Above: Taya Smith leading worship at a Hillsong service. Source: Instagram / @casslangton
How very quickly social media explodes with opinion, when someone in the public eye changes their appearance.
It’s not just pop celebrities who become the subject of mass debate over their style choices; high-profile Christian worship leaders are in the firing line too, it seems, judging by the response to Taya Smith’s recent short haircut.
After posting an image on Instagram of her new buzz-cut on April 6, followers of the Hillsong United singer unleashed a mixture of support and criticism. Many quoted Bible passages requiring women to have long hair; others responding to the critics with comments about culture and context.
Supporters pointed out Taya’s right to choose her own hairstyle without answering to others.
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In a recent catchup with Taya and her band mates, Hope 103.2 heard from the singer herself about why she went for the cropped look: her hair was simply damaged from too much bleach. And as any woman knows when their long hair is dry and breaking off, a drastic cut is sometimes the only solution.
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“It wasn’t spiritual,” Taya said. “I can’t lie: when you bleach your hair and you don’t necessarily take care of it in the best way it can damage. And I thought maybe I could just cut my hair. I joked with friends that I was just going to shave it…then I started thinking, ‘What if?’”
Her bandmates were the first people she checked in with before getting the shave.
“I put it to our bass player and she checked the shape of my head and she said ‘yep’, and then I asked the guys, ‘What do you reckon?’—because they’re the style gurus,” she joked. “They were like, ‘Once you do it, that’s it, it’s not going to grow back straight away’. But I did it.”
Despite the pragmatic motivation for her haircut, Taya said it became a very liberating experience, despite the legalistic feedback from some Christians.
“It wasn’t meant to be spiritual but then it kind of was this freeing thing where, I was like, ‘Well hair grows back, people have opinions, but life’s too short to even care about that.’ It’s kind of given me a freedom to [think], ‘Well, I am who I am before God and that’s all that matters. So let’s do this.’ It’s actually been fun. [It wasn’t] spiritual but then it became that.”
Fellow singer Jonathan JD Douglass joked with Taya that she hadn’t learnt her lesson about caring for her locks: “You cut your hair because it was dying from bleaching it, and now you’ve done it again,” he said. “I’m glad you learnt from that!”