fantasy, (n); imagination, especially when extravagant and unrestrained; the forming of mental images, especially wondrous or strange fancies; a supposition based on no solid foundation; visionary idea; illusion; an ingenious or fanciful thought, design, or invention
Childhood can be the most fertile time for the imagination; when we are allowed, and moreover, encouraged to let our minds roam and dream and wonder. That they are our first dalliances with fantasy—the images and places and stories and songs and characters, both real and imaginary, that temporarily, and blissfully, turn reality on its head—means they’re often permanently imprinted in our memory banks. My own is a motley collage of Madeleine L’Engle and Roald Dahl characters; of Labryinth’s dark hole of helping hands and Return to Oz’s closet of heads and The Neverending Story’s swamp of sadness that would claim sweet Artax’s life; of Rainbow Brite and monchichis and slime and Garbage Pail Kids and Punky Brewster.
While fantasy can mean many different things to many different people—a hair color, a fairytale, a wild vision of the future—it is always, by design, a form of escape; what more ideal way to elude reality than with something that gives it no credence? So it makes sense that in times of turbulence or insecurity, when we are collectively unmoored, that dipping into a world far away from our own serves as the perfect panacea. Fantasy does, after all, have an uncanny ability to neutralize what’s going on around us.
While fantasy represents an escape from our current reality, it also embodies a vision of the future, which is why it made for the ideal theme for this, the third edition of At Length, a magazine dedicated to bridging a connection between beauty and culture at large. We explored fantasy from many angles: its undercurrent in the language of fashion; the mainstream appeal of mysticism and witches, things once reserved for the subculture; futuristic hair as seen through the lens of film; the burgeoning partnership of AI and the beauty industry; the hair color that is the object of more fantasies than any other; children’s interpretations of fantasy hair; how social media has loosened our grasp on reality; and the symbiotic relationship between fantasy and drag. In a recent interview RuPaul quipped that it is drag queens who are the real soothsayers: “Drag queens are here to remind you what is really real.” And that is the role of fantasy itself too: in it, we always find a dose of reality.
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