Ball met “a very wealthy sheikh and he had heard about her problem (getting just the right shade). He said he would send her a lifetime supply of henna, which he did!”

Kusely said she kept the henna in her garage “locked away in a safe.” But we’re talking about the star of I Love Lucy. Ball needed perfect hair. All security was a must.

After I Love Lucy, Stylist Kept Working with Lucille Ball

In the interview, Kusely talked about her work with MGM studio. She initially was a wig stylist. Her friendship with Ball landed her a job with Desilu, the production company started by Ball and her then husband Desi Arnaz. For the record, Arnaz was a natural brunette in real life and on I Love Lucy playing Ball’s husband.

After I Love Lucy ended, Kusely stuck with Ball, working with the star on The Lucy Show, Here’s Lucy and Life with Lucy. She traveled everywhere with Ball because when you’re a celebrity, you need perfect hair.

It makes all kind of sense that Kusely would use henna. It’s been used for 5,000 years by people in the Middle East, India, Pakistan and Africa. You can use it for temporary tattoos. Folks who lived in really hot climates utilized henna paste to cool down. They applied it to the bottom of their feet and palms of their hands.

On hair, henna is a terrific product. It can be used for its color — it has no chemicals in it. Henna can condition your hair. And it can treat dandruff.

So it was a win-win for Ball and her stylist.

A decade before I Love Lucy, Ball landed her first big role. She was a brunette. Ball met Desi Arnaz in 1940 and eloped with him that November. She also spent part of her fabulous career as a blonde. Women love hair options. And Lucille Ball was no different — she just had a very rich man supply the red.