‘Little Redheads Across America’ explores the challenges of having red hair
By Becky Wright
Lucille Ball was known as America’s Favorite Redhead, but she admitted that her hair color came from a bottle.
Plenty of genuine redheads have gained fame in America, including Carol Burnett, Conan O’Brien, Danny Bonaduce, Bette Midler, Winona Judd and comic Scott Thompson, better known as Carrot Top.
According to “Little Redheads Across America,” 20 U.S. presidents had red hair, including George Washington (who used powder to make it appear white), Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson.
Other famous redheads listed in the book include Nicole Kidman, Vincent Van Gogh, Christopher Columbus, Alexander the Great, Queen Elizabeth I, Sarah Ferguson, Cleopatra, William Shakespeare and J.K. Rowling.
Karen Breitenbeker, of Centerville, was kidding. She wasn’t really surprised, since her grandson, Andrew Tulin, comes from a long line of redheads.
Breitenbeker has red hair, just like her mother and grandfather. She passed it on to her daughter, Nicole Tulin, who passed it on to Andrew.
Andrew, who is 4 years old, says having red hair is good. His mother agrees, but she didn’t always feel that way.”When I was in school, some kids were kind of mean about it,” said Nicole Tulin, of Woods Cross.So she tried to change her hair.
“When I went through beauty school, I did everything in the book to it, because I did hate it,” she admits. “But I grew to love it, and love it now — it’s all natural.”I n fact, she says, people want to copy her auburn hue.” I went to Las Vegas, and was walking through a casino when one of the workers stopped me and asked what color I use on my hair,” she said.
Breitenbeker isn’t quite as thrilled about being a redhead. “I remember walking home from school, and older kids would tease me,” she said. “I still think that’s part of the reason I don’t like it.” She didn’t like being called “Red,” and she didn’t like getting extra attention.”People would say, ‘You have such pretty hair,’ and I used to put my hands over my head and say, ‘Don’t look at my hair,’ ” she remembers. She still hasn’t gotten used to it. “I feel like when I go somewhere, I’m the only one who has red hair,” she said.
Redheads are rare, making up just 1 percent to 2 percent of the world’s population, so they do attract attention. That’s why Nicole Giladi wrote, “Little Redheads Across America” (Redhead Publishing, 2008). She wanted her son Sammy, who has bright copper-colored hair, to feel not just different, but special.
Giladi, of Granada Hills, Calif., gathered photos of red-haired kids from every state, using e-mails passed mom to mom. The Utah page features Emma Mychajlonka, a 5-year-old from Ogden, and Andrew Tulin, then 3 and living in Bountiful. Time has passed since the book was put together; Mychajlonka is now 7 and living in Gilbert, Ariz., and Tulin is 4 and lives in Woods Cross. Both children enjoy looking through the book, to see themselves and other kids. The book isn’t just about showing young redheads that they aren’t alone; it explores some of the challenges of having red hair.
People have some strange ideas about red hair, including that it’s lucky to rub a redhead’s hair, and unlucky to be in a redhead’s shadow.
A lot of people believe redheads have fiery tempers — even some redheads. “Both me and my son have little tempers,” said Nicole Tulin, “So, I think there’s a truth to it.” Emma Mychajlonka has a fiery personality that goes with her hair, according to her mom.
“But I’m sure with any child it’s probably the same,” said Emma’s mom, Danielle Mychajlonka. “It’s like a roller coaster — you strap in and hang on for the ride, because there are a lot of ups and downs.” One perception, that redheads feel more pain, may be true. According to Giladi, researchers say redheads may need more anesthetic during operations.
“I could say she definitely falls into that category,” said Danielle Mychajlonka about Emma. “Even with a small fall, you think she’s broken something.” Breitenbeker says she always has to have extra shots at the dentist, because the pain blockers don’t take.
Red hair, red skin
One of the challenges that comes with red hair is fair skin. Melanin gives color to hair, skin and eyes. It can absorb UV rays from the sun, turning skin tan. Because they have less melanin, redheads have lighter skin, which can burn. “When I was younger, I got burned pretty good. I actually have had melanoma,” said Nicole Tulin.
Mychajlonka does get a little tan in the sun, and it may be because she has brown eyes. “If you have brown eyes and red hair, you’re going to have a little more melanin in your skin,” said Giladi. Forty-five percent of redheads have blue eyes, 24 percent have green eyes, 18 percent have brown eyes, and 12 percent have hazel.
Breitenbeker says one of the reasons she was teased as a child is because, like most redheads, she has freckles. When fair skin is in the sun, Giladi says, melanin can overproduce in small spots, causing freckles. Emma Mychajlonka is just starting to develop a few spots. “She is very excited about that,” said her mom. “She was kind of sad that she was a redhead without freckles.”
Why red hair?
Giladi attributed her son’s red hair to his father’s side of the family, then found out it comes from a recessive gene. “That means both parents must carry the redhead gene,” she said. “I was floored to learn that I was also responsible.” Some people believe everyone with red hair has roots in Ireland.
“People always say that,” said Nicole Tulin. “I know we have family from Denmark … I’m not sure about being Irish.”
Actually, Scotland beats Ireland for red hair, according to Giladi’s book. Fourteen percent of Scots are redheads, followed by Ireland and Wales with 10 percent. Red hair occasionally crops up in India, the Middle East and even Japan. The U.S. is 2 percent to 6 percent redhead, but it’s such a big country there are more here than anywhere. Apparently, a lot are in Utah.
“Before we moved to Utah, we hardly ever saw any redheads,” said Emma Mychajlonka’s mom. “I kept telling her she was special. … but in Utah she said, ‘Mommy, they’re everywhere.’ ”
Embracing the hue
Giladi says most redheads grow to love their hair, just as Tulin did. “They say, ‘I wouldn’t have changed it — it shaped who I am today,’ ” she said. Emma Mychajlonka has embraced her red hair. “I like that everybody likes what color I have,” said Emma. “They say, ‘Wow! You have such pretty hair, and it makes me feel happy about having red hair.’ “
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