‘Roma’ and ‘The Favourite’ Lead Oscar Nominations With 10 Each

Olivia Colman in ‘The Favourite,’ which received 10 nominations.
Olivia Colman in ‘The Favourite,’ which received 10 nominations. Photo: Atsushi Nishijima/Associated Press

“Roma” and “The Favourite” took the lead in the Oscar race, receiving 10 nominations each, including best picture and best lead actress, when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced its nominees on Tuesday.

In a coup for Netflix , “Roma” became the streaming service’s first best-picture nominee, overcoming debate over whether a film without a significant big-screen release belongs in that category. Netflix launched a major promotional blitz for the black-and-white Spanish-language movie, the story of a live-in maid in 1970s Mexico City inspired by the domestic worker who helped raise director Alfonso Cuarón in his native Mexico.

“The Favourite” also racked up 10 nods. A period piece about a doddering Queen Anne whose power and romantic affections are sought by the two women who attend to her, the movie received nominations in technical categories and for all three of the actresses.

“Roma” also picked up two acting nominations, with Yalitza Aparicio for best actress and Marina de Tavira for supporting actress.

Mr. Cuarón picked up nominations for directing and original screenplay for “Roma,” which also was nominated for best foreign film. “The Favourite” picked up a directing nod, for Yorgos Lanthimos, and it is in the running for best original screenplay.

“Black Panther” became the first superhero movie ever nominated for best picture. Rounding out this category, which this year includes eight nominees: “BlacKkKlansman,” a drama based on the true story of a black police detective who infiltrates a local branch of the Ku Klux Klan in 1970s Colorado; “Bohemian Rhapsody,” the Queen biopic; “Green Book,” about a white chauffeur and the black pianist who hires him on a concert tour through the Jim Crow South; “A Star Is Born,” the third remake of the 1937 film; “Vice,” the Dick Cheney satirical biopic; “Roma”; and “The Favourite.”

Spike Lee, whose breakthrough film “Do the Right Thing” came out 30 years ago, secured his first directing nomination with “BlacKkKlansman.” Other directing nominees include Adam McKay for “Vice” and Pawel Pawlikowski for the European postwar love story “Cold War.” Mr. Lanthimos was nominated for “The Favourite” and Mr. Cuarón for “Roma.”

Directing snubs included Ryan Coogler for “Black Panther,” Bradley Cooper, who made his directorial debut with “A Star Is Born,” and “If Beale Street Could Talk” director Barry Jenkins, whose previous movie “Moonlight” won best picture in 2017. No women were among the directing nominees.

Glenn Close received her seventh Oscar nomination with a best-actress nod for “The Wife,” about a woman who questions her life’s choices as the spouse of a great novelist. The 71-year-old performer has never won an Academy Award. In addition to Ms. Aparicio for “Roma,” Olivia Colman received a nod for “The Favourite,” Lady Gaga for her first major movie role in “A Star Is Born” and Melissa McCarthy as the biographer turned literary forger Lee Israel in “Can You Ever Forgive Me.”

Oscar watchers have predicted a tight race for lead actor between two of Tuesday’s nominees: Mr. Cooper for his performance as an alcoholic and drug-addicted rocker dazzled by a young talent in “A Star Is Born” and Christian Bale, noted for his physical transformation into the former vice president in “Vice.” Rami Malek also received a nod for his turn as Queen frontman Freddie Mercury in “Bohemian Rhapsody,” for which he won the Golden Globe for lead actor in a drama. Other nominees include Viggo Mortensen, who plays the Italian-American tough guy in “Green Book,” and Willem Dafoe for his performance as Vincent van Gogh in “At Eternity’s Gate.”

Regina King, a favorite for best supporting actress, leads the nominees in that category with her performance as a fiercely loyal mother in “If Beale Street Could Talk,” an adaptation of the James Baldwin novel set in 1970s Harlem. Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone also were nominated for their portrayals of dueling 18th-century power seekers in “The Favourite,” along with Ms. de Tavira as the upper-middle class matriarch in “Roma.” Amy Adams, who has never won an Oscar, picked up her sixth nomination for her turn as Lynne Cheney in “Vice.”

For supporting actor, another favorite, Mahershala Ali, was nominated for his performance as pianist Don Shirley in “Green Book.” Mr. Ali won the award in this category in 2017 for “Moonlight.” There were three first-time nominees: Adam Driver for his turn as an undercover cop in “BlacKkKlansman,” and veteran actors Sam Elliott, as the big brother-manager in “A Star Is Born,” and Richard E. Grant, as the waggish accomplice in “Can You Ever Forgive Me.” Sam Rockwell, who won in the category last year for “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” was nominated for his performance as former president George W. Bush in “Vice.”

Oscars viewership plunged to a record low of 26.5 million viewers last year, down 19% from 2017, according to Nielsen. The awards ceremony was thrown into turmoil last month when comedian Kevin Hart pulled out as host, following criticism over antigay remarks he made in past social-media posts. The Academy hasn’t announced another host.

The 91st Academy Awards is scheduled to air on Sunday, Feb. 24, on ABC.

Write to Ellen Gamerman at ellen.gamerman@wsj.com

Appeared in the January 23, 2019, print edition.

A Vintage Motorcycle’s Lucky Number

Shasta Smith customized this 1972 Honda CB175 Super Sport ‘Cafe Racer’-style motorcycle.
Shasta Smith customized this 1972 Honda CB175 Super Sport ‘Cafe Racer’-style motorcycle. Photo: Ryan Angel Meza for The Wall Street Journal

Shasta Smith, 41, interior architect, star of the 2014 TV show “Red Hot Design” and owner of the Vintage Monkey motorcycle-restoration shop in Sacramento, Calif., on her 1972 Honda CB175, as told to A.J. Baime.

Sometimes, life is all about chance and timing. Recently someone asked me: If it weren’t for my 1972 Honda, would I be who I am today, where I am, doing what I’m doing?

I grew up loving motorcycles, and by the age of 19, I owned a new showroom 1997 Kawasaki Ninja. I loved races and, at one event at the Laguna Seca racetrack in Monterey, Calif., I saw an early 1970s BMW bike with the racing number 5 on it. It was gloss-black and stunning, and I remember thinking I could never afford something like that.

Shasta Smith put years into restoring her 1972 Honda, emblazoned with her signature number 5. It inspired a passion for vintage motorcycle restoration that led her to open a repair shop and venue space in Sacramento, Calif. Photo: Ryan Angel Meza for The Wall Street Journal.

Fast forward to about age 30. I had my life going and I thought, I’m going to look into some vintage motorcycles. I bought one, then another, then another. But the first one was my Honda CB175.

The irony is, at the time, I had a non-motorcycle injury, and my doctor had told me: No riding. These were really hard times. I remember thinking, if I can’t ride, I’m going to interact with motorcycles in a different way. I began to build out the Honda to resemble the vintage gloss-black number 5 BMW motorcycle that I fell in love with a decade earlier.

I spent countless hours taking things apart and putting them back together, adding components here and there. I had my work stool and my tools. Because of my injury, I couldn’t lift anything heavy, so if I had to lift something, I had to find a friend to help me. Another friend helped me paint the bike gloss black, and I added the racing number 5.


Photos: A Bike That’s a Keeper

‘Nobody will pry it out of my hands,’ says Shasta Smith of the 1972 Honda she restored

Shasta Smith took a stock 1972 Honda CB175 and turned it into the bike you see here, complete with racing number 5 and glossy black paint.
Ryan Angel Meza for The Wall Street Journal

At one point, colleagues came to me and said, “Shasta, we need to get video of you riding that motorcycle.” We were developing my TV show and we needed clips to send to the producers. I hadn’t ridden in five years. The level of nervousness—it was in my bones. I thought, what if I throttle this bike and a wheel falls off?

I got on and started riding, and I’ve never stopped.

