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Paramore’s Hayley Williams Discusses Her Hair Evolution With Longtime Stylist Brian O’connor
“He tours with me and pretty much lives with me,” Paramore lead singer Hayley Williams tells Vogue of her best friend and longtime hair and makeup artist Brian O’Connor, who has spent the previous two decades blurring work-life lines with her. “When Brian and I met, we got to experiment with what it means to expose yourself to the public,” Williams says, sitting in O’Connor’s chair as they work out their vision for Paramore’s return in person.
They’ll bring her distinctive stage persona to life once more this month when they return to the tour circuit with an international roster. Needless to say, the duo has created a dizzying array of fantasy hair colors, which has helped Williams become an American pop-punk beauty hero. Their partnerships have also laid the groundwork for successful corporate cooperation.
Williams debuted the flame color in the music video, which O’Connor developed after becoming inspired by a Fruits magazine she was carrying home after playing performances in Japan. “Crushcrushcrush” from the same album laid the atmosphere for another high-impact music video beauty moment—and O’Connor’s most memorable shoot experience. “It was my first music video,” he continues, turning to face Williams. “I had to persuade you to let me do extensions,” he says, recalling getting the lead singer to walk out of the trailer. It was when overly feminine aesthetics weren’t in Williams’ wheelhouse, especially in the male-dominated pop-punk genre.
“In the early 2000s, there was this whole cliche that was like, ‘I’m one of the men,’ or ‘I’m not like the other girls,'” Williams explains. “It took a long time for me to feel comfortable in my skin as a girl, being 16 years old and going on the Warped Tour; all of my heroes and the bands that we were around, it was a lot of dudes,” Williams says.
Nonetheless, O’Connor empowered Williams to make daring creative decisions in life, in the band, and on tour. “I thought, ‘Who cares what they think?'” They don’t have control over you. As long as you enjoy it! ‘” he clarifies. “You must be content. And if you’re not satisfied, I’ll make changes.” Williams sees the game-changing implications of his comments. “You do it to me,” she replies to O’Connor. “You’re like, ‘You have to be joyful.'” In this sense, certain styles will always make Williams feel like herself on stage.
Bangs, which she’s had her entire life, are an excellent illustration. “I adore it when we just cut my bangs before a show,” she says. “It’s not going to get in my eyes.” They’re not going to get into my mouth. I adore a good bang. “I love banging,” she jokes, laughing. Their bond has instilled confidence in Williams, allowing her to visually express her feelings, even bleaching everything away for a period to break away from the image she felt people had come to expect from her as a performer.
“There’s a part of me that wants to remind myself that I can still imagine myself as anyone I want to be, and it doesn’t matter if I have orange hair, white hair, black hair, blue hair,” she says. However, in Paramore’s new music video for “This Is Why,” the lead single from their upcoming sixth studio album of the same name, you’ll see Williams flipping around her trademark neon-bright orange lengths. “I had brilliant red hair for like a split second as a newborn,” she adds, tracing the origins of her passion.
“My hair transformed from black to brilliant red to white blonde in a couple of months,” she said. She began coloring her hair around the age of 13 after viewing the photo evidence. Williams walked into O’Connor’s salon in a tiny hamlet north of Nashville to add his professional touch to her DIY spirit because she had limited options at home (“God bless Manic Panic!” she says). “Fast forward 17 years, and we have a hair brand and a salon called Fruits Hair Lab,” she explains. O’Connor says that the initiative is still under wraps.
“Nobody knows that yet—almost it’s ready,” he says, referring to the next part of their experimental tour. “Because she trusts me, I can continue to be creative and explore with her,” he says. “And it is the most wonderful sensation in the world.”
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