New Zealand Woman’s Weekly
THE LOVABLE REDHEAD WAS A LADY OF FIRSTS, FOREVER BREAKING THE MOULD OF TV COMEDY. BUT IT ALSO CAUSED HER TO CONSTANTLY REINVENT HERSELF
That scorching, trademark red hair is the first thing that springs to mind at the mention of Lucille Ball – the comedy star who brought us hits such as I Love Lucy and became the first woman to run a major television studio. But like so much in the life of this star, it transpires this was all part of a catalogue of reinventions for the natural brunette who’d tried brown, blonde and finally red tresses in her desperate bid to stand out and clinch fame.
Lucille’s troubled sense of identity stemmed from her early years. Although born in New York, once she decided on a career in the public eye, she began telling people she had been born in Anaconda, Montana. While her family had moved to Anaconda briefly in her childhood, this rewriting of her life set a precedent for the years of reinvention to come.
Lucille’s career started when her stepfather Edward Peterson needed female entertainers for the chorus line of his organisation’s next show. Twelve-year-old Lucille, who’d spent the past years living in her puritanical step-grandparents’ house where all mirrors were banned (no wonder the girl had a distorted view of herself), realised performing was a way to get the praise and recognition she craved. reinvented a new age for herself, signing herself away as 26 (even though she was 29) and declaring Desi’s age as 26 (even though he was 23) on the marriage certificate.