Michelle Bellamy: My unicorn philosophy of standing out

I like to notice shifts in trends and changing attitudes towards certain things, so let’s talk about one that is near and dear to me: hair colors.

My oldest daughter applied for a job at King’s Island this summer, and I being a teacher with summer time off – considered looking into part time employment there as well to bring in some extra money. Initial questioning knocked me out of the running due to my multicolored hair. It made me think. I am a highly qualified professional. I’m a good teacher by all accounts. I have a graduate degree and a good job. If I can effectively teach today’s youth, why can’t I sell over priced stuffed animals to sticky kids?

First, lest this be considered a dig at KI, I’ve been told it’s a policy they are trying to change, and their stuffed animals are super high quality. I own a few myself. I’m not trying to throw them under the bus, but I do want to call into question the fact that the world is changing and we are too.

So let me start with my ‘why?’

I don’t just dye my hair to be rebellious. I’m 35 and well past that stage. I change my hair color almost quarterly because I enjoy it. It makes me happy.

Moreso- it’s a part of who I am at this point. When I was in high school, our school actually began a crusade of suspending students with odd colored hair. This is when manic panic was big thing and dying one’s hair was as easy as shampooing.

For the most part, the teens involved, including myself, were good kids. A few of us were in marching band. I won’t say I was the best student because I wasn’t back then, but I was not rude or overly problematic aside from a few little phases. There was no real good reason to suspend us. As a side note, my amazing mom actually considered changing her own hair to the same bright red as mine, colored in my hair on a kindergarten picture, and prepared herself to storm into the main office declaring our hair was hereditary. I’m certain she was glad it never came to that.

I guess that they had a couple of different angles. The first angle was that it was distracting away from our education which is silly because suspension is far more distracting than fire engine red hair. The second was that they were trying to ‘prepare us for our future’. I scoff in your face, former principal whose name I no longer recall.

One quick thinking parent called up the news station, and I imagine it was a slow news day because we made it on air. Four or five multicolored teens standing up for ourselves- it was beautiful. Once it aired, I don’t know about the others, but I never heard another thing about suspension.

Fast forward to now, I’ve had vibrant hair more often than not over the course of my life, and almost 18 years later this is still an issue. I’m not saying I wouldn’t change my hair color should the perfect career opportunity arise, I’m asking why I should have to. Hair color does not at all affect my ability to do my job. In fact, as a teacher of high school students it has helped me build rapport with quite a few of them. My students have been to traditional public school, and it didn’t work for them. They’ve seen traditional teachers and held traditional books. I am not traditional, and my classroom is not traditional.

Traditional doesn’t work for everyone.

There are over 7 billion human beings alive in the world, so standing out and getting remembered means that individuals need to be true to themselves and utilize their own unique traits to be memorable sometimes. Lest anyone get the wrong idea- I am not defined by my hair, my hair is an outward expression of my inner self.

It’s time for businesses to recognize that customers care more about quality of service than outward appearance so long as that appearance is neat and clean.

It’s time for businesses to honor their employees by respecting their individual characters. Further, once companies make this change, the strange, unusual, or different will become more of the norm. I actually think that this could start another rolling trend of acceptance for anyone who looks ‘different’.

I was quite lucky to find myself positioned in a job I love, but when I interviewed, I had a natural hair color. It was after I was hired and reviewed company policy that I started changing it around again. If I ever do decide to leave my current position- I hope to be able to teach at a college one day teaching future educators- wouldn’t it be amazing if I could do so without having to sacrifice part of what makes me ‘me’? I don’t want to lose my ‘muchness’ as the Mad Hatter would call it. I would, though, because there is so much more to me than my unicorn colored mane.

Bellamy is a 35-year-old mother of three girls. She’s a teacher at a high school, which serves students with mental health and behavioral issues. She also guides walking tours in Over the Rhine. A couple of her favorite hobbies are a “little unusual,” such as ghost hunting and special effects make-up. In her free time, she likes reading, writing, drawing, or hunting thrift and antique stores for odd things.