My hair-raising day as Lizzie J: Captivated by Jessie J's ever-changing hair on The Voice, LIZ JONES has her most unlikely make-over
20:28 GMT, 25 May 2012
Before anyone starts Tweeting rather unkindly that I do not, and never will, look anything like pop star Jessie J, let me clear this up right now.
Yes, I admit, I am three decades older, about three inches shorter (she’s 5ft 9in), and have a pointy face rather than a square one. Neither do I have her generous mouth — mine is somewhat miserly.
Unlike Jessie J, I am not super-confident; far from it. I am also not bi-sexual; I would go so far to say I am not even mono-sexual. As for her talent, I can’t sing a note or hold a tune.
Minnie Mouse (Liz Jones, pictured left Jessie J, right): The zig-zag parting was painful and the topknots were hard to hold in place
But there’s one important thing we do have in common — apart from both having been born in Essex — and that is a good, strong head of black hair.
Over the past few weekends, I have marvelled each Saturday and Sunday night — not at the singing talents of the contestants on The Voice, not even at the short skirts and exposed sweaty cleavage of compere Holly Willoughby, not even at Tom Jones’s apparent lack of any personality at all, but at Jessie J’s mercurial hairstyles.
We have had the trademark bob that is so shiny is seems to be a nylon wig, but which Jessie — via a Tweet to her four million followers — insists is all her own hair.
This style is not based (as some have suggested) on Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction, nor on silent movie star Louise Brooks, but, if you ask me, upon the far more down-to-earth astrologer Mystic Meg.
We have had a riot of curls erupting from a severe, Brylcreemed scalp, a very Thirties style that brings to mind my all-time heroine, the comedic actress Carole Lombard.
Over recent weeks we have had a conical (comical) top knot, and a long, sleek ponytail, draped like a question mark over one Amazonian shoulder.
Most memorably of all, last Saturday night Jessie gave us the zig-zag centre parting with two horns made completely of her own hair.
Mystic Meg: It's Jessie's real hair, but Liz wore a wig to get this super-shiny, razor-sharp bob just right
And so, I wondered, could I, with the help of international hair stylist to the stars Desmond Grundy, recreate all of Jessie’s crazy hairstyles with my own flowing witch’s mane of hair
Which flatters the most, and which the least And would I, having adopted each guise, be warranted an insight into the pop star’s psyche
First up was the explosion of curls. After sitting in make-up for nearly three hours — Jessie does like her heavy panstick with dark, smoky eyes and pillarbox red mouth — Desmond set about me with the curling tongs, before sleeking down the roots with product, and about a million Kirby grips.
This look is flattering, and the one in which I think Jessie looks the prettiest. On me, though, it all looks a bit girly, a bit Baby Jane.
Next came the updo, achieved with my own hair. The severity of this look was, the make-up artist said in a Pollyanna voice, ‘as good as having a face lift!’ (I didn’t have the heart to inform her I’d had the real thing.)
Next was the zig-zag parting with my own hairy horns. This hurt. Remind me never to get a zig-zag parting again. It’s the sort of wacky style that only really belongs on a six-year-old, especially when you’ve failed to get your silver roots retouched.
Desmond contemplated my roots for what seemed like hours, before he resorted to a sort of gunky black ink to cover them up.
The show pony: Liz's hair is so thick, only half of it was needed to produce this side ponytail
My hairy horns, unlike Jessie’s, kept leaning over perilously, like hirsute leaning towers of Pisa.
The sleek ponytail came next. Yes, we used my own hair, but only half of it as mine is too thick to give a question mark, it’s more a horse’s tail
Finally, we recreated Jessie’s trademark shiny Mystic Meg.
The surprise success of all the styles is, I think, this iconic Jessie J bob: I haven’t had a fringe since I was about seven, but find it the most flattering style of all, and so much cheaper than Botox for covering up a wrinkled brow.
I imagine, though, that the bob would be the most high-maintenance cut: the ends need to be razor-sharp, the hair ironed for some considerable length of time to render it straight and shiny (for this photo, we used a wig).
