November 2011: Lisa McRee's Short Styles

Some heads of Super-Hair become known for one classic look. But you may have forgotten the adjustments they made over time -- adjustments which kept the women not only stylish, but with an unblemished record in terms of hold and control. One TV news anchor made subtle and perfect changes, which earned her a place on our Ultimate 50 list.

LISA McREE gained national fame for her years at ABC -- first with the overnight World News Now, then a few hours later co-hosting Good Morning America. But she was a local star before then in Dallas-Fort Worth and Los Angeles. And now McRee has returned to her basic classic short cut, as she tries a new concept which could mix the internet with local and national television.

This is another case where the interview subject came to us, as opposed to the other way around. Lisa wrote to compliment us on how many people mention our site, when they look for information about her in the Ultimate 50! That started an exchange which led to a phone conversation on a warm weekday morning.

SUPER-HAIR: Let me start by asking you, for those who don't know -- what are you doing these days? You've been off television for awhile. What's your current project?

LISA McREE: I left PBS about four or five years ago.... I thought that I wanted to take a break from news. Of late, I've been doing a new website and developing a television show and writing a book called "The Skinny".... I'm still meeting with producing partners and trying to decide how to proceed. But I'd love to take it to The Food Network, and we're working on making it a segment, a series that could run on local news channels as well.

But I'm really sort of passionate about helping people lose weight. The obesity crisis in this country is affecting not just men and women, but children as well. It's devastating to our health care costs, and devastating to our health. And there's a better way to live, and I'm a really passionate fan of eating really good food and getting thin.

S-H: Hair Fans will tell you that The Food Network has its share of pretty good hairstyles, too....

LM: (laughs) So true, right?

S-H: They'll mention Giada [de Laurentiis], they'll mention Sandra Lee....

LM: How cute is that Giada? She's darling.

S-H: Oh she is, absolutely. So tell us about.... what is your current style? How would you describe what you have right now?

LM: Well, if you look on the website.... you'll see a picture that was taken this summer. It's a little different than it used to be. It's not as formal, I guess; not as serious. It's a little more choppy, razor-cut-ty. But it's still the same short hair, because I have a lot of hair, and it's not good hair. It's really coarse and tough to deal with. So every time I try to grow it out, I get to a certain place near my chin and go, "Man, that's ugly hair." (Both laugh)

I sort of kept going back and forth, you know - back to the same old thing. But then I think as I got older, I got worried I might look like.... a soccer mom. I don't want to look like a soccer mom from 20 years ago. I want to look like a fresh one.

S-H: Sure, sure.

LM: So the young girl who's cutting my hair now -- she gets a little jiggy with it. It's good.

S-H: What's that stylist's name? We can give them a plug.

LM: Her name is Rachel, and she is at a little salon called Haas.... It's in Los Angeles on Larchmont Boulevard, in this little village called Larchmont. And I have to say, I went to Christoff forever. I loved Christoff, and my hairstylist there, a guy named Johan.... a cute French guy. But Johan did my hair literally for.... 20 years, I guess. And I adore him. But parking in Beverly Hills is such a pain in the neck....

S-H: Oh, is it?

LM: It's such an ordeal.... You go over there and you get there and to wait and the.... It's like three hours out of your day, by the time you're done.... and I'll go to Johan if it's convenient and I can. But having Rachel about four blocks from my house means I can go in there, and she can just do my bangs a little bit. She can nick at it as I need it, so I don't touch it myself.

S-H: The thing you were saying about your coarse hair -- I guess that explains why I've never seen any pictures of you with long hair. Have you ever had long hair in your life?

LM: In college, I did. It wasn't as bad when I was younger. I mean, in college I had.... sort of like chest-length. You know, past my collarbone. And it's also just really thick. It's just heavy, and each shaft is thick.... Not good, not silky pretty hair. So it's short. Gonna be short (laughs). Especially as I got older - because when you get older, your hair really turns on you in so many ways.

S-H: Yet I've noticed from the pictures I've posted on your update page -- I've been looking through some of these -- your definition of "short" has kind of varied over the years. It's been really short. And then, from your Dallas years, it looks like....

LM: That would be, like, the Crystal Carrington phase. (Both laugh)

S-H: From Dynasty!

LM: I had Donna Mills eye shadow from Knots Landing and Crystal Carrington's hair. And apparently the jewelry from QVC. (Both laugh)

Looks like it would be hanging over Donald Trump's dining room table.

S-H: Oh wow....

LM: It was really big, right? But here's the thing.... In the (late) eighties, you had to have hair that was a big as your shoulder pads. And as my shoulder pads got bigger and bigger, so my hair got bigger and bigger. It was a particularly unattractive era.

S-H: Well -- I think there were some good things about it.

