‘I Love Lucy’: Lucille Ball Dyed Hair Red Because She ‘Wasn’t Hung Up on Being Beautiful’ on the Show

by Jonathan Howard
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Over the years, Lucille Ball was best known for her fiery red hair as she played Lucy in the legendary show, I Love Lucy. While her hairstyle is a big part of her iconic image, it wasn’t natural. The actress was born a brunette.

While a lot of her work was in black and white, audiences were introduced to the actress in color in 1943. That is when her image as a clumsy yet bold redhead began. Her image was something she controlled very well.

Ben Mankiewicz, who has a podcast about Lucille, talked about that image and the iconic hair.

“She had really strong control over that image. Du Barry Was a Lady [1943] is the first time we see her in color — the first time we get a look at the red hair — and it works.” She had gone blonde for much of her early career. The change proved a success.

“We live in a world where we think being a redhead is funny. And being a redhead in 1951, when I Love Lucy went on the air, was not as sexually provocative as being a blonde. And Lucy got that. Here’s this woman who’s strikingly beautiful and sexy, and she doesn’t look like everybody else.”

There is one thing about Lucille Ball, she was unique and her own person. While she could have gone with convention, she didn’t settle. So, making her own path was the only way to go. It may seem inconsequential now, but in the 1950s, the smallest change to her image could have been detrimental.

Lucille Ball Didn’t Need Sexy, She Always Leaned into Funny

Even though she had a hold of her own image in public and in her appearances on screen, Lucille Ball didn’t need to be sexy. Her image was a funny, bold, comedic housewife that was doing her best to live her life how she wanted to. Of course, it ended up being a legendary show and reruns still play today.

“But she willingly and eagerly frumped herself up for I Love Lucy, as did Vivian Vance [Ethel Mertz],” said Mankiewicz. “I think Lucy had a real sense of what made business sense. She wasn’t hung up on being beautiful on that show. [Lucy] knew what worked: being funny, being silly, and being a redhead. She wasn’t in control of it on Du Barry Was a Lady, but once it worked, she stuck with it.”

There is no doubt that what Lucille Ball did on I Love Lucy and other projects worked. So many generations have watched her show and other popular films. She was a pioneer of female comedians in modern Hollywood. As she gained popularity, she worked to define herself how she saw fit.

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