Monday, May 27, 2024 May 27, 2024
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Kitty Carter Doesn’t Care What You Think of Her Hair

Forget new shampoos and leave-in conditioners. Someone needs to bottle us all some Kitty Carter Confidence.
Kitty Carter, Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders Coach
Carter’s current hairstyle is the opposite of a mullet. It’s a party up front, business in the back. Elizabeth Lavin

For those of us who can’t afford to spend $2,000 a month on a glam squad and who don’t have the hair management skills or triceps strength to keep our hair out of a ponytail most days, meet the Unlikely Bad-Hair Fairy Godmother who will help you embrace the journey of your terrible hair: Kitty Carter. She’s been the no-nonsense coach of Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders hopefuls and aspiring dancers at Kitty Carter’s Dance Factory in Lake Highlands since 1980. You might know her from her reality TV days on Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making the Team. Every time she showed up on screen, the villain instrumental played, and the dancers panicked. Her hair was fire-engine red with chunky, blonde streaks, like a cross between Milla Jovovich in The Fifth Element and Cruella De Vil. Carter says she remembers telling her stylist, “I want trashy—I don’t want blended.” Don’t like her hair? She doesn’t care what you think about it. Like a high school teacher with a class full of Hermiones, she has no F’s to give.

When she was a TV regular, people would comment about her hairstyle online. “I mean, the people that know me and know who I am and how I work and how I teach, those are the only people that matter to me. I don’t care what some Susie Bell out in Garland, Lubbock, or even at UT thinks about me. I mean, you can’t worry about that. A lot of people define themselves by what other people think about them. I just don’t do that. Never have.”

And if you’ve ever hated your hair, she’s your new favorite everything. “I don’t know why you’re talking to me about hair in Dallas,” she says. “I have the worst hair ever.” Carter’s current hairstyle is the opposite of a mullet—it’s a party up front, business in the back. She’s rocking a French roll, but the front is teased to the point that if the Texas adage “The higher the hair, the closer to God” is true, hers must certainly be seated at the right hand of The Father. “I’m going to spit my gum out,” she tells me before she launches into a story about her time on the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders squad. It’s a stream-of-consciousness rollercoaster; you buckle in and enjoy the ride.

“In the ’70s, there was big hair like Farrah Fawcett, which was fabulous, and that was the Cowboy Cheerleaders—big hair. I had as big a hair as I could have for cheerleaders. I was not the It Girl, but I was a hell of a dancer, and I didn’t care if I was the It Girl as long as I was in charge. I didn’t have the ta-tas or the booty or the waistline, but I didn’t care. I wanted to be the leader.”

Noted: “In the ’70s, there was big hair like Farrah Fawcett, which was fabulous.”

This lifelong personality trait of needing to be the leader is made abundantly clear as I sit on a couch in her office that is extremely low to the ground while she towers above me in her nearby desk chair.

“Our big thing was sitting on a car at the State Fair, not in uniform but in a long dress. I mean, that’s what we did. They’d call and say, ‘You’re going to be on the circle-things with the new Cadillacs.’ ” This was the early days, before there was a Jerry World budget. “We didn’t have a salon. Our dressing room at the old stadium was a storeroom for mops and brooms. There was no heater in there. We had one bathroom. We shared it with all the guards for the stadium.”

No matter what, they had to have big hair if they were in uniform. Which was no easy feat for Carter. “I had the ugliest hair ever. I just did. In high school, you know, they do those really mean catalogs where they make fun of people? I think they had a mop on my head.”

I wish I couldn’t relate. No matter what I did, my hair always managed to end up shaped like non-hair things: mushroom, bowl, sea cucumber. 

“And I didn’t have big hair, so I would try to make it big,” Carter says. “I mean, my hair was really kind of feathers.” Carter points to her office wall, which is covered floor to ceiling with photos of cheerleaders she has had a hand in coaching over the decades. It’s like a shrine to every hair era, from teased to straightened to curled and permed, and 99 percent of it is bleached blond. “This is at the Super Bowl,” she says. “That was my hair. It was very, very thin. It was bleached to the max.” Carter recalls taking creative measures to straighten her unruly hair. “I used orange juice cans to try to straighten my hair to get that look, and so it wouldn’t be frizzy. Then our director calls, and she says, ‘Who was out on the beach during team practice with orange juice cans in their hair?’ That was me.” 

Short hair? She gave it a shot. “I love short hair, but I’ve tried to cut mine short, and I look like a hag,” she says. She points to her current hairdo. “I got this in Spain with my granddaughter.” The way she points to the pouf in the front of her hair as she refers to it as “this” has given me life. “As I get older, I’m kind of still edgy. I have nine grandchildren, and I tell them, ‘Look, I’m not going to be the grandmother that wears ballet slippers and stretch pants. It’s just not going to be me.’ ” 

This story originally appeared in the March issue of D Magazine. Write to [email protected].


Alice Laussade

Alice Laussade