LM: And by the way, we thought we looked so good at the time. Stand in a windstorm and your hair wouldn't move -- there was something to be said for that.

S-H: I agree with you. That's one thing we like at Super-Hair -- hair that can hold through anything.

LM: (laughs) Exactly.

S-H: Was your hair like that, in that era? Was it able to hold through anything when you were out doing live reports? I mean, Texas is known for wind.

LM: I was in Dallas, you know, where we had a lot of weather. But there was also a lot of Aqua-Net! (Both laugh) They didn't bother with the fancy Sebastian Shaper stuff at that time. It was Aqua-Net all the way!

S-H: But when we moved on to.... KABC in Los Angeles, and then to World News Now, that was a pretty tight short style.

LM: It was a short bob, right? And that was when we still had bangs -- you know, like real bangs!

S-H: Real precise....

LM: Real precise bangs -- and again, it's so funny. Occasionally people will post these YouTube videos -- I don't know who these people are, but God love them -- that have video of Aaron Brown and I in the middle of the night....

S-H: I 've seen that.

LM: And I see my head turning back and forth and back and forth -- and again, it doesn't move. Just kind of pivots a little bit. (Laughs)

S-H: Perfect. Perfection!

LM: Perfection -- but.... it was the middle of the night. We would take little naps during long segments. I guess it allowed me to pick my face up off the desk where I was sleeping, and still have the same hair.

S-H: How often did you have the bangs, to keep it that precise?....

LM: The great thing about working at a network is that you have hairdressers who have scissors. So they could do it, whenever you needed it done.... If they were blowing my hair out that night, and all of a sudden it went over my eyelashes, they'd go, 'Uh!' -- whip those scissors out. It's probably not as common to have those kinds of hairdressers today, with all the budget cuts, but I was really grateful for them. (Laughs) It kept me from trimming my own bangs.

S-H: How often do you get trimmed these days?

LM: That's the great thing about having this local girl.... If it's bothering me in the morning, I can have it done in the afternoon, usually. I can just swing back, and she can take five minutes and - you know, dry hair, just a little snip-snip, and I'll be happily on my way without picking up the scissors myself. Which I have done; it's very, very dangerous....

S-H: Is it?

LM: Nervous bang-trimming is so much worse than nervous eating (both laugh) -- and I've had that, where I've got, "Oh, I've got something happening. Ooh, my bangs look a little funny, and I can't go to Beverly Hills and fight the traffic.... and it takes two weeks to get an appointment.... I'll just do this little bit here." And then you get nervous, and you keep going and you keep going....

S-H: You don't know when to stop, do you?

LM: You don't know when to stop -- you shouldn't do it. It's like: step away from the scissors.

S-H: What is your biggest challenge with your hair these days -- in terms of a short style, and in terms of keeping it in good shape? Keeping it looking good?

LM: I have to say I've discovered Moroccan Oil -- the really good Moroccan Oil, that's 45 dollars a bottle. And that stuff is amazing. That's helped a lot, in terms of putting some silkiness back in my hair, because it - heer's the ugly truth. When your hair starts to turn colors on you (laughs)....

S-H: Has that happened to you?

LM: I'm a too-processed girl. I'm rich in highlights.... the root thing, it changes the character of your hair. It gets really unruly, and it wants to.... go somewhere else. And so it takes a lot of care.... I've used good hair products over the years. And sometimes I've used Aveda, I've used whatever I happened to have. Or whatever salon I'm in, I'll buy whatever I need at that moment.

But that Moroccan Oil has been a great gift for my coarse, thick hair.... I want the equivalent for my skin. Moroccan Oil needs to invent an eye cream or something, that really soothes all the sore spots.

S-H: I know you're not on television now. But how much preparation would you need to prepare your hair for, say, a TV appearance? And what sort of preparation would you do?

LM: It's, again, much less precise -- but aren't we all much less precise than we used to be about our hair?.... It's got movement, is what it is.... Which means it's much more forgiving if you have a good cut. You can be immediately after a cut or four weeks into a cut, and it still kind of works, because you just move the pieces around a little bit differently with your hands.

Which is very different from the way it used to be, right? It used to be.... three or four weeks after a cut, you were like: "OK!.... It's lost its thing. It needs to.... be more rigid." But now it's.... like everything in our lives, we're a little more open to movement, change - and as you get older, you've got to be careful about having those real precise, stiff cuts, 'cause I think it makes you look older.

S-H: Yeah, I see what you mean.

LM: Younger -- and a little sloppier. (Laughs)

S-H: I see what you mean. But it's controlled movement, I guess, is the key, isn't it?

LM: It is. It's kind of a fake-out, right? Because you want it to look really effortless and tousled, but.... there's a real science that the hairdressers are practicing. It's just not as obvious as it used to be.

