If you walk into my apartment on any given day, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit is all but guaranteed to be on the TV. I’ve watched the show ever since my grandma tuned into one of the now-ubiquitous marathons during a sleepover when I was nine (questionable to introduce a preteen to a series about sex crimes, but I digress). The events that unfolded onscreen were disturbing; I was immediately hooked. To this day, I refuse to cut the cable cord, paying a ridiculously high Spectrum bill just to keep those marathons coming.
As anyone who has spent a full Saturday watching channels like USA or ION can tell you, there’s a lot to love about SVU, including its engrossing characters and the ripped-from-the-headlines stories. Now in its 24th season, the show remains the longest-running prime-time live-action series on television — and its star, Mariska Hargitay, portrays the longest-running female character on network TV, Detective Olivia Benson.
Benson manages to be empathetic and commanding at the same time — and she does it all without so much as a hair out of place. Which brings me to my point: Benson — er, Hargitay — has incredible hair, so much so that it’s become a star in its own right. Ask any SVU diehard to ID an episode based on Benson’s hair; they’ll get it right, and I’m not just saying that because I can do it (I’ve also won SVU trivia night and walk around NYC in a “dun dun” baseball cap, so I’m willing to consider that I might be the outlier here).
Hargitay’s current shoulder-length waves have become her signature onscreen and off, but her hair evolution has been dramatic. She’s worn everything from a dark layered lob to a highlighted pixie cut, and according to the star, it’s been a wild ride. “I love to play around and try new looks, but I’ve definitely had some hair crises over the years,” says Hargitay, who also serves as an SVU executive producer and has directed a number of episodes. “I had short hair for a while, and then I hated having to grow it out. We didn’t have the styling right, and I made some mistakes with the color too. I was trying stuff out and didn’t have the experience with hair or the attention to detail that I have today. Now I know immediately what works and what doesn’t, but it took me some time to get there.”