Hair like Halle A cut above the rest


A funny thing happened to Tanya Carol on the way to work the other day. She was waiting for the No. 15 bus, glancing around Mount Holly Street, when she noticed something odd.

"I looked to the left and looked to the right and saw my haircut," says the 23-year-old magazine editor.

Well not exactly her haircut. The short, layered bob that's become the style of the summer really belongs to Halle Berry, the fresh-faced actress in the Eddie Murphy movie, "Boomerang." But thanks to recent trips to the beauty salon, it also has turned up on Venel and Wanda and Melanie and . . .

Not since Dorothy Hamill donned her bouncy wedge in the late '70s have so many women sought the same 'do. Simple and sexy, Ms. Berry's cut has caught on particularly among young black women, many of whom wouldn't mind if a few snips of the scissors made them look more like the model-turned-movie-star.

"Almost 80 percent of my clients come in and say, 'Can you make me look Halle Berry?' " says Estee Thompson, a stylist at Stylistics salon on W. Baltimore Street. "I have to say to them, 'We'll see. I can try.' "

Perhaps those clients are also hoping for the good fortune that came Ms. Berry's way after she "went short" several years ago.

"For a long time, in order to be considered sexy you had to have long hair. Women are finding out through me and other people that sexy is an attitude. It's not in your hair or your bra size," Ms. Berry, 23, said during a recent telephone interview.

At first, her agent wasn't so sure. When she showed up at his office minus her shoulder-length locks, he cringed. "He said, 'You're not apple pie anymore. You're exotic looking. It's never going to work,' " she recalls.

She proved him wrong, going on to get roles in several movies, including Spike Lee's "Jungle Fever," and a recent two-page spread in People magazine's 50 most beautiful people for 1992.

The greatest perk of the cut, say Ms. Berry and her many imitators, is its low-maintenance. Ms. Berry spends 20 minutes washing, drying, curling and spraying her hair in the morning.

"If it's not a hair-wash day, I can look in the mirror and go," she says.

Venel Brown wasn't looking to become a starlet when she copied Ms. Berry's cut. She simply wanted a change. "What makes it so popular is that it's not an outrageous hairstyle. It's subtle, but it's still a little bit funky," says Ms. Brown, a 30-year-old attorney who lives in Lochearn.

The look is particularly appealing to middle-class women, says Dr. Russell Adams, chair of Afro-American Studies at Howard University in Washington. "The Afro-American middle class has not been comfortable with Afro-centric hairstyles. Middle-class sisters . . . don't want to do braids, but they don't want to be Cybill Shepherd, either. Halle's thing is a modest compromise," he says.

What does imitating an actress (from the neck up, at least) cost these days? In Baltimore, the cut is roughly $35. It can run up to $70 with a relaxer, a chemical treatment to soften hair.

From what one stylist's observed, men will pay nearly any price for this type of beauty. Ms. Thompson recently started fielding calls from young men asking if she could make their girlfriends look like the actress.

"I tell them, 'Send her in,' " she says. "But then I always make sure he's paying."

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