Today, I own a vintage motorcycle-restoration shop. I have a bunch of vintage bikes, all number 5, but the first bike people see when they walk in my shop is my 1972 Honda. Would I be who I am, where I am, doing what I’m doing, if not for this bike? No way.

More From My Ride

Why Women Crave ‘French Style,’ and Men Want International Style

A guest at Paris Fashion Week struts into a show wearing a honking cowboy hat.
A guest at Paris Fashion Week struts into a show wearing a honking cowboy hat. Photo: Getty Images

ON MY FIRST NIGHT in Paris to see the fall menswear collections last week, I passed a young man wearing a weathered cowboy hat, a checkered flannel shirt and a pair of “how can he walk in those?” skinny jeans. It was the sort of outfit that would look more at home in a Los Angeles coffee shop populated by ironic Silver Lake hipsters than a side-street off the ritzy, historic Place Vendôme, so I assumed he was American. Yet, as I got closer, I heard him jabbering away in seemingly native French to his female companion. In a shin-skimming black coat and slim pants, she was the very picture of “French style,” one of the many women I’d see dressed “Parisian” over the next week. So why wasn’t he wearing something equally stereotypical: a black turtleneck—or at least a scarf knotted in “this old thing?” fashion?

Google the phrase “French style” and you’ll be bombarded with articles like “How to Nail French Girl Style Once & For All,” “French Fashion: 10 Secrets to Dressing Like the World’s Chicest Women,” and “Why We All Became Obsessed With the Latest ‘French-girl’ Look.” These stories, along with the dozens of books on the topic, such as “How to be Parisian Wherever You Are,” have been a phenomenon for the past decade, breathlessly instructing female readers on how to dress like a modern, espresso-sipping, beret-wearing, Louvre-prowling Parisian cliché. (Cliché or not, actual women throughout Paris seem to happily adopt this young, urban look.) For men, however, no corresponding “French style” template has crystalized. The reasons behind this say quite a lot about how global and uniform men’s fashion has become.

Beige, a store in Paris’s 16th Arrondissement features a curated assortment of brands from around the world.
Beige, a store in Paris’s 16th Arrondissement features a curated assortment of brands from around the world. Photo: Beige

Last year, when Basiel Khadiry was strategizing the assortment of clothing at Beige, the men’s boutique he co-founded in Paris’s sleepy 16th Arrondissement, he never once considered if it should “look French.” Once, he saw parallels between the way French men dressed and their taste in music: Growing up in Normandy, he and his friends would pick whether they were into rap or punk just as they decided whether to dress like a skateboarder or an outdoorsy tween. “You had to choose your tribe,” he explained. Today, though, he said, he encounters few, if any, customers who think that way. “With globalization, you have to choose your tribe less.”

In the age of international shipping, Mr. Khadiry is not restricted to carrying brands from within France, or even Europe for that matter. Within a selection that’s as worldly and compelling as that of any store I’ve visited, Beige stocks just a single French brand (Boivin, a tie company). You can find rakish checkered raincoats from Japan’s Coherence, crepe-soled chukka boots from the venerable English shoemaker Sanders and heavyweight hooded sweatshirts by Camber, a factory in New Jersey. When asked to define Gallic dressing for men today, Mr. Khadiry said, “Parisian style is just a good mix of Italian and English and American Ivy.”

A few blocks away, vintage dealer Gauthier Borsarello operates a basement-level, appointment-only showroom that made me feel as if I’d stepped out of Paris and into Plano, Texas. Beautifully beat-up Levi’s, faded high-school gym T-shirts (I spotted one from my home state of Maryland), plaid flannel shirts and Vietnam-era U.S. military jackets fill the racks. These archetypal American designs have always appealed to Mr. Borsarello (who spent time at Ralph Lauren’s rugged RRL label), but the response from his fellow Parisians surprised him. The biggest segment of his client base? Designers who sift through Mr. Borsarello’s Americana assortment in search of inspiration for their next contemporary collections.

At the latest Paris Fashion Week for men, there was little that was discernibly “French” among on display. From left, UFOs at Valentino, a world flag motif at Louis Vuitton and a sleek grey look at Dior.
At the latest Paris Fashion Week for men, there was little that was discernibly “French” among on display. From left, UFOs at Valentino, a world flag motif at Louis Vuitton and a sleek grey look at Dior. Photo: Getty Images

Days later, some of those designers showed their latest during Paris Fashion Week. The week’s schedule was filled with shows by venerable French labels, but I saw very little that was discernibly “French.” A brown single-breasted overcoat from Dior or a grey puffer jacket by Louis Vuitton lacked any discernible regional hallmarks. As if to underscore this, the last few looks at Louis Vuitton included jackets printed in a hodgepodge of world flags: “We Are the World” in garment form.

That said, two designers, Clare Waight Keller (a Brit) and Hedi Slimane (a Frenchman), who design menswear and womenswear at Givenchy and Saint Laurent respectively, did strike at something truly Parisian, albeit of the 1970s. Givenchy showed flare-legged suits, conspicuously notch-heeled boots and turtlenecks galore in a collection that Ms. Waight Keller said was inspired by Alain Pacadis, a suave 1970s French journalist and legendary nightclubber. Celine’s nipped suits, Breton-striped shirts and anoraks felt Left Bank modish, an attitude that was underscored by the models’ mop-top haircuts. It should also be said that for the past nine Saturdays, one very “French” piece of clothing has filled the streets of Paris: a yellow vest, which all French people are required by law to have in their cars, has been the garment of choice for the tens of thousands of “gilets jaunes” protesters rallying against economic and social issues.

By channeling 1970s journalist Alain Pacadis Givenchy’s Clare Waight Keller was one of the few designers in Paris who showed clothes that felt explicitly French.
By channeling 1970s journalist Alain Pacadis Givenchy’s Clare Waight Keller was one of the few designers in Paris who showed clothes that felt explicitly French.

The fact remains that though a fashion show happens blocks from the Eiffel Tower, it is received by the world. Today, fashion shows are beamed out internationally in an instant, whether via a brand’s livestream or in Instagram photos taken by editors in the front row. An hour after the Louis Vuitton show, I opened up Twitter to see that over 400,000 people had watched a livestream of the event online. What’s more, once those clothes hit the racks, they must appeal to shoppers in France, Finland or Florida in equal measure. This is true for both men’s and women’s clothing, but some women seem to crave a sense of what might be called Parisian poise that, particularly in this comfort-minded moment of men’s fashion, doesn’t cross the gender divide.

As Beige’s Mr. Khadiry and I walked the streets around his shop, we passed a trio of French teenagers. Each was dressed in sneakers, sweatpants and lightweight down coats. Their outfits were slathered with Nike logos. They were, as Mr. Khadiry explained, not his customer base, which he defines as men who care about “well-made, quality clothing,” but their look is certainly pervasive, not only in Paris, but across the planet. We could have passed those dressed-down teens on any street anywhere in the world. And that, more than anything, is style for young men in France today.

More in Style & Fashion

Write to Jacob Gallagher at Jacob.Gallagher@wsj.com

Why Forgetfulness Might Actually Help You

Why Forgetfulness Might Actually Help You
Illustration: anna godeassi

Many people worry that forgetting names, facts or tasks on their to-do list is a sign of aging or mental decline.

A growing body of research offers a more welcome excuse: Forgetting stuff can actually be a byproduct of rigorous thinking, smooth decision-making or heightened creativity.

Forgetting can help us block out useless or outdated information and keep us from fixating on a single set of ideas or thoughts. And contrary to the notion that forgetfulness reflects a withering of brain cells, scientists say it can actually be driven by the growth of new neurons in the hippocampus, a brain region linked to memory.

This doesn’t excuse major memory mishaps. It’s a problem to draw a mental blank when making a presentation, forget to pick up a co-worker you promised a ride or offend a client by spacing out on a critical rule of etiquette. And of course, purposeful forgetting doesn’t include the kind of extensive memory loss that comes with dementia or similar health problems.

