Mabel on stage at the Brit Awards 2021 with blonde curly hair and bright green dress

“Hair is my armour”: from teenage rituals to stage-worthy experiments, Mabel charts her evolving hair journey

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Welcome to Beauty Feels, a series exploring the different ways in which beauty routines and rituals can provide emotional support and aid journeys of self-discovery.

Brit award winner and Gen Z singer Mabel isn’t a stranger to the hairstylist’s chair. In fact, in just the last few months alone she’s experimented with all manner of hair styles and colours, more recently landing on a warm copper tone with soft blonde sections at the front that will no doubt serve as inspiration for countless hair transformations this summer.

But she’s not always been quite so experimental. Below, in celebration of her collab with L’Oreal Professionnel’s Steampod 3.0, the chart-topping artist chats one-on-one with Stylist about the hair of her youth, bonding over hair rituals and how her hair has become not only a creative outlet but also her protective shield.

When I was a kid, I always had long, dark, beautiful, crazy hair. 

My mum was so adamant that we were going to be proud of our heritage and our culture. She thought that we were miracles and so she wanted me and my siblings to feel naturally beautiful. She would take a lot of time in the mornings doing my hair, making sure she was oiling it properly. Usually, I would leave it in braids Monday to Friday for going to school but I always had a bit of a vision and would make requests. I often asked her for a super sleek long braided ponytail and my mum would always follow through. 

I remember my mum being quite strict around what I could do with my hair. My cousin, Miquita [Oliver], was like everything to me growing up; she was doing Popworld at the time and I just thought she was so cool. We lived together and one day when my parents were out, she was like, “I’m going to straighten your hair”.

She would do my hair and we would talk about life and watch TV. I remember being amazed that having long, chic, shiny, straight hair felt so glamorous. I felt like Beyoncé in Crazy in Love. It would take hours because I had so much hair but also because she would do it perfectly, meticulously straightening each strand. She was the hairdresser and it was always her vision; she’d be like, “Let’s do it poker straight today” and I’d be like, “OK.” She used to do it for me every now and again – I guess it was a real bonding experience.

I remember feeling so grown up but also quite cheeky because I knew I wasn’t meant to do that. My mum would come home and say, “Oh Miquita, she’s a child. Why have you styled her hair like she’s in a music video?”

When I was younger, Aaliyah was my hair idol. She was always a massive inspiration for me, in terms of fashion and beauty and for her music, we all loved it, the whole family. I remember looking at her and thinking she’s just so glamorous.

I wasn’t that experimental when I was younger, I always wanted the sleek look, whether that was a ponytail, braid or just down and straight. Then as I got a little bit older I started to experiment a lot. I’ve done so many crazy things. When I was a teenager, my friends and I bleached my hair while my parents were away. It was a complete disaster and went orange. After that, I dyed it red for a while and then it was light brown but eventually I had to go back to a dark colour.

Since I started doing music, having amazing hairstylists around me, I’ve experimented a lot with different textures in weave. I’m very into protective hairstyles now, which is why weave is so good because you can braid most of your hair out the way which is good if you style your hair everyday because it helps to keep it strong and healthy.

We bleached my natural hair last year and now I’m just trying to be as kind to it as possible, making sure I do my hair masks on a Sunday night and taking care of what I have now. That’s one of the reasons I love the Steampod 3.0, £235, because it’s just kinder to your hair. You’re not using that super high heat of a hair straightener, it uses steam instead so you can still style your hair without completely damaging it.

Hair is so important to my music and my stage persona. Getting ready, having the right outfit, having the right hair, the right make-up, it’s like my armour. That’s how I protect myself because it’s scary what I do. So just to protect myself from all the noise, the process and the routine of getting ready and doing my hair has been so important. Even if I’m just going to the studio and no pictures are going to be taken, I still like to get ready. I do things for myself to just feel like I’m entering the room feeling strong.

Hair is a big part of my creativity. I’m experimental with beauty in general. I think it’s very empowering. I get to decide how people are going to perceive me and I’m very much in the driving seat. The process of doing it myself helps me to get ready for the day.

Even though I have hair stylists around me for work now, I still enjoy doing stuff myself. Sometimes on a shoot I’ll ask the stylist to hand me the straighteners because I’m very particular about how I like the volume at my root or how I like the front of my hair to hang. It took me ages to learn but I’m one of those superheroes that can use a straightener to curl my hair now.

As for what’s next with my hair? I’m definitely going to continue to play with my hair colour. I want to do something to start my new era. 

LOreal Professionnel Steampod 3.0

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Images: courtesy of Mabel/ Steampod 3.0

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