When the 'hawk won't fly

It takes a personal center of gravity to pull off, and "American Idol's" Sunjaya Malakar is still a featherweight.

In the entertainment industry, the mohawk has become a fashion gimmick - an attention-grabber employed by the less talented to make us do a double-take. (Would Mr. T be the '80s icon he is today without his gold chains and illified do?)

Still, we were stunned, confused, aesthetically insulted, even, Tuesday night when American Idol contestant Sanjaya Malakar gave us a strangely fluffy take on the decidedly roughneck look.

Strategically, his stylists are ingenious - draw attention to Malakar's barely-there style instead of the talent that straight doesn't exist. The 17-year-old's cotton-candy-sweet voice ruined "You Really Got Me" by Ray Davies and Diana Ross' "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" in previous shows.

For those performances, Malakar donned cutesy ringlets and soft waves - eye-grabbing choices, and much more believable. But sweeping seven ponytails to the center of his head to create the fauxhawk was not edgy. It was a disaster.

Look around celebrity-land: Diddy's runhawk, former Philadelphia Eagle Freddie Mitchell's frohawk, even Pink's glowhawk symbolized strong personalities and a distinct sense of style.

Malakar's fauxhawk was the singer's latest attempt to find himself. The 'hawk is the wrong hairstyle to wear on a journey to self-discovery. Because real 'hawk-wearers know exactly who they are.

Contact Elizabeth Wellington at 215-854-2704 or ewellington@philly