Still, forgetting can serve a purpose, enabling us to think more clearly by eliminating interference from competing thoughts.

This pattern is called retrieval-induced forgetting. It’s directed in part by the prefrontal cortex, which controls executive functions involved in mental control and decision-making. It makes it easier to access memories that get used a lot, and more difficult to retrieve memories that compete with them, says Michael C. Anderson, a professor of cognitive neuroscience at the University of Cambridge in England and a leading researcher on the topic.

He likens the process to search-engine optimization for the brain. “The brain balances remembering and forgetting gracefully to facilitate optimal use of memory,” Dr. Anderson says.

Understanding that people’s memories are malleable can be helpful to managers. After one of Susan Weinschenk’s consulting teams had a bad experience with a difficult client, she called team members together for a debriefing and listened to their frustrations. Then, she encouraged them to turn their focus to what they could learn from the experience, and to parts of the project that turned out better because of their work. “Now, you can move on,” Dr. Weinschenk, a behavioral scientist and consultant at The Team W in Edgar, Wis., told them.

The discussion changed how employees remembered the project. “Now when the name of that client comes up, we remember the lessons instead of the bad feelings. And we’re able to laugh about it,” she says.

The mind also tends to suppress memories that are irrelevant at the moment.

The brain undertakes a building process to accomplish this. Mice trained to find a certain location in a maze have an easier time forgetting the training and learning a new route if researchers induce neurogenesis, or growth of new neurons in the brain, when they’re trained to find a different location, says Paul Frankland, a senior scientist at the Hospital for Sick Children, an affiliate of the University of Toronto, and co-author of a 2017 research review on the topic. Researchers believe a similar process occurs in humans.

Novelist Jill Shalvis sometimes becomes so immersed in the creative process that she forgets to make sure her shoes match when she leaves home.
Novelist Jill Shalvis sometimes becomes so immersed in the creative process that she forgets to make sure her shoes match when she leaves home. Photo: ZRStudios

Eliminating unneeded details from memory makes it easier to draw general conclusions and spot abstract patterns based on our experiences. A manager might forget that an employee missed a meeting if the rest of her team was there, for example, making it easier to remember more important takeaways, such as the meeting’s outcome.

“Our memory systems didn’t evolve to be good at Trivial Pursuit or ‘Jeopardy!’ but to enable us to be smart about how we think and act,” says Blake Richards, assistant professor of neuroscience and machine learning at the University of Toronto and co-author with Dr. Frankland of the 2017 research review.

Forgetting prevents a memory problem called interference, which causes you to recall incorrect information because it’s similar to the memory you want, Dr. Richards says. This happens when, say, you mix up the names of people who play similar roles—calling your current intern, whose name is Matt, by the name of your intern last year, Mike, or when you suffer the tip-of-the-tongue syndrome, unable to recall a word or name because your memory of a similar one is blocking it.

Forgetting also helps solve another thinking problem called fixation, or a blind adherence to ideas, solutions or designs that already exist.

By clearing the mind of past patterns and practices, forgetting can make way for breakthrough thinking, says Benjamin Storm, an associate professor of psychology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and co-writer of numerous studieson the role of memory and forgetting in creative thinking. “One of the biggest obstacles to thinking of something new and different is our old ideas, our current perspective and things we already know. Forgetting is at the heart of getting around that,” he says.

Michele Woodward forgot about a blog post she wrote a year ago until recently, when a friend posted it a second time on Facebook. Looking back, she’s glad it slipped her mind, because her lapse in memory freed her to write another post recently on the same topic, finding meaning in daily life, in an entirely fresh, new way. “Sometimes forgetting is an opportunity to create something new,” says Ms. Woodward, a Washington, D.C., executive coach.

Deep concentration can temporarily erase irrelevant details from the mind. Novelist Jill Shalvis sometimes becomes so consumed by writing and creating scenes in her mind that she leaves her house wearing her sweater inside-out or shoes that don’t match. When a checkout clerk at the grocery store pointed out her mismatched flip-flops, Ms. Shalvis’s teenage daughter piped up, explaining that her mother’s shoes never match when she’s on deadline.

“I have gone outside to walk the dog and forgotten to take the dog,” says Ms. Shalvis, who lives near Lake Tahoe in California, and owns two Labrador retrievers with her husband. “When I’m on deadline, I can forget what I’m doing while I’m doing it.”

Thinking hard about ideas or problems also can disrupt your ability to remember why you decided to do some other, less-important chore or task, says Chris Bailey, author of “Hyperfocus,” a book on staying productive amid distractions.

He sometimes finds himself walking into his kitchen and realizing he’s forgotten the reason he wanted to go there in the first place—such as picking up a grocery list from the table. “It’s usually a sign that I need to let my mind wander a little, and carve out more space to process that problem or decision,” he says.

Why We Forget

Memories slip away for a variety of reasons that have little to do with physical health:

  • Other, similar memories compete for our attention.
  • We fail to access the information soon or often enough.
  • The memory threatens a valued relationship.
  • Concentrating hard on something else inhibits unrelated memories.
  • The memory evokes unpleasant emotions such as guilt or sadness.
  • The information threatens to undermine valued beliefs.
  • The experience threatens our self-image.
  • We must forget an offense to forgive a loved one.

Write to Sue Shellenbarger at sue.shellenbarger@wsj.com

More From Work & Family

One Family’s Struggle to Get Their Daughter Lifesaving Medication

Zahra’s mother holds her to look outside at their small garden.
Zahra’s mother holds her to look outside at their small garden. Photo: Maryam Rahmanian for The Wall Street Journal

Khur, Iran

Six-year-old Zahra Dehghanipour suffers from a genetic disease that causes her muscles to atrophy. She wears a painful chest brace to stay upright, and has to be carried up and down the stairs in her family’s two-story home.

Her condition, spinal muscular atrophy, has a drug treatment. But her family faces many hurdles in accessing it. Cost is one: The drug, called Spinraza and made by Cambridge, Mass.-based Biogen , costs $750,000 for the first year, and $375,000 annually after that.

She lives in Iran, where the drug hasn’t been approved for use. The government, which pays for a significant part of its citizens’ health care, has approved some U.S.-made drugs, but it hasn’t yet worked out a deal to bring in Spinraza.

Zahra’s mother puts Zahra’s splints on.
Zahra’s mother puts Zahra’s splints on. Photo: Maryam Rahmanian for The Wall Street Journal

Her case illustrates a challenge in modern medicine: Access to lifesaving treatments often depends on accidents of geography. “If [Zahra] were living in the U.S., she would be treated,” says Richard Finkel, chief of the neurology division at Nemours Children’s Hospital in Orlando, Fla., who isn’t involved in Zahra’s case and doesn’t know the family. “It really is a country-by-country situation. That disparity is something that’s certainly bothersome to those of us who feel fortunate to be able to provide this treatment to our patients.”

Her family is desperate to find a way to access the drug. They have asked Biogen for a discount, raised funds to help cover the cost and explored moving to Germany or Turkey, where the drug is available. But all those possibilities are complicated and require navigating bureaucratic and legal obstacles. Every day, her muscle function and respiratory system weaken, the eventual cause of death for most patients. The drug isn’t a cure, but can prevent progression and, in some cases, improve the condition.

“Time is of essence for us,” says her mother, Zeynab Zareinezhad, a teacher and assistant principal at the school Zahra attends, speaking in Farsi. “Her disease is progressive. She loses more cells and neurons day by day.”

Zahra seemed a healthy baby. Her parents didn’t know something was wrong until she was about seven months or eight months old. She sat up and rolled over once but that was it. She couldn’t hold her neck upright anymore either.

SMA is a motor-neuron disease. A motor neuron sends messages to the muscles used for movement in the legs, chest, head, and other parts of the body. In patients with SMA, the motor neurons in the spinal cord don’t have enough of an important protein, so they stop working and eventually die, resulting in a decline in muscle function. Eventually patients have limited use of their hands and may need respiratory support and feeding tubes.

