May 2003: Allison Curran, Best Hairstyle in Athletics

It's one thing to have a head of Super-Hair. It's another to keep that hair under control when under pressure. We're frequently impressed by athletes who can keep hair looking sharp and strong during the heat of action. But we contend the athletes are not confined merely to the court or the field.

ALLISON CURRAN caught our eye when she appeared on the cover of American Cheerleader magazine in the fall of 2002. The Virginia Tech sophomore and varsity cheerleader displayed a head of wavy curls which appeared ready for a full 30-minute half, and dared to be seemingly(note the italics) unpinned at the same time. We made Allison a nominee for the 2002 Crown Awards under "Best Hairstyle in Athletics" as an experiment of sorts. Yet in an outcome that went against all Internet poll logic and odds, Hair Fans voted her the winner over tennis player/model Anna Kournikova.

Allison tells us she found out about her hair honor only when a friend went web-searching for the magazine article. Allison thought it was a joke at first -- but regular Hair Fans know we don't joke around when it comes to the Crowns. We found she doesn't fool around with her hair, either. But brace yourself -- because what we learned from the young woman nicknamed "Twister" about her style may stun you. We talked with Allison by phone from the VT (when did it stop being V.P.I.?) campus:

SUPER-HAIR: How would you describe your hair and your style?

ALLISON CURRAN: I'd always worn it long up until last year, when I had it cut short. It's really pretty straight. The stylist for the magazine curled it. My Mom has naturally curly hair, but my Dad's hair is real straight.... The stylist told me she was "trying to make it look naturally curly."

S-H: So how long is your hair now?

AC: It's about the same length. I had it trimmed again, and now I'm trying to grow it back out.

S-H: Which would you prefer? Straight hair or curly?

AC: I don't really have a preference. I think straight hair is easier to manage, but I think people with curly hair have beautiful hair. My roommate has some ringlets....

S-H: What else do you like about having straight hair?

AC: I like to do hair. I've done it since I was little.... You can braid it. It's easy to do stuff like that.

S-H: Anything you dislike about it?

AC: I don't know. I suppose it could look drab, especially when it's longer.

S-H: What's the biggest problem you face keeping your hair in place?

AC: For cheerleader, we have to wear our sides up, to do back flips and things like that. Also, in gymnastics we're doing back flips and stuff. So I use clips and hairspray.

S-H: How well do those do?

AC: They tend to work.

S-H: The American Cheerleader article showed several photos with your hair well pinned back. How often do you wear it that way?

AC: I actually wear it back a lot, because every day I have something -- like we have lifting, and then practice -- so there's something to do every day. My Mom always tells me I need to wear it down more, especially when it was long.

S-H: You mentioned lifting. Do you mean lifting people or....

AC: We have a strength training program, so we lift [weights] twice a week.

S-H: When was the last time your hair fell into your eyes in public? And how did it happen?

AC: Today in practice. I was wearing a ponytail, and when I did a backflip, it came loose and came up in front of my face.

S-H: Do you use any specific treatments to keep the hair in place - like spray or gel or something?

AC: I use a shampoo and conditioner, and a detangler because it's highlighted. I get lots of wispies probably from pulling my hair back so often, so sometimes I spray it back.

S-H: Do you have any favorite products that you use?

AC: I like Pantene and Herbal Essence products, but I try to switch it up and try new things.

S-H: Do you take any extra steps to get your hair ready for games?

AC: I curl it, I have to wear my sides up, and I have to wear a bow. They make us wear a bow.

S-H: Why do they make you do that?

AC: Visually - I'm not really sure. I'm not a real fan of the bow....

S-H: Is it just us, or do cheerleaders wear their hair pinned back more these days than they did years ago?

AC: I think so. There's a move toward that, because there's a lot more things that involve athletic moves. We have an all-girl stunt team, and one girl got her hair stuck [during a routine].... so they had to put it in a bun....

S-H: What do you say to the people who claim cheerleading isn't a sport? Isn't that athletic?

