You probably recognize Brittany O’Grady from HBO’s hit series White Lotus, in which she plays the incredibly disinterested and secretive Paula opposite Sydney Sweeney. While on-screen she comes across as cold and passive, the 26-year-old actress is quite the opposite in person. She was warm, bubbly, and constantly smiling when we caught up at the Bumble and bumble Meatpacking flagship salon to celebrate her partnership with the brand. She’s the face of bumble’s latest campaign promoting the Hairdresser’s Invisible Oil Primer. While seemingly totally different from Paula, O’Grady has one thing in common with her White Lotus character: her beautiful tight curls bounce each time she giggles or turns her head.
O’Grady says learning how to treat her curly hair has been a journey. Her mom would style her and her siblings’ hair daily as kids. Over the years, the actress has learned to embrace her curls, picking up tips and tricks from her curly-haired siblings and hairstylists on set. Here, O’Grady shares more on her hair journey, her tips and tricks for curly strands, and some of her must-have products from Bumble and bumble.
What was it like growing up with curly hair, and how has your experience with it evolved as you’ve gotten older?
Growing up, my siblings and I had really curly hair. As I started to get older and look at TV shows, magazines, and certain eras of time where a specific look of hair was preferred, I had a little internal struggle with embracing my hair. I think all of us always want something that we can’t have.
As I’ve gotten older and started to work in the business, I’ve embraced my hair more, working with professionals and people who saw its uniqueness. I’m starting to see way more representation for biracial curly hair and more representation for Black hair and different textures. That’s something that I feel really excited about. So it’s been fighting those urges to straighten or fit what I thought was a beauty standard growing up. I feel like it planted seeds, and I’m just starting to embrace who I am and my hair.
People oftentimes have distinct memories of their parents doing their hair. Do you remember any of the products or techniques your mom used when doing your hair?
We’d use a little soft brush, and when I would go to auditions, she would do half-up-half-down. All I remember is the brush and the smell of the spray she’d use.
What did the spray smell like?
It smelled fruity; it smelled super fruity. It’s very nostalgic. I remember the L’Oréal No Tears shampoo, too.
Yeah! We didn’t really know how to style our ringlets. It was usually just brushed into a bushy ponytail, and off we’d go to school. It’s been exciting now as an adult; my siblings and I find products that fit and embrace our hair to have longevity and avoid frizz when we want to. It’s been a journey to start having control over your identity and your hair versus your childhood.
Is there anything you’ve learned from being on set, whether it be a product or technique?
Protecting your hair against heat. We battle a lot with heat in the industry. Wearing wigs can be really important to protect your hair and having an amazing stylist who understands your hair. Especially for women of color and Black women, it’s really important that we have somebody that understands and nurtures our hair and makes sure that we feel beautiful and empowered as our characters. I think the industry still has a long way to go, but there’s incredible change happening. I’ve been lucky to work with incredible stylists who understand my hair texture and protect it. I feel very spoiled in that way.
How do you prep your hair for a day on set?
With Bumble and bumble, their products leave me feeling like I have all the dirt, oil, shampoo, and conditioner out of my hair, but not to the point where my scalp is super dry, making it an easy template for when I go to work. I love to have a preparation process like that.
How did you protect your hair from the heat and the elements in Hawaii while filming White Lotus?
Lots of moisturizing hair products, and we didn’t use heat on my hair. That’s probably the first job I’ve ever had where we never used heat. I was even thinking that I was going to straighten my hair. I envisioned the character of Paula in a certain way, but they were like, “no, we want to keep her curly, especially with the environment.” I’m glad we went in the curly direction because it would have been almost impossible to keep it straight.
What does your hair care routine look like nowadays?
I genuinely love Bumble and bumble. In the shower, I’ll shampoo, put in conditioner, comb my hair with it, and then rinse it out. It’s very hydrating and cleansing. Once I get out of the shower, I will put the Light Defining Curl Cream in my hair and the gel that holds the curl together. I’ll diffuse it or let it air dry. Sometimes I’ll put a little oil in my hair just to ensure that it has some moisture and keeps it super soft. If I’m in a rush and my curls didn’t define in the front as much as I want them to, I’ll use the Bumble and bumble Hairdresser’s Invisible Oil Primer and curl the front pieces and go.
Shop O’Grady’s Routine
This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.
Emily Burns is the assistant beauty editor at ELLE Magazine. When she’s not writing, she’s probably drinking an Aperol spritz and cuddling with her cat Wednesday….or scheming how to date Pete Davidson.