Although a relatively rare disease, SMA in its severest form is the largest genetic cause of death in infants. About 1 in 11,000 children are born with SMA world-wide annually and roughly 1% to 2% of the population are carriers of the genetic mutation, Dr. Finkel says.

After seeing doctors and having a genetic test, Zahra was diagnosed with SMA type 2 when she was 16 months old. Unlike patients with SMA type 1, who often die when they are babies, type 2 patients can live until early adulthood, or later, but eventually die from pulmonary complications.

Already, Zahra’s respiratory muscles are wearing away, her parents say, making a minor cold or cough a dangerous medical event as coughing is difficult for her.

Zahra’s dad helps her do her homework.
Zahra’s dad helps her do her homework. Photo: Maryam Rahmanian for The Wall Street Journal

Though her body is deteriorating, cognitively Zahra shines, her parents say. She loves homework. She can memorize a mobile-phone number after hearing it twice. She likes to count backward from 100 and can multiply two-digit numbers. At school, her classmates play hide and seek during recess and she watches. “She doesn’t show that she is envious of them,” Mrs. Zareinezhad says.

Gholamreza Zamani, the pediatric neurologist at Children’s Hospital Medical Center in Tehran who treats Zahra, says Spinraza’s effectiveness depends on when it’s started. Though not a cure, “this drug can affect her quality of life and prevent more regression in her motor function,” he says. So much scientific effort and money goes into making such treatments, says Dr. Zamani, but “if the patient who needs it can’t access it, what’s the purpose?”

Until recently, SMA had no treatment. In December 2016 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved nusinersen, sold under the brand name Spinraza. It is injected into the spinal fluid through a spinal tap.

Zahra stands at the staircase with her splints on. Though her body is deteriorating, cognitively Zahra shines, her parents say.
Zahra stands at the staircase with her splints on. Though her body is deteriorating, cognitively Zahra shines, her parents say. Photo: Maryam Rahmanian for The Wall Street Journal

In a clinical trial, Spinraza was found to be effective in up to 51% of patients with type 1, significantly slowing the disease’s progression, in addition to improving their strength and lifespan. A clinical trial published in NEJM last year showed for type 2 patients like Zahra there were improvements in motor function and upper limb function after 15 months but the improvements weren’t dramatic as those seen in type 1 patients. One patient regained the ability to walk with assistance.

Zahra’s family submitted a request to Biogen for a discount or compassionate use of Spinraza in October. A spokesman for Biogen said via email that the company has been in communication with the family and “will provide them an update once there is a development on registration,” a first step in getting the drug approved for use in Iran. In January, Biogen said company representatives “were in Iran this month for meetings with the government and continue to work on registration.”

“We recognize the gravity of this situation and considerable work has been under way the past few weeks,” the Biogen spokesman said. “The complicating factor in Zahra’s case is her location in Iran. We are working with the Iranian Minister of Health on the first step of registration.”

Mahdi Shadnoush, an Iranian health-ministry official who said he’s not familiar with Zahra’s specific case, said that even if the drug were approved for import, U.S. sanctions present a hurdle because global banks are reluctant to arrange a transaction with Iran. U.S. rules exempt medical goods from sanctions, but many banks still hesitate to arrange trade deals with Iran after having incurred fines during previous rounds of sanctions.

Mr. Shadnoush says there are at least 600 cases of SMA in Iran.

Zahra’s parents say they would travel to a country where Spinraza is approved, such as Germany or Turkey, if they could raise enough money to buy the drug there. (A Biogen spokesman says the treatment is available in more than 40 countries and the company is seeking to make the treatment available in more.) The family raised some funds but a crash in the value of the Iranian rial slashed that amount.

Zahra’s family has an attorney friend in the U.S. who hopes to raise money from U.S. donors, but sanctions complicate those efforts. U.S. restrictions dating back to 2013 require nongovernmental organizations making donations to Iran to follow parameters laid out in a general license, and cap donations at $500,000 a year unless an additional license is granted, a U.S. Treasury spokesman said. Personal, noncommercial remittances to Iran or Iranian residents in other countries are generally allowed but money raised to pay for a medical treatment might require a specific license, the spokesman added.

Biogen has programs that provide discounted or free access to drugs for patients who meet certain criteria, but that path is complicated too. Zahra isn’t eligible for one of the main programs because only patients with type 1 qualify, which would be the case even if she were in the U.S.

Zahra’s family tries to take pleasure in simple things. They help her on the slide in the playground. They take her to the countryside twice a year because she loves to go on trips.

“She really hopes that the treatment will make her a normal child and plans a normal future for her,” Mrs. Zareinezhad says. “She has chosen her bicycle, future car, job. But right now, time is critical for us and we should be able to access Spinraza as soon as possible to slow down the progression.”

Treatments on the Horizon

Other companies are working on treatments for spinal muscular atrophy. Roche and Novartis are developing oral medications similar to Spinraza, says Richard Finkel, chief of the neurology division at Nemours Children’s Hospital in Orlando, Fla., who is a paid consultant and working on clinical trials for all the biotech companies working on SMA treatments.

Further along is a gene-therapy treatment from AveXis, a Novartis company, called AVXS-101, currently before the FDA. Federal regulators are expected to make a decision by May but the therapy would likely be initially for type 1 patients only. The company has also applied to regulatory agencies in Japan and the European Union for approval.

Write to Sumathi Reddy at sumathi.reddy@wsj.com

More From Your Health

Can Suicide Be Prevented?

Can Suicide Be Prevented?
Photo: Getty Images/iStock

The suicide death rate in most states has risen sharply since in the late 1990s, according to data released in June by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with 25 states recording increases of more than 30% during that time. In 2017, the national suicide rate rose 3.7%, the sharpest annual increase in nearly a decade.

Melanie Harned, a psychologist who specializes in suicide prevention, discussed what to do when you think someone is suicidal and explained Dialectical Behavior Therapy, an approach that research shows can be effective at reducing suicidal thoughts and attempts. Dr. Harned is the coordinator of the DBT program at the VA Puget Sound Health Care System and a senior research scientist in the department of psychology at the University of Washington. She has been researching DBT and how to prevent suicide in high-risk populations—including adolescents and people with PTSD, borderline personality and opioid dependence—for 14 years. Here are edited excerpts from the interview.

Can suicide be prevented?

Absolutely. There are indirect warning signs to look for, things like increased hopelessness, viewing oneself as a burden, more substance use, a change in sleep patterns, withdrawing from activities, aggression. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention has a list on their website. There are also more direct indicators: Is the person thinking of killing themself? Are they communicating intent to anyone?

The biggest risk factor is that the person has attempted suicide before. Access to lethal means, such as a firearm or medication, is another consideration. Suicide is very often an impulsive decision. Most people who attempted suicide and survived said they thought about killing themselves for less than an hour before they acted. So you want to restrict their access to the means to hurt themselves, to prevent the impulsive attempt.

One of the biggest interventions is to simply ask someone if they are thinking about suicide and if they have a plan. They may not give an honest answer because of shame or the fear that someone will throw them into a hospital. But if you ask in a caring, compassionate way, a person will be more likely to disclose their intent than if they were just left on their own.

A core part of Dialectical Behavior Therapy, says Dr. Melanie Harned, is teaching patients to live in the present moment with awareness and without judgment.
A core part of Dialectical Behavior Therapy, says Dr. Melanie Harned, is teaching patients to live in the present moment with awareness and without judgment. Photo: Chris Pacheco/VA Puget Sound

How do you ask?

You don’t want to sound judgmental. Don’t say: “What is wrong with you?” or “How could you imagine doing that to yourself?”

Ask: “Are you thinking of killing yourself?” And express compassion and care. Communicate to the depressed person that their thoughts and behaviors make sense, that many people think of killing themselves.

