How Amanda Seyfried Captured Elizabeth Holmes's Signature Hair in "The Dropout"March 7, 2022
Image Source: Hulu/ Beth Dubber
Hulu’s “The Dropout” tells the story of disgraced healthcare entrepreneur Elizabeth Holmes who claimed that, through her company Theranos, she had developed a way to revolutionize the way that doctors do blood tests for diseases. After people found out that she defrauded investors about the technology, Holmes has since been found guilty on charges of criminal fraud and is currently awaiting sentencing.
Interestingly, at Holmes’s hearings, she received quite a bit of support from people claiming to be her fans. Dressed to emulate Holmes during the height of her Theranos tenure, women wore turtlenecks and plain black suits and donned messy buns — Holmes’s signature hairstyle — as they waited to hear her charges. With “The Dropout” premiering on Hulu last week came an even closer look at the creation of Holmes’s look as she rose to fame in Silicon Valley.
To better understand how Amanda Seyfried, who plays Holmes in the series, transformed into the character, we spoke to The Dropout’s hairstylist Vanessa Price on how she approached emulating the hairstyles of the infamous entrepreneur. We also uncovered everything from the one product she used the most on set to the specific hair moments from Holmes’s real life she knew she had to recreate on the show. Read below for the behind-the-scenes hair secrets from “The Dropout.”
What Went Into Creating Elizabeth Holmes’s Staple Hairstyles
Image Source: Hulu/ Beth Dubber
From the beginning, Price knew that the conversation surrounding Holmes’s hair centered around one main characteristic: frizz. “Elizabeth Holmes had this frizzy hair — it’s something that I recognized looking at photos,” Price says. “So we experimented at the beginning with the texture, and we came up with a formula and let that ride throughout the length of the show.”
Still, it wasn’t just about the frizz, Price says, but more so about understanding what the frizz represented to the character. That’s what really helped her bring the look to life on Seyfried. “[In] the documentary about her, she had a way of pulling herself together somewhat, but it seemed as though she didn’t really know how. She knew that she had to do something, but she didn’t quite know how to achieve the look.”
How the Hair in “The Dropout” Moved the Story Line Along
The fact that Holmes presented as if she didn’t care about the way that she looked was pivotal in her quest to be taken seriously in a world dominated by men, a fact that Price was well aware of when creating the hairstyles on the show. However, as she rose through the ranks with Theranos, quickly securing more and more investors, Holmes actually started to look less “frazzled” and a bit more polished.
“[Holmes] knew she had to put her best foot forward,” says Price. “Each person has their own best foot. And for her, I don’t think that she really knew what that meant, but she knew she needed to pull [her hair] back. When you look at businesswomen around the world, a lot of times their hair is pulled back so as to not be distracting, so I think Elizabeth did pull her hair back in a little messy bun often [for that reason]. That was our signature look that we went with for her to ‘pull it together,’ but we still maintained a level of frizz and a level of ‘frazzled-ness,’ if you will, that we would ramp up and take down throughout the story, given the circumstances.”
Though Holmes’s signature unkempt hair gave off a feeling of effortlessness, Price says achieving the style was anything but: “Perfecting that messy bun was very challenging. It goes against everything we know, and continuity wise, it was a little difficult.”
Some of the key products used to finally nail the look included lots of hair ties and texturizing sprays. “I can’t and could not have lived without the Living Proof Dry Texture and Volume Spray ($32). It gave us the frizz and the airiness we needed,” Price says.
Alongside the staple hairspray, Seyfried also underwent a few subtle hair changes to fully step into Holmes’s character. To start, Seyfried got a new hair color. “We lightened her hair to give it a little bit more of a streaky, pale blonde, chunky highlight look,” Price says. Afterward, she also got a trim. “We thinned out Amanda’s hair significantly, as much as we could without making her look crazy in real life. She allowed me to take pieces of her hair and cut them here, cut them there, in kind of a purposefully disorganized fashion to make sure we were on the same page for what Elizabeth needed to look like.”
For Holmes’s signature “frizzy bun” on the show, Price used a few additional products. “I use a lot of beach products, so what I would do with her to get some nice frizz without making it crazy, was when her hair was in that bun, I would spray Amika Bushwick Beach No-Salt Wave Spray ($25) in my hands, rub it together, and take it on top of her head. I would hold my hands on top of her head and then just slightly push my hands forward to create this level of frizz.”
The Meaning Behind the Hairstyles on the Show
Price also used the hairstyles on the series to show Holmes’s relationship to other people, as well as to accurately reflect the stage of life that she was in. “When she was younger, we did a lot of low ponies and a couple of low braids,” she says. “We pulled her look together, you’ll notice, with her mother. Whenever she was with her mother, we tidied her up a little bit, because — and this is something that you’ll see in the first episode — her mother criticizes her look and her image. [Sprucing it up] was something I think she felt she needed to do when she was around her mother and we used some headbands for that.”
Price also tapped into a few of her own experiences when conceptualizing Holmes’s hairstyles throughout her life. “Teenagers don’t typically know how to do their hair at all. They don’t learn that until much later. I know for myself growing up, we were just figuring it out. For me, I’Il come with a mood board of ideas that capture what I think hairstyles for a certain time in her childhood would look like, and for what I think would work for her college years.”
Image Source: Hulu/Beth Dubber
More On Amanda Seyfried’s Transformation Into Elizabeth Holmes
One thing that viewers might be surprised to learn is that hairstylists have to consider an actor’s obligations outside of the show, just as much as they have to think about turning them into their characters — which was exactly the case for Price.
Seyfried “has contracts with L’Oreal and Lancome, and has additional obligations outside of the show,” Price says. Because of this she created an additional routine for Seyfried to make sure that her hair remained healthy while playing Holmes. “Every weekend when she was not working, I had her use the Olaplex Bond Maintenance Shampoo ($28) and Conditioner ($28) to make sure her hair was protected,” Price says.
The hairstyles on this series, interestingly enough, are ones that Price says people won’t necessarily pay attention to — nor does she think that they should. “If [people are] paying attention to the hair, then we’ve all done a really shitty job. But one of the things that we did intentionally was highlight the juxtaposition between her and the other characters, even small characters. Unless there’s a huge emotional moment, even with some of the smaller day-player characters, everyone is very neat and very tidy, so her characteristically frizzy, unkempt hair naturally sets her apart from everyone else.”
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