Cleopatra Hair

Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra
Think Cleopatra, think vamp. Powerful, passionate, crusher of hearts, destroyer of men - the infamous Queen of the Nile, elevated by the force of legend and the mystique of Ancient Egypt,  is the ultimate femme fatale. At least that is the image that is firmly embedded in our cultural text, as passed through the transmutations and perversions of Hollywood mixed with history.

So strong is this image that even her hairstyle, or rather our conception of it,  has become a symbol of dangerous female seduction. Play with those lush dark locks and you play with feminine fire. The Cleopatra hairstyle is contrived, heavy and dramatic...always dark, with a thick fringe and cut along emphatic, geometric lines. Provided you have the physical assets to carry it off, it's a ring a ding ding, iconic style that turns heads.

Louise Brooks -shades of Cleopatra
It worked well for 20s vamp Theda Bara, Vivien Leigh and Elizabeth Taylor, all of whom played Cleopatra on the big screen. A short variation of the style was revived in the 1920s with the Louise Brooks black bob. More recent incarnations include Cleopatra variations worn by Katy Perry and various models of vampish proportions.

Cleopatra hair was also the style of choice for Uma Thurman's character in Pulp Fiction. It was a clever move, as the look required a cool exterior that hinted at explosive dangers beneath the surface and it worked a treat. Thurman looked as coolly detached as as a stick of dynamite.

Uma Thurman, staggeringly cool in Pulp Fiction
The Real Cleopatra
Mostly our image of Cleopatra is based on stylised ancient Egyptian art - we have no firm picture of what the Queen of the Nile really looked like, let alone a fickle detail like her hairstyle. Few tangible remnants of her image survive. There are Cleopatra coins from 32 AD but alas, they depict a shatteringly harsh contradiction to the legend of an extraordinary beauty that 'beggared all description', as Shakespeare wrote of her.

Perhaps Cleopatra's considerable charms lay less in her physical appearance and more in the curves of her character. According to the historian Plutarch, who wrote a hundred years or so after her death, she was a great conversationalist and an amusing companion:

"For her beauty, as we are told, was in itself not altogether incomparable, nor such as to strike those who saw her; but converse with her had an irresistible charm, and her presence, combined with the persuasiveness of her discourse and the character which was somehow diffused about her behaviour towards others, had something stimulating about it...."~ Life of Antony
A smouldering Claudette Colbert as Cleopatra

 Cleopatra Makeup