A common fear is that if you ask someone if they are thinking of suicide this will give them the idea and they will go do it. Research shows this is not true. It gives them an opportunity to talk about it. Most people who are thinking of killing themselves don’t want to be dead. What they want is relief from some sort of pain that is intolerable.

What should you do if you suspect someone is suicidal?

Try to connect the person to professional care. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can provide resources and give advice on what to do. Its hotline is 800-273-8255. You should try to restrict the person’s access to lethal means, such as medications and guns. And if a person is showing an intention to act you should not leave them alone until they get connected with care. If it’s a really high-risk situation, take them to the emergency room.

What is Dialectical Behavior Therapy?

It’s a treatment that balances cognitive behavioral therapy with acceptance strategies taken from Zen philosophy and Eastern practice. CBT is very change-focused. You have a problem and we are going to help you solve it. It teaches patients a lot of skills—how to better manage and regulate their emotions, how to have stronger relationships and communicate effectively. DBT layers in acceptance strategies, helping people accept reality as it is in this moment and their pain. It doesn’t mean they can’t change it. But in order to change pain you need to accept you are in it. The overall goal of this treatment is to help patients build a life that they experience as worth living.

How does DBT work?

There are four components: individual therapy; a group-therapy component that is less like traditional group therapy and more of a skills-training class; phone coaching between sessions—the therapist is available 24/7 to take calls; and a therapist-consultation team.

What does DBT teach patients?

Four sets of skills. The core set is mindfulness skills. Mindfulness is about learning to live in the present moment with awareness and without judgment. It’s in this treatment because if you can’t pay attention to the present moment and just the facts and reality of it, then it is really hard to make wise and effective decisions on how to act.

The next set of skills is distress tolerance. Some of these are crisis-survival skills. They teach you how to get through a high-stress situation without doing anything to make it worse. If you are having urges to kill yourself, these skills will get you through the crisis period without acting on those urges. There are also reality-acceptance skills. Acceptance does not mean giving up or not trying to change. It means accepting that in this particular moment this is reality. Denying or suppressing pain actually makes it worse.

The third set of skills is emotion regulation. One way to change your emotions is to reduce your vulnerability to having intense emotions in the first place. You can do this by making sure you are regularly doing pleasurable things, getting enough sleep, eating well and exercising. And once an emotion has gotten started, there are strategies you can use to reduce the intensity of it. The fourth skill set focuses on interpersonal effectiveness. We teach people how to build and maintain relationships, how to get what they want and say no to things they don’t, how to maintain their own self-respect.

How does DBT treat suicidal
behavior?

First, we target it. The standard approach is to treat suicide as a symptom of another problem, such as depression. You treat the depression and see if this makes the suicidal behavior stop. DBT is different because it makes targeting the life-threatening behavior the number-one priority.

One really important piece of DBT is we do everything we can to keep people out of psychiatric hospitals. Ultimately people don’t live in hospitals, so we need them to be able to manage suicidal urges in their everyday life.

It also uses a very structured assessment and problem-solving technique called chain analysis. We try to look moment-to-moment at the chain of events that led up to and followed whatever the behavior is—either a suicide attempt or self-harm urges becoming high—so we can see what to change.

Validation also plays a big part. We communicate to patients that they are understandable and acceptable exactly as they are.

Further Reading

To read BONDS columns on depression:

A Tennis Purist Who Became a Pickleball Pro

Ken Curry, a cardiologist in Kennewick, Wash., swapped his tennis racket for a pickleball paddle. He plays four days a week at the Yakima Tennis Club.
Ken Curry, a cardiologist in Kennewick, Wash., swapped his tennis racket for a pickleball paddle. He plays four days a week at the Yakima Tennis Club. Photo: Ryan Henriksen for The Wall Street Journal

If you’re a hard-core tennis lover, it’s hard to take a sport called pickleball seriously. There’s the funny name. You serve underhand and hit something that looks like a Wiffle ball. Ken Curry snubbed the game for years. “I thought it was a geezer sport,” he says.

Dr. Curry, a cardiologist in Kennewick, Wash., has tennis bona fides. He played on the Colorado State University-Pueblo team, and after graduation he postponed medical school to pursue a tennis career that lasted 1½ years. In his prime, he held a world ranking and in 1978 he reached the Australian Open, though he didn’t make it out of the qualifying rounds.

Dr. Curry’s brother, Dan Curry, who also played college tennis, finally convinced him in 2012 to try pickleball, a sport that combines elements of tennis, badminton and Ping-Pong. “My brother was always raving about it and nagging me to pick up a paddle,” he says. “After one game, I was hooked.”

Dr. Curry, right, practices pickleball drills with Grant Harris, left.
Dr. Curry, right, practices pickleball drills with Grant Harris, left. Photo: Ryan Henriksen for The Wall Street Journal

Pickleball is one of the fastest-growing sports in America, with more than 3 million participants, according to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association. The association’s 2017 pickleball participant report showed that nearly 43% of core players are 65 or older. Dr. Curry, 64, had his hip replaced in 2013, and says that after decades of hitting overhead smashes and lunging to the net, a hard tennis match leaves him aching.

A smaller court and slower balls make pickleball a low-impact alternative. “I haven’t picked up a tennis racket in two years and don’t miss it,” Dr. Curry says.

Dr. Curry plays both singles and doubles but prefers playing with a partner. “I enjoy the strategy and teamwork,” he says. He competes in six to eight tournaments a year and has played in the USA Pickleball national championships four times. He and his brother finished third in the men’s doubles 50+ category in 2014. The following year, Dr. Curry won gold in the singles 60+ category. He plans to compete in the championships again this year after taking time off for family commitments.

The family pickleball obsession seems to be contagious. Dr. Curry’s adult son, Parker, is a pickleball pro in Colorado Springs, Colo. One of his two grown daughters dabbles in the sport and his Australian son-in-law, Nick Cooper, won gold at the 2018 Australian pickleball nationals. Even his wife, Patty Curry, who swore she’d never get on the court with him again, has taken to the game. “I turned her off tennis after putting her through years of drills, but she appreciates the pickleball workouts and is climbing up the ranks.”

Dr. Curry, right, competes in up to eight pickleball tournaments a year. He says the sport is a low-impact alternative to tennis.
Dr. Curry, right, competes in up to eight pickleball tournaments a year. He says the sport is a low-impact alternative to tennis. Photo: Ryan Henriksen for The Wall Street Journal
The Workout

Dr. Curry plays pickleball three to four times a week, for two to three hours. He does drills for 75% of the workout, then plays games for the duration. The sport is played with wooden paddles and a plastic, perforated ball on a short, square court. The net is hung at 34 inches, compared with 36 inches for tennis, and there is a 7-foot no-volley zone on each side of the net. Players score when the other side can’t return a shot. The first side to reach 11 points with a two-point lead wins.

“The small court makes the game quicker than tennis,” Dr. Curry says. “There are so many more possibilities in terms of what you can do with the ball. Because the ball bounce is shorter, there’s a lot of lunging, which requires a strong core.”

He spends a lot of time perfecting the dink, a higher, softer shot hit from the no-volley zone that stays low going over the net and drops quickly in the opposing no-volley zone. “It’s the most important shot,” he says. “You can’t hit the ball through people. You have to learn patience and hit soft and then rush the net. It’s like a game of cat and mouse.” On the court, he says his goal is to hit soft to his opponent’s feet up to 90% of the time, whether it’s with a forward dink, or a cross-court or backhand dink.

He incorporates yoga poses into his five-day-a-week stretching routine.

The Diet

Each morning, Dr. Curry makes a smoothie of spinach, chia seeds, frozen fruit, fruit juice and protein powder. He drinks half, along with a bowl of granola, for breakfast and freezes the rest for the evening. He has lunch at the hospital cafeteria, usually chicken and a side vegetable. After a brief stint going paleo, he says he rarely eats dairy, wheat or sugar. Dinner is often fish and a salad. His favorite splurge is his wife’s chocolate chip cookies and the cookies from New York City bakery Levain.

