When Grey’s Anatomy season 12 debuted a few months ago, we were shocked by Meredith’s new shorter, shoulder-grazing haircut (and blindsided by McDreamy’s heartbreaking plot twist, but that’s another story). We speculated (and were mostly right!) about the reason behind it, but now we have an explanation from Ellen Pompeo herself. She even weighs in on her lighter hue. Read what she had to say:

In an interview with Into the Gloss, Pompeo confirmed that “[My short hair] kind of happened the same way it always happens—we fried it and needed to cut it off. I went with really dark hair last season because the story was so dark, so I wanted my hair to represent what Meredith was going through. And then we got the pickup for season 12, and we had to go to New York to do press and we did that big ShondaLand shoot, so I wanted a different feel. Shonda said, ‘We’re going to make the show lighter and brighter, and we want to change the tone now—we were all in such a bad place last year and we all need a little lightness and fun,’ so I was like, ‘I’m going to lighten up my hair.’ Harry Josh took me back to blond, but he had to really bleach it to get all that dark out. And then I went on vacation and I was in the sun a lot, so it got burnt. So when I came back to New York, I said, ‘Harry, we have to just cut this off!'”

Finally! We have some closure. Meredith in season 12 = a lighter, happier Meredith.

Plus, more on Shonda Rhimes’ leading ladies:

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