Wanting a celebrity’s haircut is one thing…what about wanting their face?


There are a certain names that salons know well. Gisele and Brigitte are perennial favorites. “The Rachel” is an old friend. In some parts of the country, “Karlie” is frequently pronounced. In retrospect, I would have been wise to invoke any one of those familiar faces, but instead, I reached into the LeSportsac tote I had received as a Bat Mitzvah gift and withdrew a folded photo of Hayden Panettiere. That was probably my first mistake. My failure to notice my hairdresser’s stricken expression was my second.

“Are you sure?” Angelo asked, meeting my gaze in an illuminated mirror.

“I’m sure.”

At the time, I was barely a teenager and looked even younger. Desperate for some version of “grown-up hair,” I’d come across Hayden’s luminous visage and bouncy, blonde bob in a Neutrogena commercial and immediately decided that my own needed to be styled to similar effect. The only obstacle standing in my way was about eight inches of hair and the fact that we look nothing alike.

I should have known better than to imitate someone with whom I have literally nothing in common. I had a subscription to CosmoGirl, after all. Month after month, the magazine forced me to consider such tough questions as: “Who is Your Celebrity Doppelganger?” As a nice, Jewish girl from New York, I was not meant to emulate Hayden Panettiere. She has a heart-shaped face, pixie features, and the kind of wide, toothy smile that America falls in love with. At fourteen, I had brown hair that bordered on anarchic and braces. Of course, I ignored these red flags. A sophisticated bob would be just the thing to counteract the brackets then affixed to my teeth. I was sure of it.

In the end, I believe Angelo made the best of my determined instruction, but not even such concerted effort could change the fact that I spent three months looking like a human yield sign.

“I think you look elegant,” my father nicely assured me. “Like Hillary Clinton.” I burst into tears.

When my hair finally grew out, I vowed I would never again subject myself to such poorly executed mimicry. And I haven’t. Mostly. Except, you know, for the months I’ve spent trying to approximate Diane Kruger’s style or the special occasions on which I’ve attempted Emma Watson’s sultry, smoky eye makeup.

Surely, I’m not the only person to quote celebrity example. The habit is what mood boards and Pinterest pages and aspirational magazine spreads are made of. We all do it.

Last week, however, the New York Times investigated a more radical take on the practice. Dr. Sam Lam, a facial plastic surgeon, estimated that “about once a month, someone comes in who wants to look like a family member, friend or celebrity.” Patients interviewed for the piece include a woman who declared she’d be happier were she to more closely resemble Heather Locklear and another who “shaved cartilage from her nose, injected the dermal filler Sculptra to plump out her cheeks and squirted a little Botox into her forehead” to look more like Kate Winslet. Dr. Amy Wechsler, a Manhattan dermatologist, recalled a man who “went from doctor to doctor trying to get surgery to look like Brad Pitt.”

Obviously, there’s a Grand Canyon of difference citing a hairstyle — however ill advised — and seeking out a scalpel. The bob may have been a questionable choice, but it wasn’t grounds for mental care. At least I hope not. Still, the article does call the line between inspiration and imitation into question. Where do we draw it? Where should doctors and even hairdressers draw it?

Today, when personal style is at such a premium, how should one take cues from off-duty models and Academy-Award winners and Kim Kardashian and make those looks her own? Have you ever managed it? Better yet: have you ever failed as miserably as I did? If so, do tell!

Step away from the scissors. Let’s talk about it.

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  • There is definitely a difference between people who want to use a celebrities feature (nose, boobs, etc) as a guideline and people who actually want to emulate the celebrity. Every plastic surgery office should have a therapist on hand for the latter. I was literally watching a show last night where this guy had multiple surgeries to look like Justin Bieber and he clearly had a lot of issues. For surgery, the line is drawn at the doctors discretion unfortunately.


  • Adrianna Grężak

    Celebrity haircuts are harmless – they are temporary and an easy way to explain what you want your hair to look like. It always makes me so sad to come across stories of people spending thousands of dollars to look like a celebrity. Remember the guy who tried to transform into Justin Bieber? I thought he looked very handsome before all the plastic surgery.

  • Ruth

    Hm. A little nip tuck for a refreshed look yes, or to alter or “improve” a feature (ahem)..however, attempting to look like someone else. Hello? What on earth? Are people crazy?! Oh yes, and…”..elegant, like Hilary Clinton.”…chuckled….funny.

  • Aubrey Green

    This makes me sad. No doctor should agree to perform surgery on these people.

    To get a ‘better’ nose, boobs, etc that suits your face/body and isn’t about looking like someone, I think that’s up to the patient.

    I do think a hairdresser should say lets try something else if the cut is just not going to work on you/your hair texture.

    I don’t have horror stories, but I also always wanted shorter hair, the kind that really only works on those that have straight, or maybe wavy hair. I have Felicity hair, it never really worked. However, if you have a great hair dresser, somehow they do/can make it work. I cut my hair like Jennifer Lawrence and loved it – although, it was a lot more maintenance than I had anticipated. So, long, or long(esh) hair for me and I’m okay with that, my hair is gorgeous ;).