The Gear & Cost

Dr. Curry plays on the Selkirk Sport team and gets discounts on products from the paddle manufacturer. He plays with a Selkirk Amped Invikta midweight paddle ($150). He wears Asics sneakers and likes Thorlos socks ($16) for their double thickness. “When you’re drilling balls nonstop for 90 minutes, you need good cushioning,” he says. He plays outdoors on the free courts at Lawrence Scott Park and indoors at Tri-City Court Club, both in Kennewick. His membership at the club is $85 a month.

Pickleball is played with a paddle and perforated ball. The sound of the two connecting can be distracting to tennis players on nearby courts.
Pickleball is played with a paddle and perforated ball. The sound of the two connecting can be distracting to tennis players on nearby courts. Photo: Ryan Henriksen for The Wall Street Journal

A Truce Between Pickleball and Tennis

When pickleball first came on the scene in the late 1960s, it was met with disdain by many tennis purists. Many found the sound of the ball hitting the paddle annoying and didn’t want to share court time. They got irked when pickleballers lowered the net or taped the tennis court to adjust the lines of play. And many considered the game child’s play. “The first hesitation is always the name,” admits Tony Giannoni, a mental performance consultant in Orlando, Fla., who works with tennis players. “Why would a serious sport have this peculiar name?”

It’s taken some time, but attitudes are slowly changing. Even tennis greats like Andy Roddick and Andre Agassi have given the game a go. Mr. Giannoni says when he first observed pickleball, the game didn’t look very athletic. When he tried it, he was surprised by how intense the sport could be, but also by how it improved his tennis game. “It’s helped me be more patient on the tennis court,” he says. “You use your volley a lot more than you use your groundstroke in pickleball, and I now have a stronger volley in my tennis game.”

Justin Maloof, executive director of the U.S. Pickleball Association, believes the noise complaint is what originally drove a wedge between tennis and pickleball players. He says new partnerships, like a blended pickleball line program initiative with the U.S. Tennis Association, can benefit both sports. In February, the Professional Tennis Registry and the Professional Pickleball Registry in Hilton Head Island, S.C., organizations that educate and certify coaches, will even debut a new program called Pick Ten that will teach both pickleball and tennis in 10 sessions.

What’s your workout? Tell us at workout@wsj.com

More From What’s Your Workout

Is That Wine You’ve Been Hoarding Actually Valuable?

Is That Wine You’ve Been Hoarding Actually Valuable?
Illustration: TAYLOR CALLERY

A few months ago I stopped by an estate sale at one of the most beautiful houses in my town. I bought a couple things I didn’t need and ended up talking with the owner of the home. When he found out what I do for a living, he asked if I would have a look at his cellar. He had two old bottles of Dom Pérignon Champagne he thought might be valuable.

I felt a cold clutch of fear. It wasn’t the first time someone had told me about a bottle of wine that he or she thought might be worth a small fortune. I’m sorry to report this has never proved true. For example, a reader once emailed to ask if his 30-year-old bottle of Mouton Cadet, a simple commercial wine, was worth lots of money. I had to tell him otherwise—and I never heard from the man again.

I followed the homeowner into his basement—too warm for good wine storage—and through a set of doors to an almost empty and equally warm storage room. Two bottles of Dom languished in beat-up old boxes on an otherwise empty shelf. The boxes weren’t the original packaging, and the bottles themselves looked odd, the corks enshrouded in a kind of plastic covering I’d never seen before; Dom Pérignon’s corks are covered in foil.

The vintage (1969) of the wines was, at least, very good. Was he the original owner? I asked. In fact, someone had given him the two bottles a while back, the man said. I turned the bottles around and found a sticker from the Medical Center Pharmacy of Livingston, N.J., on the back. (Years ago many pharmacies in New Jersey sold liquor along with sundries and drugs.)

I remarked on the warmth of the cellar and the lack of original boxes, two major strikes against the bottles from a value assessor’s perspective. An auction house or retailer would be unlikely to accept old wines that had been stored in less than pristine conditions, even if the vintage was good. I didn’t mention the weird plastic tops, but I took a few photographs and said I’d be in touch.

My first call was to the Medical Center Pharmacy of Livingston, to see if they could have conceivably sold the wines. Pharmacist Mimi Coughlin confirmed that the pharmacy had once sold liquor—“like, centuries ago”—under its previous owners. Would that have been back in the 1970s? “That sounds about right,” she replied, but she didn’t know who’d owned the store back in those days; it had changed hands many times over the years.

My next call was to Jeff Zacharia, president of Zachys Wine & Liquor, a retailer in Scarsdale, N.Y., and Zachys Wine Auctions, in White Plains, N.Y. I told him about the two Champagnes. How much were they worth, if they were real? About $500 each, he replied—in an ideal situation. “We’d have to see if the storage conditions were correct,” he said. Had they been better, then a member of the Zachys auction team would have wanted to open one of the bottles to see if the wine inside was still good. The owner could taste it too, he added.

Mr. Zacharia, too, is regularly buttonholed by friends and customers regarding their possibly-valuable old bottles. He happened to be in his Scarsdale wine shop when a man walked in carrying a bottle of 1982 Château Greysac and a bottle of 1980 Château Latour. The former was a simple Bordeaux meant to be drunk relatively young, while the latter was a great Bordeaux from an okay vintage. Both were well past their prime and had no commercial value, Mr. Zacharia had to explain.

Most of Mr. Zacharia’s experiences are like that, though there have been a (very) few happier surprises too. One man called to have the wines in his cellar appraised but didn’t want to send Mr. Zacharia a list of his bottles, the standard procedure. Mr. Zacharia agreed to visit his house since he lived nearby. “I went not expecting anything and I was blown away. All first- and second-growth Bordeaux in perfect condition,” he recalled. Zachys sold the wines for $500,000.

Mr. Zacharia couldn’t comment on the pictures of the Dom Pérignon that I’d sent him but said he’d ask his appraiser. In the meantime, I contacted representatives of the Dom Pérignon brand and sent them the pictures of the bottles. They asked if I had the serial numbers or a bar code, but I explained that I didn’t own the bottles. They agreed to take a look at them.

In the meantime, I heard another story about some old bottles of Champagne that had been a gift from John Gotti, head of the Gambino crime family, to his then-lawyer Barry I. Slotnick. I was intrigued. The wines themselves, non-vintage Perrier-Jouët Champagne, weren’t particularly valuable. Yet when I reached out to Mr. Slotnick’s son Stuart P. Slotnick, who has five of the bottles from the original case of 12, he said he thought their association with the infamous crime boss might make them of interest to a collector. “I’ve never spoken to anyone about selling them,” he added, “but maybe one day.”

While I awaited word from Dom Pérignon, I contacted Maureen Downey, founder of Chai Consulting in San Francisco and one of the foremost wine authenticators and experts on the subject of wine fraud. I asked if she’d have a look at the pictures of the Dom Pérignon. “It’s out of the norm,” she said of the weird plastic covering on the corks, “but that doesn’t mean it’s counterfeit.” She agreed the best source for authentication was Dom Pérignon, but in the meantime she found a few photos of 1969 Dom Pérignon bottles that she’d authenticated as real. The corks were covered with the familiar green foil.

It wasn’t the first time someone had told me about a bottle of wine that he or she thought might be worth a small fortune.

While Ms. Downey couldn’t say for sure if they were real or fake, she thought the odd covering would make the bottles difficult to sell. “The owner may or may not have a good drink on his hands,” she said. “But he definitely doesn’t have a retirement fund on his hands.”

