Christopher Wylie, a former employee at Cambridge Analytica, has risen to international consciousness after testifying that the firm — which worked for Donald Trump’s 2016 election campaign, according to the Washington Post — received private, personal data from Facebook. Wylie is facing both support and scrutiny for his decision to inform the public about the data breach. One thing he likely didn’t prepare for? The public’s opinions about his pink hair.
Wylie has been called a “pink-haired data whiz,” a pink-haired whistleblower, and the “jerk with the pink hair.” Media coverage consistently mentions Wylie’s physical appearance, which likely wouldn’t be the case if he looked like an Edward Snowden or Jim Wetta.
Social media has also taken notice of his specific look. “It is ironic that those UK politicians who so derided experts should be brought down by one with pink hair,” read one comment on Twitter. “Chris Wylie’s pink hair and suit combo is just the final mark on the cyberpunk-dystopia checklist,” wrote another.
Chris Wylie is an amazing witness who puts many of our MPs in @UKParliament to shame. It is ironic that those U.K. politicians who so derided experts should be brought down by one with pink hair carolecadwalla @SarahLudford
He is a real hero
— Andy Wood #FreeVote #FairVote (@andyatnanyuki) March 27, 2018
Faceless corporate interests manipulating politics behind closed doors? Corruption at every level? Poverty on the streets? "The Hacker" in high profile? Advertising *everywhere*? Chris Wylie's pink hair and suit combo is just the final mark on the cyberpunk-dystopia checklist. https://t.co/CSdPQZMnQZ
— Jake Staines (@Sanakism) March 27, 2018
Another sent subtle shade, writing that although Wylie has pink hair and less-than-fashionable outfits, that doesn’t take anything away from his message.
Chris Wylie's message is so powerful not even pink hair, orange shirts, terrible bomber jackets & a slightly shrill manner can detract from it, although in all the usual places, it will.
— Rusty (@Rusty123B) March 26, 2018
While Wylie’s hair has been the subject of commentary, it hasn’t faced much criticism, which may be a sign of our changing attitudes toward non-mainstream looks. “It’s not surprising that in 2018, ideas coming from a self-proclaimed ‘gay Canadian vegan who somehow ended up creating Steve Bannon’s psychological warfare tool’ are heard, and heard loud and clear,” psychotherapist Jonathan Alpert tells Yahoo Lifestyle.
“Whether someone has pink hair, blue hair, gray hair, or no hair, their message should be heard without preconceived ideas about someone who simply looks different than mainstream,” Alpert says. “Chris Wylie is proof positive that one can look different from your typical data scientist turned whistleblower and still have a powerful and credible message.”
While Wylie doesn’t have the boring pencil-pusher look we typically associate with a data scientist, Alpert points out that image has played less of a role in his timeline so far.
“Looks matter in so far as they inform our opinions of others to some degree,” he says. “It’s important to trust your eyes and gut, but it’s also important to be a critical, analytical thinker who doesn’t simply accept things at face value and draw erroneous conclusions based on stereotypes and looks.” In this case, the person defines the hair, and not the other way around.
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