Each style took so long to get right, that I have new-found admiration for Jessie J, not just for seeming to know the lyrics of every song performed by the contestants on stage, but for enduring so much painful tugging at her scalp.
But I find that what I now like most about her is that she is not just trying to look beautiful, a la Cheryl Cole or Alesha Dixon.
While I initially found her sprayed-on leggings and satin paisley pyjamas wildly loud and unsexy, I have warmed to the equally loud young woman who dares not to wear impossibly short skirts, and who doesn’t expose her cleavage, or conform in any way to the one-size-fits-all image young women these days feel they must emulate: the Twiglet limbs of Victoria Beckham, the over-tanned skin like a mahogany sideboard, those perfect, spherical breasts.
While all the kudos for diversity and individuality tends to go to fellow BRIT School alumna Adele, Jessie to me is an even better role model (she also Tweets encouragement to young fans each day, such as ‘Go and make something happen for YOU’).
The Carole Lombard: Tongs, about a million Kirby grips and a lot of product at the roots helped create this explosion of curls inspired by Thirties film star Carole Lombard
Whereas Adele has adopted a resolutely ‘retro’ image, all extravagant false eyelashes, pin-curled hair and waisted tea-dresses, a pre-feminist, Mad Men-era cartoon of what it is to be a woman, Jessie J, born plain old Jessica Cornish, is far more modern, carefree and cutting edge.
But what I salute most about Jessie, and what I hope girls will aspire to imitate, is her confidence.
Diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat aged 11 — at about the same time she landed a role in an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical — she also had a minor stroke a few years ago, which means she cannot drink, smoke, take drugs or even enjoy too many cups of coffee.
‘I have to be confident,’ she said recently.
‘I can’t intoxicate myself with those props ordinary young people have to give them confidence. I don’t need a therapist. I need to write a great song.’
Of all the gifts I wish I’d been born with, confidence is top of the list. I was one of the few writers who stuck up for Samantha Brick, who wrote about her own beauty on these pages. Having racked my teeny brain for what I thought about her, it was this: ‘How wonderful to go through life believing you’re special.’
I’ve never known that, not for a second. And so I am more vulnerable to the pressure to diet, to buy this skin cream or put myself under the cosmetic surgeon’s knife, twice.
While it is not ideal to be wildly over-confident, which can be dangerous, surely it’s a good thing to believe in yourself. Men do it, so why shouldn’t we
The face lifter: For this look, Liz's own hair was scraped back into a severe, skin-tightening bun
I have always hidden behind my long, over-dyed hair. It has been my security blanket, my trademark.
I never wear it back from my face, or up, or behind my ears, which are jug-like and sticky-outy.
But spending some time under Jessie’s scalp, if not her skin, I must admit I have become a little braver. I’ve realised how we women hang on to the style we forged when we were young. How conservative we all are, how afraid to experiment, or change, or have fun.
To this end, I have taken on board some of Jessie’s boldness. This year, despite the fact her hair is ‘her thing’, she has pledged to cut it all off to raise money for charity.
She has already worked closely with Save the Children and Great Ormond Street Hospital.
And so, I hereby invite Mail readers to help me match Jessie J. My hair is my thing, too. So I, too, am offering to cut it all off, to raise money for charity.
In a ceremony to be chronicled on this website later this summer, I will cut my hair to raise money for a charity close to my heart, The Brooke.
I travelled to Ethiopia with this wonderful charity a few years ago, and saw first-hand the brilliant work they do not just for the welfare of horses, mules and donkeys, but for the desperately poor people and children whose lives depend upon them.
It’s up to you how far I go — I will get a Jessie J bob if I raise 25,000, a gamine crop if I raise 50,000, and will shave it all off if I get to 100,000.
Make your pledges on my page at the Justgiving website (details below). Let’s see if something as frivolous and inconsequential as a hair cut really can make a difference.
And not just to Saturday night prime-time telly.