A week later, I received word from Dom Pérignon. The team said that the label appeared real but the capsule covering on the corks wasn’t likely original, as all bottles of Dom Pérignon were covered by foil after the 1966 vintage. Up until that year, they said, they were covered by “cellosit,” a malleable plastic substance that hardened after it was placed around the collar of the bottle as a protective covering. The photograph of a cellosit-covered bottle I received looked much like the 1969 Dom from the cellar, but the vintage was several years after they’d stopped using the stuff. Had a cellar assistant made a mistake in 1969 and covered some bottles with the old stuff?

I never found out if the bottles were real since I never saw them again. After I finished all my research I discovered that the owner had sold his house and left town. The Dom Pérignon team could not authenticate without seeing the actual bottles—though they did offer to have a look if I ever happen to track them down.

I’ve detailed the process because I learned so much along the way—and enjoyed it as well. (Of course, I wasn’t the one holding less-than-valuable Champagne.) Readers considering similar expeditions, take note: Whether or not a bottle proves valuable, the project can be quite enlightening, and you never know what you’ll find out.

Email Lettie at wine@wsj.com

The Best (and Worst) Ways to Make Your Phone Battery Last

The Best (and Worst) Ways to Make Your Phone Battery Last
Illustration: PETE RYAN

If you’re out late with friends and your phone battery is dwindling, these smart, easy tips will ensure you make it through the night:

> First, dim your screen’s brightness and flip to “low power” mode. That’ll give you an extra hour or so of battery (for emergencies only).

> You should also close any draining apps—especially games, maps, social media. And click off location services so the GPS isn’t working overtime. Wait, who are FaceTiming?

> Always stash an Anker portable charger in your bag too. Its PowerIQ helps “deliver an optimum, high-speed charge to all devices.”

> Of course your Anker isn’t working. You used up all the charges three days ago.

> OK. Just keep the phone on airplane mode for now. That should stop your cellular data and Wi-Fi from sapping the battery.

> Seriously, stop turning off airplane mode just to text everyone about how you’re turning on airplane mode.

> Sure, go chat up the bartender. See if he’ll give you a quick charge.

> Are you streaming “Bird Box” right now?

> Yes. Fine. Scream at the phone for 20-30 minutes. I’m sure sonic vibrations will give you a little power—enough to hail an Uber.

> How can an Uber driver not have a phone charger?! This is America!

> Stick your phone out the window. I think the mixture of moonlight and wind power should get you out of the red.

> OK, give me your keys. I read this thing about Ben Franklin recently…

> For the love of god, stop tweeting about your plummeting battery!

> Yes, you’re right, I’m sure some body heat would warm up the lithium ion if we jog a quick marathon or two.

> No, of course you’re smart enough to invent cold fusion. Just maybe not tonight.

> Put. The jumper cables. Down.

> Are you sure the bartender said it was “cool” to crawl though his condo’s window to borrow a power cord? Are those sirens?

> No. No, you absolutely cannot plug your phone in there. Can’t you see the nice officer is charging his stun gun?

The Hottest Hair Color of the Moment Is…Gray

The Hottest Hair Color of the Moment is...Gray
Illustration: Sean McCabe

I thought I found my first gray hair yesterday, and I got so excited,” said 30-year-old Larkin Brown. Um, OK. When I confronted my own first grays a few years back, I was less “excited” and more “existentially panicked.” But attitudes toward gray are shifting. As a researcher and in-house stylist for the San Francisco visual-discovery engine Pinterest, Ms. Brown has recently been submerged in photos of women of all ages flaunting hair that is assertively and fashionably gray. Younger women are dyeing their locks in shades from slate to titanium, and those who are naturally fading are embracing their color.

On Pinterest—which reported an 879% jump in the use of the search term “going gray” from 2017 to 2018—you can find photos of platinum-haired women, including: one sporting gray and blue dreadlocks; brides with twisted silver updos; writer Joan Didion with a sterling bob in a 2015 Celine ad; and scores of stars who’ve made gray the latest outré status color, from Ariana Grande’s silken white strands to the steely cornrows on “The Hunger Games” actress Amandla Stenberg. Lady Gaga, an early adopter, recently tinged her icy Golden Globes updo with lilac. At a yoga class this week, I contorted behind a woman with short ashy hair who could have been 17 or 71 from the back. The new gray hair is more intentional than accidental.

Humans have been dyeing hair since the Ancient Egyptian era, but natural dyes like henna and chemical goop like Clairol’s game-changing 1950s home formulas have mostly focused on covering up rather than accentuating hair that’s lost its pigment. The last time gray hair was this hot was probably the 1700s, when Marie Antoinette types would dust wigs with white powder scented with lavender or orange flower.

On-purpose gray has come a long way since 18th-century rice flour. “More and more companies including our own are offering formulas to achieve silver hair,” said Annie Hu, the marketing director for color and texture at hair care company Joico, which counts Titanium among its top-five best-selling dye shades. Going gray if your hair is, say, brown demands a major commitment, involving multiple bleachings. Even embracing your natural gray can entail a lot of salon time to phase out existing dye. “Hair is a science experiment,” cautioned 33-year-old New York stylist Brittan White, who colors her own hair dove gray and counts dozens of unnatural silver foxes and fox-ettes among her clients. And gray is particularly tricky to get right.

STREAK QUEENS Perhaps even more striking than allover gray is the skunk-like addition of one supremely stylish white streak. Just ask Susan Sontag, Cruella De Vil or Daphne Guinness. A brazen white streak can also connote magical powers in the cartoon world (think Rogue in ’X-Men’).
STREAK QUEENS Perhaps even more striking than allover gray is the skunk-like addition of one supremely stylish white streak. Just ask Susan Sontag, Cruella De Vil or Daphne Guinness. A brazen white streak can also connote magical powers in the cartoon world (think Rogue in ’X-Men’). Illustration: Sean McCabe

So when I explored dyeing my hair (which is normally reddish, boosted with highlights) fully gray for this story, pros quickly nixed the idea. They dissuaded me from spending multiple days at the salon submitting to arduous bleaching. Instead, New York editorial hair stylist Edward Lampley devised a temporary alternative: I’d spend one day with a grayish-violet powdered updo and another capped by a more extreme grayish-blonde wig. Not exactly Cruella de Vil, but enough for me to glean what it might feel like to be a 30-something gray-haired woman.

“Is this a Gaga thing?!” asked an esteemed colleague on Grayish-Violet Updo Day, near the (actual) water cooler. I was mortified that people might think I’d been enthusiastic enough about the singer’s recent Golden Globes look to spend two hours re-creating it for work. But, like Gaga’s, the dusty French twist was clearly artificial and, judging by the mostly encouraging feedback, striking. I’d absolutely recreate it for a special night out in the hopes of looking like a low-rent version of streaky-haired heiress Daphne Guinness.

Grayish-Blonde Wig Day was less successful. A sampling of reactions, from a day at the office and an after-work art opening: “It changes your look radically”; “Just…no”; “Not flattering”; “You don’t look healthy”; and, most worryingly, “Are you OK?”

That reception may have been tinged by the lumpy shape of the cheapo wig I wore. But the ashy color did wash out my complexion in a Crypt Keeper kind of way. Gray hair—fake or natural—must jive with your coloring to work. When it does, the results can be splendid: It was only after 60-year-old New York set designer Jocelyne Beaudoin stopped coloring her curly blondish-gray hair that she became a style icon, modeling for brands like Rachel Comey. Inspired by Meryl Streep’s fierce white-haired editor in “A Devil Wears Prada,” Ms. Beaudoin underwent a nearly-two-year process to transition from colored to natural hair, finding that it complemented her fair skin and blue eyes. “As you get older, for certain skin colors, it’s softer around your face. That’s more flattering.”

