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Photo by Joseph Okpako/WireImage

How Lana Del Rey’s hair became part of her myth-making

From her bleached blonde Lizzy Grant era to the tragic aura that surrounded her voluminous Priscilla Presley-esque beehive, Lana Del Rey’s hair has always been a central part of her performance

To start with, Lizzy Grant had a laidback bleached blonde bob, swept to the side as she cast her eyes down on the cover of the debut record that never was. It wasn’t until “Video Games” exploded on YouTube in 2011 that Lana Del Rey was truly born, her voluminous Priscilla Presley-esque hair do helping cement the vintage, tragic aura that has surrounded her ever since. This dramatic aesthetic shift was part of the reason why accusations arose at the start of the singer’s career that she was fake, or an industry plant, but Lana’s hair has always been in conscious symbiosis with her creative output.

Jump forward to today and the singer’s hair is a topic of conversation once more. When she arrived on stage late for her Glastonbury set last month, she apologised to the crowd, “I’m sorry, my hair takes so long”. As she took a seat at the onstage vanity set, her hair stylist, Anna Cofone, brushed her hair as she broke into a stirring rendition of “Bartender” as though getting ready to go and meet a potential lover. Her longtime make-up artist Pamela Cochrane joined as well to complete the picture. The hairstyle itself felt deeply referential – a glamorous beehive finished with a silver diamante headband – harking back to her past eras, indulging in the same nostalgia provoked by the emotional visual odyssey that lit up onstage while the “Ride” monologue played.

Many fans would have perhaps preferred Lana played her full Glastonbury set, even if her hair didn’t look as good, but to overlook the hair would be to overlook a key facet of her as an artist. It’s not about reducing Lana to her appearance because she’s a female musician, but rather acknowledging how she has leveraged her hair as a meaningful extension of her artistry. On her current tour, including last night’s Hyde Park show, Cofone joins her onstage, turning her hair into part of her show. Lana’s hair has become so mythologised, it is such a vital element of the Lana Del Rey character, that now it’s now quite literally part of the performance.


For many fans, the “Video Games” music video was their first introduction to Lana, and her hair. In it, she created a compelling visual montage that introduced us to her deliciously nostalgic universe. Her pouffed hairstyle referenced unravelling Old Hollywood glamour. It also served as a prelude to the over-the-top Amy Winehouse-inspired beehives she would often wear in public between 2011 and 2013 which made her feel like a tragic figure belonging to another time. Lana felt a deep affinity to Winehouse, saying in 2021 that she “didn’t want to sing anymore” when the singer died. Her beehive updos were in tribute to Winehouse as much as they were to the original 1960s icons who wore them.

There was a melodrama to Lana’s hair at the time that is perhaps best crystallised in the “Born To Die” music video where she became Tumblr’s unofficial patron saint of flower crowns, spawning a thousand interpretations across fashion blogs and music festivals. “Lana is responsible for a lot of mainstream hair trends, like the festival flower crown,” says Kelly, who has been a fan of Lana since discovering her through Tumblr during her Born To Die era, “but I don’t think she gets the credit or it’s spoken about enough in popular culture. Hair is like the clothes we wear everyday that represent a culture we’re trying to identify with or already do. Every styling decision of Lana’s past reflects her music and mood during that time.”


The only other time Lana played Glastonbury was in 2014 when the Tumblr-era obsession with her reached its peak. By this point, her hair was much lower maintenance than the dramatic beehives and flower crowns that had cemented her image in the public eye. She walked onstage in a simple tie-dye t-shirt dress, her dark hair cascading naturally down her back. On Ultraviolence track “Black Beauty”, she sang explicitly about dying her hair darker to reflect her lover’s preferences and moods – “I dye my hair a darker shade of brown because you like your women Spanish, dark, strong and proud.”

But as often as Lana has sung of sacrificing it all for love, her hair has always felt like something she controls. It’s a reflection of her creative headspace as well as her inspirations. After all, she dyed her hair darker around the same time she famously told The Guardian, “I wish I was dead already” while embracing this darker sound in her music too. “Lana’s hair changes, but it also doesn’t,” says Niamh, who was drawn to both the fantasy and vulnerability in Lana’s music in 2013 and has been a fan ever since. “Her Ultraviolence era was messier than the polished glamour of ‘Born To Die’ and it matched perfectly with the album’s heavier, messier, rock-inspired tunes. Her lyrics were more unhinged and even the production was messier. Her hair consistently aligns with her artistry and lyrics and the direction of the album at the time. It’s a signifier.”


For her third album, Honeymoon, Lana’s hair continued to be a reflection of her music and she reverted to vintage glam to croon over swooping orchestral music that sounds like it came straight from an Old Hollywood film score. Lust for Life, however, marked another transition as Lana adopted a more laidback flower-child look with a smile on her face and daisies in her hair. Once again, her hair seemed to reflect her emotional state as there was a greater lightness to her music and lyrics. One line on the album’s title track with The Weeknd explains how “They say only the good die young, but that just ain’t right”, marking a departure from the comments she made to The Guardian in 2014. In the music video, Lana wears a red headband with a rose playfully attached to the side. For her Dazed cover the same year, she was back in full glam with side swept polished curls that cast her as a true Old Hollywood starlet. 

For Esther, who has been a fan since “Video Games” came out in 2011, Lana represented an antidote to “the Top 40, X Factor pop and Jack Wills preppiness of my rural high school.” Her hair evoked nostalgia for an era neither Lana nor her fans had lived through, but that’s what made it so fantastical and escapist. Esther suggests that teenage Lana fans today appreciate her for her artistry more than they do just for her aesthetic. “I feel like Tumblr Lana was celebrated more for her beauty and chic, retro persona,” she says, “whereas today I think she’s being celebrated more as a whole person, with a range of emotions, and for her poetry and lyrics. Not just as the pretty sad girl with perfect pin curls and eyeliner.”


That said, as Lana has found a new generation of fans with their own interpretations of her persona and aesthetic, she has become the high priestess of TikTok’s coquette aesthetic, the girlish style characterised by hair bows, ruffles and pearls. For her latest album, Did you know that there’s a tunnel under Ocean Blvd, Lana seemingly leans into this, wearing bows in her hair as she stares sultrily into the camera. After stepping back from the public eye for a couple of album cycles Lana’s hair feels like it represents the cultural moment once more. 

As the saying goes, “the higher the hair, the closer to God” and Lana has been a dedicated disciple to this principle for most of her career. Perhaps that’s partly why her music sounds so heavenly. We’ll never know whether her hair was really the reason she was late at Glastonbury that night, but the not knowing adds to the mystical and otherworldly aura that continues to draw new fans to her music. It helps maintain the mystique that used to surround stars before they became so accessible on social media, making her still seem like she’s from another era even when she’s doing something so contemporary as clipping her vape to a mic stand so she doesn’t lose it onstage.