When dance and singing contestants flash across the TV screen with perfect hair that manages to stay in place under the most unbelievable conditions — heat, sweat, crazy gyrations — it’s only natural to wonder how they do it.
And only industry hairdressers know for sure.
“Working on ‘Dancing With the Stars,’ I’m easily using my most extreme techniques to get their hair to stay intact during their performances,” says Mary Guerrero, the show’s hair department head and a four-time Emmy winner for hairstyling. “With high-definition TV we also have to make hair that’s been secured with special pins and sprays look soft somehow.”
Guerrero also sometimes relies on extensions or hair pieces that are secured into the performer’s hair to get a taller or fuller ’do for a special performance.
Actors also put their hair and hair pieces through their paces on “Saturday Night Live” by running through everything from classic impersonations to full on physical comedy.
But Bettie Rogers, the show’s hair department head, relies on a meticulously catalogued backlog of wigs to get the looks needed for each show.
“We have books we call wig bibles that document who has worn which wig for which character and every cast member has one of these bibles,” says Rogers. “It’s how we keep track of all wigs and their history and how we’re able to quickly pull things together each week.”
Performers also have wigs made to look exactly like their real hair since jumping in and out of the caps, which press their natural hair down so wigs can be placed on them, leave their real mane looking more than a little mussed. Rather than rip off the cap, the wigs are used to save time.
“I’m always shopping for extensions or ornaments that I can use with someone’s hair to create a new look or something that really makes a contestant stand out during a particular number,” says Shawn Finch, head of makeup and hair for “The Voice.”
“We start out with more than a hundred people who are contestants, helping them get ready and trying to give them a little boost with what we do.”
Finch also likes extensions to alter a contestant’s look for a genre song or even to enhance a natural look, though he has to really sell performers on the idea sometimes.
Lynn Tully, head hairstylist for “American Idol” takes a different approach. Though contestants are working through different genres of songs and different types of performances, she doesn’t generally reach for add-ons when working with contestants.
“We’re trying to bring out the best of who these singers are naturally, using their own personalities as an inspiration,” Tully says. “We’re part of giving them a little more confidence to get through the competition feeling good about themselves.”