My little Lucille Ball

Lisa Ingebrand,

To cap off the school year, my daughter Ellen’s fourth grade class created a living wax museum of great leaders.

Out of the list of dozens of names, my little redhead chose Lucille Ball.

Why did she chose Lucille Ball? Because she was a redhead. (You’ve gotta love 10-year-old logic.)

Things started out great.

Ellen dove into the research work, reading books about Lucille Ball’s life and watching “I Love Lucy” episodes on her tablet.

We managed to find the perfect 1950s-style dress and an aunt agreed to pin-up Ellen’s long hair the morning of the wax museum.

A lot of the actual project work was completed at school, which was so nice (especially after the heavily at-home Nevada State Box project).

I thought things were moving along smoothly.

I thought Ellen was on track to do great and represent the beautiful Lucille Ball well.

Of course, nothing involving my spirited child could be that simple.

About week prior to the wax museum, Ellen came home from school fuming mad and announced she was no longer going to be Lucille Ball. She flat-out, adamantly—and dramatically—refused to be Lucille Ball.

It took a lot of prying and nagging and lecturing to figure out why.

Turns out, she discovered that Lucille Ball was a FAKE redhead—and Ellen was personally wounded by this reality.

Honestly, I, too, thought Lucille Ball was a natural redhead, but Ellen showed me the page in the “I Love Lucille Ball” book where it states that the famous redhead was indeed a blonde in real life. She ultimately dyed her hair red to stand out on screen.

“Mom! She’s famous for being a redhead, but she wasn’t really a redhead! Can you believe that?!” spouted Ellen, who, in horror, added: “She was a BLONDE like Anna (her big sister), and I DON’T want to be a blonde!”

It was a whirlwind of emotions and facts and sisterly competition and self pride.

Ellen loves her red hair and how it helps her stand out. Back in preschool, she made her teacher cut special pieces of yarn just for her so her craft could have RED hair like her.

She had chosen Lucille Ball BECAUSE she believed Lucille Ball was a redhead (a fact her sister chose to laugh about—in front of her—a bit too much, which caused even more of a tussle).

It took days to fully convince Ellen to re-embrace her assigned project. We weren’t going to let her fold. She had to stick with it and complete what she started—she had to do the project she was assigned.

She wasn’t happy about it, but she did it, and on the morning of the wax museum, she got up early and went to her aunt’s house to get her hair pinned up. Red lipstick was applied and big earrings were selected to complete the look. She looked adorable!

She remained a bit salty about having to impersonate a fake redhead, but she also decided it was pretty darn cool that Lucille Ball was kicked out of her first acting class, couldn’t sing, and still went on to be a star and one of the first women to ever own a studio in Hollywood.

Ellen was also impressed by the fact Lucille Ball was the first pregnant woman to be shown on television and that her marriage to Desi Arnaz—on and off the screen—helped America embrace mixed-race marriages. (“How were those things even a problem, mom?” my 21st Century child innocently questioned.)

Ultimately, the project taught us a lot about history, about Hollywood, and about a very funny and motivated woman who never gave up her goal of becoming a star.

When I walked into the school gym to view the wax museum, my little redhead stood out, like redheads do. Her curled hair was piled on top of her head with the tips of a handkerchief sticking out—in true Lucille Ball fashion—and the black and white polkadot '50s dress was on point… and Ellen wore a huge grin.

Of course, part of her monologue, which Ellen stated after a museum guest “pushed a button,” informed people that Lucille Ball did in fact dye her hair red.

I think even Lucille Ball would have chuckled.


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