When Jane Fonda Unveiled A Bold New Hairstyle, She Also Sent The World A Powerful Message

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From her Oscar-winning film roles to her outspoken political activism, Jane Fonda has spent decades defying public perceptions. And in February 2020 she decided to channel that rebellious nature yet again. And at the Academy Awards the former model revealed a radical new look which stunned onlookers.

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When Fonda first entered the limelight in the 1960s, she personified the stereotype of a blonde bombshell. Furthermore, her early roles in films such as Sunday in New York, Period of Adjustment and Cat Ballou propelled her into the public consciousness as a serious actress. And by 1963 Newsday was referring to Fonda as “the loveliest and most gifted of all our new young actresses.”

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Fonda’s good looks gained her plenty of fans, too – particularly with the release of Barbarella in 1968. The sci-fi hit cemented her sex symbol status – something which the film’s director, her then-husband Roger Vadim, had apparently encouraged at the time.

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Fonda’s long, blonde locks epitomized the “golden girl” image that was so popular at the time. And her historic hairdo was front and center in Barbarella – leading her to become arguably one of the most iconic sex symbols of the 1960s. According to Vadim’s memoir, however, Fonda disliked Barbarella’s “shameless exploitation of her sexuality…”

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It wasn’t long, then, before Fonda shifted gears completely. For instance, she began to take on more serious movie roles – bagging her first Oscar nomination for the 1969 tragedy They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? And at the beginning of the 1970s the actress dove headfirst into the protest movement aiming to put an end to the Vietnam War.

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While Fonda’s actions both on and off the silver screen helped shed her sex symbol status, the star also reinvented her physical image in 1970. She later wrote in her memoir My Life So Far, “Hair had ruled me for many years. The men in my life liked it long and blonde…” As a result, Fonda turned to hairstylist Paul McGregor and apparently demanded that he “do something.”

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McGregor’s work would launch Fonda into this new dynamic stage of her life. The actress emerged with a hairdo that better reflected her rebellious spirit, and it was one that would kick-start a new wave of hairstyles to embody the era. Her long, blonde locks were gone and replaced by a shaggy, shorter, face-framing cut – complete with bangs and dyed a deep brown.

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In My Life So Far, Fonda described her new look as her “first hair epiphany,” and it would help inspire women the world over. In 1970 the actress was traveling back from a Vietnam War protest in Canada with vitamins in her bag. And she was promptly arrested on drug smuggling charges – under orders from the White House, the actress claimed.

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Fonda’s newfound rebellious image was quickly cemented through her subsequent mugshot. Indeed, the now-iconic combination of her fixed stare, raised fist and choppy hair painted a picture of sheer defiance. As Vogue author Mackenzie Wagoner put it in 2017, Fonda would become “a symbol for women who won’t back down.”

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At the time of her arrest, Fonda had recently finished filming the neo-noir crime thriller Klute – which earned her the Academy Award for Best Actress. She’d performed in the film while sporting that unique hairstyle, and it soon became synonymous with the movie’s title. In fact, the “klute” hairdo ignited decades of copycat styles and remains popular half a century later.

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In the years that followed, Fonda regularly switched between blonde and brunette colors. But with a handful of exceptions, her short, shaggy style has remained reasonably consistent. In 1978, for instance, the actress showed off her longer brushed curls at the National Association of Theater Owners Awards. And her hair appeared even more voluminous at the Oscars the following year, where she picked up her second Best Actress gong for Coming Home.

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In the 1980s Fonda continued to diversify her body of work by releasing a series of home exercise videos. Her first VHS, simply titled Jane Fonda’s Workout, was launched off the back of her bestselling exercise book. Furthermore, the video proved just as popular and it shifted over 17 million copies in total. What’s more, it introduced another iconic look for the star – combining neon spandex with wavy, long, dark brown hair.

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In yet another style curveball, Fonda briefly straightened her hair just prior to the new millennium. And while it didn’t take long for her to revert to her preferred shaggy, curly cut, she’s continued to experiment with different styles over the years. At the 2017 Emmys, for example, she debuted a daring combination of straightened bangs and hair extensions.