  • Josephine Baker

    hmmm interesting post, definitely some things to think about!

  • Plastic surgery at large creeps me out. The fact that someone would risk their life (there is risk involved in most any medical procedure, especially involving knives and anesthetic) for a procedure that, for health reasons, is entirely unnecessary.

    I guess I just come from a brand of people that is very what-you-see-is-what-you-get, thus making face altercations entirely disingenuous.

    I guess only the person who is in anguish over their physical features would know the emotional necessity behind changing, though. To each his own face.

  • misssophisticate

    I remember bangs were really in when I was 13 and my idol then (Sarah Michelle Gellar) had just gotten them. I thought I too would look as fabulous, so I had my hair stylist give me bangs (against her advice) and what do you know…It looked like sh*t. For one, I have a cowlick so bangs straight across my forehead are impossible…

  • Gré Tee

    I am not obsessed with my look, but I can get pretty worked up about smaller or larger “imperfections”, like “my eyes are hooded so I can’t try all kinds of make-up looks” or “my nose has a tiny bump that looks a bit weird from the side”, and often times I think “if I had money I would do this and this to my body with surgery”… but then I start thinking about what a surgery actually is: putting your life into danger (because you are doing that) and the finished look might not even be right. And even if it is, you’ll always have something else that you want to fix… so then I just stop myself and think about it this way: my little imperfections make me Me, if I didn’t have them, I would just be someone, some girl. And yes, obviously I can understand that in some cases an imperfection can be so “disabilitating” that you really cannot be confident with it (e.g. a mole in a prominent place), but otherwise it’s better to consult a therapist than a plastic surgeon… it is a better investment in the long run.

    • coffeetoo

      I think hooded eyes are very sexy – grass is greener, no? – a girl crush from high school had them and I thought she was the sauce.

      • Gré Tee

        haha nice, thanks that actually made my day now 🙂 that just proves my point, it is just in our nature to always want what we don’t have, but at the end of the day, you just have to make peace with who you are 😉

  • May I? Use this opportunity to quote Bey for the first time? 🙂

    “It’s the soul that needs surgery.”

    I am a bit afraid of people who want to emulate other people too much, instead of just being who they are. I am not quite sure my thinking’s right, but possibly our looks (face, gestures etc.) display our character to quite some degree (apart from our genes and our milieu and their input), so … How strong is the desire to not also look but also be someone else? And how bad is that? And I don’t mean hairstyle, we’ve all done that 🙂

    Don’t know, for me it is a bit like clowns: they have a certain smile plastered on their face and it is always on, regardless how they feel. But then, it’s only their job, as soon as they take off the mask, they can still be them.

    • Mattie Kahn

      You may ALWAYS quote Beyonce.

      • I might, since *snap* I’ve become, you know, a fan … 🙂

  • Agoprime

    The natural style is the best!

  • CDJ

    oooh boy. There was this time in high school when I was watching Laguna Beach, I decided to take a pair of scissors to my hair and cut those side bangs Kristin Cavallari had. Needless to say, it did NOT go over well.

    • Mattie Kahn

      Ooh, those piece-y bangs were as simultaneously alluring and dangerous as the girl who wore them.

      • CDJ


    • Saaame. Very excitedly printed a picture of Kristin, at the school media center (duh) and marched straight to my “hairdresser” with directions to chop chop and foil away. It was… not okay.

  • Karen Liesens

    I dyed my hair for about 1,5 year white/blond to look like Lady Gaga so never mind!

    x Karen

  • L.A. Lady

    I had permed hair from 3rd to 6th grade. Even permed my short bangs. I looked like Weird Al and I definitely didn’t bring his picture into the salon with me. I wanted the big soda can-sized curls I saw in the magazine and came out with a hot mess. But I kept on getting the perm! Finally I figured it out what I was asking for was pretty much impossible and let it grow out.

  • Anna Malcolm

    Your story reminds me of the summer of 1995(?) when I decided that my dark brown/black hair would look great with blond highlights. I doused my hair with Sun-in and sat in my driveway for 2 hours. I spent the next 3 years growing out brassy locks. Where was Ditz Von-Teese when I needed her? If you’re pale and dark, stay that way. Embrace, embrace, embrace.

  • mini rose

    I try to snap out of it when I find myself emulating someone else’s style. It’s almost always Leandra….who I adore. Personal Style is my new mantra.

  • Sonya

    I think the point is to use images, etc. to discover and represent your true self. What really physically represents the you within. A physical manifestation of who you are. By choosing this path I find that that’s when you really look your best. Because it’s real. You look fabulous because you are wearing something you truly love and there is positive energy in that and it shows. Just a thought.

  • Maui Mendoza

    Search images of korean surgeries and try not to let your jaws hurt.