KEEP IT COOL To counteract yellowing tresses, products with cool blue tones are essential for gray hair. Some options, from left: Amika Conditioner, $24, sephora.com; Klorane Shampoo, $15, ulta.com; Joico Toning Foam, $22, ulta.com; Touch-Up Spray, $32, oribe.com; Sachajuan Shampoo, $28, davidpirrotta.com.
KEEP IT COOL To counteract yellowing tresses, products with cool blue tones are essential for gray hair. Some options, from left: Amika Conditioner, $24, sephora.com; Klorane Shampoo, $15, ulta.com; Joico Toning Foam, $22, ulta.com; Touch-Up Spray, $32, oribe.com; Sachajuan Shampoo, $28, davidpirrotta.com. Photo: F. Martin Ramin/ The Wall Street Journal

She did feel compelled to adjust her makeup and wardrobe when she went gray, swapping red lipstick for toned-down pinky reds, and switching out more starkly colored clothing for softer grays, camels and creams. While the exact palette adjustment depends on your natural coloring, most women agreed that gray hair requires…something. When I popped that platinum wig on, I immediately fled to the office bathroom to rim my eyes with navy eye liner. The hair stylist Ms. White said, “I feel like I definitely need a little bit of a blush, or some kind of a lip thing, even if it’s just a neutral color.”

But let’s get down to silver tacks: Is gray aging? Not necessarily on younger women, who benefit from the contrast between a fresh face and silvery hair, as evidenced by British editor and street-style star Sarah Harris, who is in her 30s. Rhiannon Gardier, 38, an Arizona stay-at-home mother who chronicles her natural “silver curl journey” on social media, said, “People think that it’s aging, and it’s not. Every time people give me a compliment, it’s always followed with, ‘You have such a young face—you look like you’re 20.’” As for those whose faces show their age, some of the over-50 women I spoke to enthused that they felt less “invisible” once they’d gone gray, and that their hair looked healthier.

Plus, looking young is not necessarily the point. “What nonsensical piece of logic in society says that women should always have hair that looks like they’re 26?” asked Wieden and Kennedy’s co-president Colleen DeCourcy, who stopped coloring her sleek bob three years ago at age 50. As the leader of an international ad agency, she hopes to set a positive example for the young women she encounters: “I didn’t want the first things I was trying to accomplish to be pretty or young. I wanted it to be: wise, don’t give a f—, authentic, empowered.”

1. Matte Dove Appearances aside, I don’t coo. 2. Streaky Lavender I have 56,000 Instagram followers. 3. Pure White Don’t get me near that red wine. 4. Light Ash I’m president of the Khaleesi fan club. 5. Deep Gunmetal Get out of my way. Out!
1. Matte Dove Appearances aside, I don’t coo. 2. Streaky Lavender I have 56,000 Instagram followers. 3. Pure White Don’t get me near that red wine. 4. Light Ash I’m president of the Khaleesi fan club. 5. Deep Gunmetal Get out of my way. Out! Photo: F. Martin Ramin/ The Wall Street Journal

Annie Hu of Joico connected the trend to a larger movement toward transparency in beauty: “We’re at a time when we are embracing so much individuality and authenticity.” For the young women painstakingly dyeing their hair gray at great cost, it’s more about the illusion of authenticity, which makes sense in the context of a style moment which emphasizes prominent eyeglasses and Eileen Fisher-inspired turtlenecks. Old is in.

But as with any outside-of-the-box trend, women in creative industries can experiment more freely than those in traditionally buttoned-up workplaces. New York-based finance wizard and Wall Street trailblazer Alexandra Lebenthal, 54, admitted, “It makes me sad to say it, but I cannot see a woman at a big corporation deciding to do that. You’re not really supposed to step out of the mold.” On the other hand, Ms. Beaudoin thinks that her set-design career was actually boosted by her gray ’do. “My business is such a business of youth that I’ve always been so concerned about how I was going to age out of my job,” she confessed. “But since I’m not trying to hide my age, and I’m embracing it, people respect that. Plus, it looks good. I work mostly in fashion, and you have to look good.”

When I tested grayish styles at our casual office, my colleagues seemed more concerned with how the shades worked with my outfits (and how long my wig wrap took) than whether it aged me. I did avoid wearing my glasses, though, nervous about looking more like Mrs. Claus than a fashion editor. I’d like to think that when my gray takes over, I’ll be as empowered to own it as Ms. DeCourcy—life goals!—but it’s hard to imagine losing the color that connects me to my mom, brothers and daughter, all redheads to some degree.

In a 2011 episode of “The Simpsons” called “The Blue and the Gray,” Marge is inspired by a sprightly platinum-haired woman to dye her naturally blue beehive gray. When she comes home her daughter Lisa says, “I know I use the word ‘empowering’ a lot, but this time it really is that!” When Marge returns to cobalt after mixed reactions, she wonders if she’s copping out, but Lisa reassures her, “As a feminist, virtually anything a woman does is empowering!” Matt Groening’s tiny philosopher is right: It’s not the color that’s liberating, it’s the option to choose whichever color you’d like.

Does He or Doesn’t He?

For men of steel, dyeing is a different game—all about leaving just enough gray that you look…plausible

MR. SLATE George Clooney’s salt-and-pepper coif is a look men’s products aim to simulate.
MR. SLATE George Clooney’s salt-and-pepper coif is a look men’s products aim to simulate. Photo: Getty Images

Women think men have it nice ‘n’ easy when it comes to our hair’s eventual loss of pigment. According to a 2019 report by market-research firm Mintel, when women were asked if it’s more “acceptable” for a man to go gray than a woman, they were significantly more likely than guys to agree. Mintel’s findings suggest that men find conspicuous aging relatively treacherous, yet only four in 10 considered it socially acceptable to color their hair.

In my experience, men dread the prospect of being caught with fake, shoe-polish locks—known as “Dracula cap”—but aren’t nuts either about going entirely mad-scientist gray like the dotty Dr. Emmett Brown in “Back to the Future.” The desirable compromise? “Salt-and-pepper has a level of sophistication that can be mouthwatering,” stylist Mary Alice Stephenson told this paper in 2013.

Bizarrely, I desired this mouthwatering look when I was only 21, a strapping art student with a full head of lame mousey hair. I had grown up in the backwater of Edmonton, Canada, craving sophistication, the sort of 12-year-old who wrote pestering letters to Manhattan ad agencies for tips on “breaking into the business.” I convinced one of my art-college friends to attempt to dye my hair “salt-and-pepper” in his moldy bathroom.

It turned out mauve.

Twenty years later, fate got around to more accurately fulfilling my dreams. I had a passably glamorous publishing job in New York and drab hair that was naturally distinguished by a heavy sprinkling of gray at the temples. I fretted over this. I looked, to put it politely, like a sophisticated old fart.

I’ve since heard of younger Wall Street types or assistant district attorneys who ask their stylists to dust their hair with gray to command more respect at work or even to look sexier, but I’m pretty sure no one’s mouth was watering at the sight of my head.

The gray colonized more and more of my scalp. After unsatisfying dalliances with Clairol’s Natural Instincts home coloring kits (it’s natural! it’s instinctive!) whose artificial-looking tints washed out over time, I gave up. For years.

Then one day a stylist tempted me with Redken’s Color Camo process, promising it would blend in pigment but leave just enough gray to avoid Dracula cap. I would, she assured me, be a near-dead-ringer for George Clooney after she was done. Instead, my hair looked like a cheap faux fur, uniformly minkish in tone. “I think I left it in too long,” she murmured, almost to herself.

That plausible, salt-and-pepper Clooney effect has been the Holy Grail for graying men since Grecian Formula 16, the first notable coloring product for men, debuted in 1962. To reassure guys that “[getting] rid of some of the gray but not all of it” is a manly pursuit, its maker, Combe, cast its commercials with athletes like MLB all-star Pete Rose and Oakland Raider George Blanda (“no phony dye job for me”), claiming its pointedly colorless potion was “as easy to use as water.” Even at 21, I viewed this skeptically, and now that I’m almost entirely, resignedly gray, I find it far easier to stick to actual water.