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“Jonathan Hanousek my hairdresser [did this],” Fonda told People magazine at the time. “I am just kind of a limp rag and they do whatever they want. I’ve had long hair before. But these are my bangs.” Hanousek later told PeopleStyle that he “wanted people to see [Fonda] like they never have before.”

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But it isn’t just Fonda’s hair which has changed over the years. She’s also gone under the knife multiple times throughout her life. Early in her career, for instance, the actress underwent surgery for breast implants. And she’s also had two facelifts – once in her 40s and again in her 70s – along with eye surgery and a chin lift.

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However, Fonda has been careful not to go too far with her cosmetic alterations. She told Access Hollywood in 2012, “I made sure that they kept my lines. I didn’t want to lose my wrinkles; I just wanted to lose the bags under my eyes. I don’t like it when it’s overdone, but we do live in a time when, if you can afford a good doctor, you can have subtle plastic surgery…”

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The actress has, nevertheless, opened up about the real reasons for her cosmetic surgery in recent years. She confessed in the 2018 documentary Jane Fonda in Five Acts, “I’m glad I look good for my age, but I’ve had plastic surgery. On one level, I hate the fact that I’ve had the need to alter myself physically to feel that I’m okay. I wish I wasn’t like that… I wish I was braver. But I am what I am.”

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And in February 2020 Fonda defiantly told Elle Canada that her days of modifying her appearance are over. The star said, “I can’t pretend that I’m not vain, but there isn’t going to be any more plastic surgery – I’m not going to cut myself up anymore. I have to work every day to be self-accepting; it doesn’t come easy to me.”

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Fonda added that that she’s trying to be more open about her own insecurities. Her aim to be “self-accepting,” for instance, refers to her decades-long experience with bulimia – a condition she formed in childhood. In fact, it wasn’t until she was in her 40s that the actress managed to get a handle on the condition.

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Nowadays, Fonda is trying to use social media to express that honesty over her looks. She told Elle Canada, “I try to make it very clear that it has been a long and continuing struggle for me. I post pictures of me looking haggard – and once with my tooth out!”

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That level of honesty was perhaps reflected in the Oscar winner’s latest look. Fonda unexpectedly turned up at the 2020 Academy Awards ceremony in the February – but her very presence wasn’t the only thing that raised eyebrows on the night. Yes, the actress had once again transformed herself, and her radical new appearance sent shockwaves across the internet.

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But Fonda’s surprise attendance at Hollywood’s most esteemed awards ceremony wasn’t a huge shock to its organizers; the actress had been secretly selected to present the gong for Best Picture. In 2020 that honor went to the Korean black comedy Parasite – directed by Bong Joon-ho. And it was a watershed moment for the ceremony, as it became the first non-English language film to take the coveted prize.

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Furthermore, Parasite is also the first South Korean movie to be recognized at the Oscars – let alone take home any awards. Alongside Best Picture, the film bagged Best Director, Best International Feature Film and Best Original Screenplay. For many, though, Parasite’s historic performance wasn’t even the biggest shock of the night. Instead, that particular accolade went to Fonda’s incredible new look.

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Apparently, because Fonda knew that her attendance was going to be a surprise, she decided to deliberately take things one step further. In essence, she hoped to double the shock value when she walked out onto the stage by showing off a bold and daring new look. And the actress and activist ultimately spent a whopping seven hours with a stylist to achieve her goal.

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And when Fonda eventually did walk out onto the stage, it’s no wonder the audience was bowled over. You see, she had dyed and shaped her iconic blonde locks into a stunning silver pixie cut. While the actress has been no stranger to shorter hairstyles over the years, this is the first time she’s fully embraced the color most strongly associated with her age bracket.

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To complete Fonda’s transformation, she turned to Jack Martin – a colorist who hails from Syria. The stylist originally trained in Paris and then moved to California where he set up his own salon. And over the past few years, he’s become increasingly known for his ability to make grey look great. Indeed, it was his reputation for doing so that first caught the actress’ attention.