AC: I would say, try it! There's a lot more gymnastics than there used to be.... Some of the guys are really strong. A lot of teams run before they practice....

S-H: What advice would you give someone who wanted to develop great hair?

AC: I don't know. Lots of different hairstyles all seem to work. It seems for cheerleading, the bigger, the better....

S-H: Really. Why is that?

AC: Because it's visually appealing to the crowd.

S-H: A lot of people say "big hair," and think of something out of the eighties....

AC: Yeah, I know. People have seen my style and ask, "Is that you?"

S-H: We like to ask people who they think has the best head of hair....

AC: I don't know. Everybody has great hair. I think a lot of people have their own styles - Debra Messing has really pretty curls.


Our chat with Allison convinced us we should also give her cover-photo stylist a call -- since she was the one who really made the style work. She's Denise Melroy, who does freelance hair and makeup work with New York's "a ramona studio." Sadly, our computer failed us as we started typing in her quite-detailed comments -- but here are some highlights we scribbled down:

SUPER-HAIR: What did you do to get Allison's hair to look so good?

DENISE MELROY: I used a curling iron. It's a heat style. Then I used a thermal setting spray. There are settings that allow you to set the hair from dry, but with the strength of a wet set.

S-H: Is that turn on top of the head tied down, or natural?

DM: There's one clip on top, to hold it off the face. I used two different sets of curls, one larger, one smaller....

S-H: How long did it take to get that style together? It sounds like it took a long time.

DM: Not really - 30 minutes, outside.

S-H: We have to ask, though: Is this style functional, for cheerleading and for gymnastics?

DM: It depends on the type of routine. Yes, it will stay off the face. Yes, it will hold.... It's designed to evolve, be adjustable as it goes [through a game].

S-H: Have we reached a point where cheerleaders have to tie back their hair to do routines?

DM: Collegiate and high schools have different rules in wearing hair. I'm not sure which is which, but one is "half-up, half-down." The other is all off the face. This was a half-up look....

I once worked with the "Buffalo Jills" [football cheerleading squad] when a big downpour was in the forecast. Some women insisted on spraying their hair before the game, even though I said, "Don't do it!" But they did - and when the rain came, they couldn't do a thing with their hair, while the women who didn't use spray were able to work something out with it....

Big hair is back, and not just in cheerleading!

SUMMARY: We agree with Allison's mother - she shouldn't be afraid to wear her hair down. It looked great in the magazine. But we can't help admitting we feel a bit burned by "American Cheerleading," for having a stylist tweak this star's style for the camera. While Denise Melroy probably deserves a separate Crown for the curled look, we'd prefer a woman's regular hairstyle stand or fall on its own -- without clips, we might add.

If you see any cheerleaders daring to wear unpinned hair during games or routines, we suggest two things. First, cherish the moment - because that look apparently is fading away. Second, let us know - because we're sure some Hair Fans would delight to see such styles in action.

(Special thanks to Allison for letting us use photos from her personal online collection. If you're interested in more, please let us know and we'll pass along the request to her.)


Super-Hair Q&A Archive:

February 2003 -- Danae DeMasi, 2001 Newcomer of the Year

December 2002 -- Shannon Oliver of "The Bachelor"

October 2002 - Carolyn Hughes

August 2002 - Lynne Russell

June 2002 -- Eva Chavela, Rock Singer

April 2002 - Susan McGinnis, Best Bangs 2001-02

December 2001 - Rachael Nama and the "Locklear Look"

November 2001 - Onnie Willis, Gymnastics Champion

August 2001 - Yolanda Davis and The Flip

July 2001 - Miss Georgia 2001, Emily Foster

April 2001 - Cindy Hernandez's Cut of Controversy

November 2000 - Gina Tognoni and the Swing*

July 2000 - Britney Spears "FAQ's"

May 2000 - Shania Twain*

March 2000 - Jessica Simpson*

* Interviews with expert stylists about the woman's hair.

Do you know a woman who's willing to share her secrets of hair success? Is there a particular woman you'd like us to interview? Do you have a question we should ask? Simply e-mail us: .

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