I May Destroy You: The secret meaning behind Arabella's hairstyles

I May Destroy You fans may have spotted that Arabella has a penchant for regularly switching up her hairstyle game.

Over the course of the acclaimed new series, Michaela Coel’s character sports a range of looks, including poker-straight jet black hair, a pink wig, and going completely shaven.

These different styles haven’t been incorporated into the show on a whim. In fact, each hairstyle and colour for Arabella was carefully chosen to represent the array of emotions she was experiencing at specific points in time.

Metro.co.uk caught up with the show’s hair and make-up artist Bethany Swan, who lifted the lid on the meaning behind each signature style.

‘Throughout the series Michaela, Lynsey Moore [costume designer] and I worked closely to create real characters with resonating backstories through a combined use of colour seen in the costume, makeup and even hair,’ Bethany began.

‘When we first meet Arabella, she has pink hair. From an outside perspective, this colour exudes confidence, but it’s a pale washed-out pink, it has long dark roots, it feels tired, well-loved and lived in.


‘This is the state of mind we find her in, emotionally drained, and with writer’s block.

‘We expanded on the symbolism behind Arabella’s pink hair, as it was mirrored on our young Theo with streaks of it through her hair too. Michaela wanted the pink to reflect the trauma that both women experience.’

In the flashback episode where Terry  (Weruche Opia) visits Arabella in Italy, Arabella sports purple locks. This was chosen to show the ‘strong confident Arabella, who’s at the top of her game.’


‘It is totally unapologetic and we made sure to find the most vibrant “in your face” tone possible,’ Bethany said.

‘We see her trying a long black wig too, this is her experimenting with a different persona. She’s wearing “insta” makeup, labelled sportswear and has the shiniest jet black hair to go with it.’

Half-way through the series so far, in episode five, Arabella gets her hair shaved off at the hairdressers.

‘Head shaving in many cultures represents a cathartic release of emotions,’ Bethany continued. ‘When Arabella does it on a whim, it creates a catalyst for change and the realisation of her experiences.’

Fans of the show will know that later on in episode five, Arabella makes a disheartening discovery about her case and takes matters into her own hands when it comes to Zain (Karan Gill).

‘Whether it’s 10 seconds or a whole episode, every character that is on screen has their hair and makeup in a particular way for a reason,’ Bethany concluded.

I May Destroy You is available to stream on BBC iPlayer.

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