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“Spending seven hours with this amazing Hollywood star and witnessing her energy, beauty, strength and femininity was so inspiring,” Martin gushed on Instagram in February 2020. “[Fonda] had about three inches of her salt and pepper natural roots and the rest was a little tired warm golden blonde. Her goal color was a silver icy blonde to surprise everyone at the 2020 [Oscars]…”

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Martin continued, “This experience was… great and I will never forget this amazing day….” For the benefit of his 318,000 followers, the stylist then explained in detail the process by which he transformed Fonda’s hair.

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According to Martin, Fonda was “phenomenal and energetic” from the very beginning of the lengthy seven-hour process. He told Insider in February 2020 that the star and activist had spoken to him about his native country of Syria – which has been engulfed in a civil war since 2011. She then passed the time while he worked by reading newspapers and chatting to Martin and his team.

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Fonda apparently also spent the day learning her lines for the final season of Grace and Frankie. The show follows a makeup magnate and art teacher who are forced to overcome their differences when their husbands declare their love for each other. Fonda has starred opposite Lily Tomlin in the Netflix show since 2015 – making it the longest-running original series on the streaming platform to date.

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It wasn’t just Fonda’s hair that was making waves at the Oscars, though. You see, the actress was wearing a dress that she’d previously worn to a movie premiere in 2014 as a testament to her continued activism. That’s because even in her ninth decade, Fonda still places herself at the forefront of political protests – and has been arrested multiple times as a result.

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Most recently, Fonda has been campaigning on climate change – organizing weekly rallies at the U.S. Capitol. And her iconic red coat, which she also wore to the Oscars, has become a symbol of her arrests. She told the crowds upon her fourth arrest in November 2019, “You see this coat? I needed something red and I went out and found this coat on sale. This is the last article of clothing that I will ever buy.”

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As she’d hoped, Fonda’s new look received an incredible reaction at the Oscars, and the entire audience gave the iconic actress a standing ovation. Given her legacy of work and history of activism, the appreciation likely wasn’t just for Fonda’s bold new look. However, that specific element of the night did get plenty of reaction from those watching from afar.

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People quickly took to Twitter to voice their astonishment at Fonda’s transformation. One user posted, “Jane Fonda is 82 and her stylist DYED her hair silver. She wasn’t even that gray! She wanted to go full on gray. I now have major aspirations for my later life.”

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Another Twitter accounted opined, “Okay but seriously, Jane Fonda looks amazing. Like, this hair is gorgeous. Dress is stunning. Truly a wonderful woman.” A different user agreed, saying, “… Fonda [is] wearing that grey hair to remind us of the crown that rightfully rests upon her head.”

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Elsewhere, Martin’s fans and contemporaries commented on his Instagram post to commend him for Fonda’s incredible hair. Fellow stylist Chris Sulimay wrote, “Great work [Martin]! She could not have chosen a better person for the job!”

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The 2020 Academy Awards ceremony also isn’t the first time Fonda has made a statement with her red carpet persona, however. The star has been increasingly open about the work that goes into her appearance. For example, back in 2018 she shared a hilarious picture with her Instagram followers of herself the morning after a gala. She wrote, “I couldn’t get my dress unzipped so I slept in it. Never wanted a husband in my life until now.”

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While Fonda certainly grabbed the most headlines, she actually wasn’t the only Oscars guest to debut a new hairstyle at the 2020 awards. British actress Olivia Colman – most recently known for her portrayal of Queen Elizabeth II in Netflix’s The Crown – also turned up to the ceremony with a new hairdo. Instead of Fonda’s striking silver, however, Colman opted for a short bleach blonde cut.

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Soon after the ceremony, meanwhile, Martin turned his graying talents to America’s Got Talent judge Sharon Osbourne. The wife of rock star Ozzy was already aware of Martin’s abilities, but it wasn’t until she saw Fonda’s incredible hair that she decided to ditch her iconic red locks. And while it took the hairstylist a whopping eight hours to recolor Osbourne’s short cut, the star was delighted with the results.

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Where Fonda is concerned, though, it seems that her new hairdo may be just as appropriate now as her iconic “klute” trim was back in 1970. After all, while she’s currently immersed in wrapping up her hit TV show Grace and Frankie, she’s also still deeply involved in the political sphere. And just as she sends messages through her activism, the star’s jaw-dropping silver hair displayed a powerful message about self-acceptance.

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