S-H: Has your hair ever fallen in your eyes on camera? (Lisa laughs) Out doing a newscast, out doing a story or something like that?

LM: Because my hair's so heavy, one of the reasons I have sort of been good about keeping the bangs is that when my hair was longer, if you caught me from the right side of my face, it looked like that dog in The Lady and the Tramp. The one, you know, with the bang over her eye. (Both laugh)

S-H: I know what you mean.

LM: So yeah, I have to be really careful about that. Because nobody needs a one-eyed anchor.

S-H: But you've never had that happen on camera?!

LM: Oh, sure I have, but.... I've also been caught eating Chinese food on camera. So anything's possible.

S-H: Do you think that, from what you see of other news anchors, have they gone along with what your philosophy is? Are they less precise with their hair than they used to be? Or are they keeping things -- the "helmet hair," like they used to talk about?

LM: I don't see helmet hair anymore. But you see kind of everything, don't you? But I'll tell you the one thing that's trended that I've really, really noticed is long hair.... It used to be that after a certain age, and to be considered "credible".... you had to have a professional-looking cut. You couldn't walk in with, like, long layered Real Housewives of Beverly Hills hair.... But that's completely changed. I think that there's lots of anchors out there who can pull it off now, with the long hair.... and good for them. If I had long hair that was pretty, I'd probably try it, too.

For me, though, I think at a certain age, it really helps to cut your hair shorter because I think it lifts your face. You know what I mean? I think as women start to age, and their faces start to head downward, it kind of helps to have your hair head upward a little bit.

S-H: I see what you're saying...

LM: It's not a look everybody can pull off, but it's a whole trend to a different kind of newscaster. And first of all, they're much younger, probably too. But I think back in the 80s when.... I was starting out, we were fighting really hard every way we could for credibility and respectability. And I think we perceived that one of the ways to do that was to have a shorter, more "professional".... cut. And again.... I think that women today on television don't have to worry about that. They can be perfectly credible and have Goldilocks; it doesn't matter.

S-H: You mentioned that people come to our site to get ideas on how to have your looks, your styles. What advice would you give them about getting hair as good as yours, or good hair in general?

LM: I think you really have to look at the shape of your face, and then have a great hairdresser who can give you options based on what the shape of your face is.

I've had a lot of experience with young girls -- my daughter's ten -- and she.... desperately wanted to have long hair, and she'd always had the short little chin-length bob. And quite frankly, she should keep the chin-length bob; it's cutest on her. But she wanted to try it.... and I was, like: "OK, you go for it." It took the hairdresser to say to her, "You know, Kate, now that you've gotten it long, don't you think maybe it's better shorter?" You know, for this reason and this reason and your face -- and also the character of her hair, which is also super-super thick.

And I think that's important.... looking at your face.... and then looking at your lifestyle.... If you play a lot of sports, maybe you want really short, or really long so you can ponytail it. It depends on how much time you want to dedicate to it each day.... Long hair seems like a tremendous amount of work to me. (Laughs) I am too lazy about my appearance to do that.

S-H: I would think it would be. Now Kate's ten years old. Is she interested in following your career lead, in terms of....

LM: I think she's too shy for that. She's a soccer player.... She's way smarter and way more athletic than I am, so she'll probably do something much better.

S-H: We like to ask the women we interview if.... Who do you think has the best head of hair out there these days? In television news, or in general? Who has the most impressive head of hair you've seen?

LM: Ooooo -- whose hair do I covet? Well, can I say.... this may not seem like an obvious choice, because she doesn't promote herself as a glamour puss ever -- but I think Ann Curry has the nicest hair. I see it down, I see it up, sometimes she's got it straight, sometimes she has it curled. It seems to do whatever she wants it to do, and always looks together, but never looks staid and fussy. I used to... and it's shiny! I don't know how she gets her hair shiny, but.... it looks so healthy. And I know she's got to be around my age, so I want to know what she's doing.

S-H: She was one of our Crown Award winners, years ago.... She won a Crown Award for Makeover of the Year from us, so....

LM: She's so funny, because she'll go.... it'll go below her shoulders, and then it'll go back up right below her ears.... She messes around with it a lot, and I think that's fun. I don't like it when they're always the same.

SUMMARY: Lisa showed quite a bit of insight, explaining how the standard for top-quality hair has changed over the decades. Some stylists actually encourage messy-looking cuts these days. But it's a very rare occasion when Lisa's hair is messy in public - perhaps only when she dares to go longer. We think she's returned to her best length and look. May many TV viewers have the opportunity to see a Super-short style at its best.


Read more than 40 additional interviews, in the Super-Hair Q&A Archive!

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