ST. PETERSBURG — The hair, wild and complicated, has been her partner through growing children, tough relationships and sundry careers.
Lately, Rebecca Aragon's waistlong mane is unruly mountain wool, a twisted tree with silver roots planted inches along the scalp. On a good day, controlling it takes three hours, a bucket of product and a bandana.
"If it's rainy outside, then, wow," she said.
On TV one day, she witnessed a plea.
Live With Regis and Kelly's Bad Hair Week … Live's team of hair experts will work their magic on our makeover candidates!
Maybe there was hope yet.
Aragon, 51, called a friend to come shoot a photo. She cocked her head and put her hands to her hips, the hairy glory flowing down her shoulders, as she posed before the pink Azalea bush at home. She e-mailed it to the show.
• • •
Aragon was the tomboy in a house of sisters.
All the girls were endowed with the same frizzy curl. They were experts at pressing it on an ironing board, a thin pillowcase insulating the hair from the scalding iron.
When Aragon joined the Marines for a stint after high school, she wore slick buns and ponytails with her dress uniform. She loved the regimented adrenaline of the military, but it also brought out her girly side. She dabbled with makeup, a little lash, a little lip. In 1980, she started wearing long acrylic nails.
She moved around, married, divorced, raised two sons. She raised a daughter with hair just like hers. In 1996, the two posed for a photo, arms locked, hair high, nails long, smiles wide. She's 26 now.
Aragon searched for her calling. She was a biker babe, a waiter, an office worker, a would-be manicurist. Her hair was just as fickle — Bo Derek cornrows, caramel highlights, pixie fringe, big barrel bangs her sons dubbed a "scare-do."
Thirteen years ago, she moved to Florida from her hometown of Pueblo, Colo. She started working as an electrician's apprentice and met her fiance, Russell Schoenberger. He's sweet and takes care of her, she said. They run an electrical business and raise German shepherds.
She wears pink work boots and crawls in the dirt, her hair wrapped in bright bandanas tied in Aunt Jemima knots to cover the roots she has neglected since the economy got bad.
She loves her work, the feeling she gets when she fixes something — when there's no light, and then there is. She's excited to graduate from Pinellas Technical Education Center in May.
Things are going well. Mostly.
Last week, a Live producer called. Out of thousands of applicants, she was among 10 bad-hair finalists. Then the public voted it down to five. Aragon was in.
"Sometimes, people, for one reason or another, let themselves go," said Michael Gelman, executive producer of Live. "I would guess that Rebecca's thinking that right now."
On Wednesday, she flew to New York. On Friday, celebrity stylist Oscar Blandi will give Aragon a new style. She's not embarrassed about her bad hair, just reeling with anticipation.
She'll be live on television across the nation, for everyone to see.
• • •
She wants hair that looks young and fresh.
She wants to chuck the curling iron and the ceramic straightener and the bottles of curl cream and mousse. She wants to simplify.
"I'm going to be smokin'," she said. "I'm excited."
She wants to meet Regis because she loves his humor and suits. She wants to see what shoes Kelly wears. She wants to see New York, a place she has never been.
There's one more thing, Aragon said, flipping through a sea of old photos. Her voice softened, her brash spunk dulled.
She spoke of a difficult divorce, of a family ripped apart, of kids forced to take sides.
She hasn't spoken to her daughter in nine years.
"Maybe if she sees me on TV, she'll call."
Stephanie Hayes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8857.