Keri Zhang and Her Color–Changing Hair
She dyed her hair into every color of the rainbow.
It’s hard to miss green–haired Keri Zhang (C ‘21) carrying a hefty scooter to travel back and forth on campus. Being an active member in two arts and performing troupes, she needs to frequently visit the PAC shop on 41st and Walnut, and the 20–minute walk can be exhausting. Her impeccably fashionable style—graphite–green, second–hand, extra–large fur jacket, green blouse imprinted with pink lotus flowers, and neon orange pants—compromises functionality, and yet she doesn’t feel bothered.
You might have first noticed Keri by the bold colors she uses to dye her hair—blue, purple, pink, yellow, red, and green. Among them, yellow has been her favorite, given its brightness and positivity. The process of picking a new color is usually spontaneous and sometimes can be a seasonal thing, but the sequence is built upon color theory. For example, as she explained, she wouldn’t dye green on top of pink because it will make the color muddy. She purchases bleaches and hair dyes online and colors the hair on her own.
Though she has bleached her hair several times, her hair quality hasn’t been damaged much. At first, her parents were not very supportive. “My mom has a background in traditional Chinese medicine, and she believes that the chemicals are bad for you.” Keri laughs when she says this, “But I think it’s not that bad. I try to buy vegetable–based dyes, not anything too processed. I feel like it’s worth it and makes me happier.”
The first time she dyed her hair was in sophomore year of high school. The value behind her choice was more than just artistic expression; it helps her to be who she wants to be.
“I was really shy when I was little,” Keri says. “I distinctly remember eighth grade, I cried when I was given a monologue in Romeo and Juliet. I couldn’t deal with the pressure and was really insecure.”
By expressing colorfulness, Keri feels more and more confident about being herself. “It started off as an aesthetic purpose because I wanted to have colorful hair,” she says. “When you dye your hair a color, it’s unavoidable that people will look at you. And for me, it’s an exercise for my self–confidence. ”
The most recent change in her hair color happened two weeks ago when she dyed it dark green. While she was in the process of coloring her hair, her friends asked her if she wanted to come with them to go out to a frat party. Keri’s hair was wrapped in a FroGro plastic bag, and yet her friends convinced her to go. “My friend joked that if anyone could pull off a plastic bag on their head, it would be me,” Keri says. “So I literally was at a frat party with a bag on my head.”
Keri’s passion for using color goes beyond just hair dye. Her backpack is multicolored, her laptop is covered with stickers in different colors, and even the eyeshadow she wore on Friday had different colors on each eye—early in the morning, she was testing the makeup for an upcoming photoshoot and decided to keep the bold design for the day. Black and grey are her least favorite colors, and you will never find them in her closet.
Almost all of Keri’s wardrobe is filled with vintage clothes that she dug from her mother’s closet. The '80s and '90s clothing styles satisfy her aesthetic request. When talking about her fashion style, Keri says, “You have to be a certain amount of extra to dye your hair in a wild color or ride a scooter around campus. And I’m okay with being that amount of extra.”
As a visual arts student, Keri came to Penn knowing that she wanted to do something in the field of arts or fashion. She participates in a wide range of arts and performances activities. Now, she is a board member of Penn Singers Light Opera Company as the Costumes Member–at–Large, the Creative Director of West Philly Swingers, the Editor–in–Chief of The Record Yearbook, and a beauty stylist at The WALK Magazine.
In addition to visual studies, Keri also chooses to study consumer psychology at Penn. “I chose it because I wanted to have intellectual diversity in what was studying,” she explains. “Consumer psychology had marketing and psychology, which I felt meshed well with visual studies and my interests. My parents support my major as visuals studies, but they also told me that once I’m graduated from Penn, I will be on my own.”
Hair dye has been an indispensable part in Keri’s life, and she will continue dyeing hair even after her hair turns grey. “I really want to be one of those old ladies with colorful hair,” Keri says. “Having white hair will give me the perfect canvas to dye different colors because I don’t have to bleach it anymore. I will be the colorful old lady that people see on the streets.”
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