Some social lessons from Kaley Cuoco and her new hairdo

@maneaddicts #bts #pinkbrows @jamiemakeupgreenberg photobomb @clsymonds

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Take one blond TV star, add some pink hair dye, throw in a set of pink eyebrows, and what do you get? In the case of Kaley Cuoco you get a massive, newsworthy reaction pouring in from fans and haters alike. By this point, Kaley’s no stranger to social media buzz centering on her looks. The Big Bang Theory actress kicked off season 8 with a pixie cut, causing uproar among fans that had grown used to her long blond locks. Across the internet, people chimed in about her appearance, age and acting ability, all while Kaley defended her new look with a smile. Now she’s made another drastic change, and in spite of all the hate for her pink hair and brows, she’s still smiling.

Have you ever wondered why some people, like Kaley, can ditch social norms and still be popular, successful and happy, while others are ostracized for similar actions? How come some people thrive in spite of negative attention, while others are destroyed by it? If fitting in is something you struggle with, then the answers to these questions are particularly important, and Kaley’s situation is one you can learn from.

The way we see it, there are three major things that Kaley has done right that have allowed her to draw heat for her new look, without actually jeopardizing her reputation or popularity.

Take a look:

  1. She Won Us Over First. When you hear the name Kaley Cuoco, you’re not likely to think of her as “that girl with pink hair.” There’s a far better chance your mind will flash to one of her many past interviews, awards, and photoshoots, or her eight seasons playing the blond, bubbly Penny on The Big Bang Theory. That’s because Kaley Cuoco already has an established identity. She’s already someone we know, like, and can relate to. It’s no secret that people are drawn to those they have things in common with. This is especially true in middle and high school, when kids are constantly labeling each other as “us” or “them.” That doesn’t mean you can’t express your individuality, but when it comes to making friends, the spotlight should shine on the things you have in common with the other kids; not the things that make you different. When your identity is tied too closely to the things that make you different, kids may not know how to approach or relate to you. That doesn’t mean they won’t embrace your differences once they get to know you, but first they need to see some common ground so they’ll want to get to know you.
  2. She Shrugged off The Criticism. Kaley doesn’t care if you like her hair, because she likes it and those closest to her like it. Some of the things people have said about her are so mean it’s shocking. She’s been called ugly and unfeminine, and some commenters have even vowed to stop watching her TV show, all because of her hair. As crazy as that is, Kaley isn’t feeding into the negativity. She’s going on with her life. If you’ve ever been picked on or bullied, you should follow her example. It’s usually the kids that have the biggest reactions who are targeted most. The bully wants you to fight with him/her, or to cry or have a melt-down. When there’s no reaction, there’s less reason to instigate. That’s not to say you can’t stand up for yourself, or that you shouldn’t tell an adult if you’re concerned for your well-being. It just means that it’s best to use restraint when you’re in the moment. Shrug it off, and you’re less likely to be a target in the future.
  3. She Chose Her Moment. Kaley saved this experiment for a time when The Big Bang Theory wasn’t filming, and it wasn’t going to affect her work. While this may seem like the obvious choice (What would Sheldon do if Penny showed up to the apartment with pink hair??), Kaley made a conscious decision that’s worth noting. While it’s great to be able to express your individuality, some forms of expression can be distracting or annoying in a public setting. If something you’re wearing, doing, or saying tends to attract negative attention from your peers, it may be a form of expression best saved for your downtime at home.

While no one ever has the right to be mean to you just because you’re breaking a social norm, it’s something that happens all the time in middle and high school. That doesn’t mean you have to suppress your individuality, but you should put some thought into how you go about showing it. Making sure to establish connections is just as important as establishing individuality. Being able to stay positive in the face of criticism, and being aware of potential social fallout to a decision can also make a big difference in your social experience.

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Isa Marrs is the Founder and Executive Director of the Where I Can Be Me® social skills program. She is a board-certified speech-language pathologist who specializes in pragmatic language (social skills) disorders in children. Read More