10 December 2023

Subtle Stardom: Hairdressers Working Backstage for Films & TV Series

It may not be for everyone, but working backstage for films and TV series can be an exciting career option for hairdressers!

Although most lay people associate hairdressing as salon professionals who essentially work behind the chair day in and day out, those in the business know better. There is wide variety of career options in this industry, from cutting, coloring and styling, to educators and platform artists. One of the most glamorous options, second perhaps only to the celebrity client loop and red carpet gigs, is perhaps working in films and television. So is it really? Estetica asked Aubrey Marie and Charles Yusko about their careers, how they got there, and what advice they would give to those aspiring to follow in their footsteps. Some of their answers were surprising!

As a youngster, Aubrey Marie attended an arts high school, majoring in production and design, but perhaps a turning point came when she found an inspiring teacher in a hair and make-up class who introduced her to a totally new world. After starting out in theater and opera, she also did a stint coiffing Disneyland princesses. Today she works backstage on ‘Days of Our Lives‘, a truly epic and award-winning American soap opera on NBC.

Aubrey admits that getting into film and TV takes a lot of time, hard work, dedication, and networking. In addition to joining a union, she does offer one trick to be tried. “There are two make-up artists for every hairdresser, so if you do both, you may be able to get your foot in the door in make-up first,” Aubrey suggests. But once that’s done, don’t expect to be on easy street. “You have to work crazy long hours in all kinds of locations and weather conditions,” she shares, “But the advantages are that you get to work in pretty amazing places.”

Even on the set of DOOL, where she prefers Eufora products to deal with the stress of a grueling routine, they shoot 6-9 episodes in just one week. “But,” she adds, “we get a lot of time off. For example, my show takes a week-long hiatus at least once a month.” So what exactly does her job entail? Many factors are involved in the styling. Aubrey says she concentrates on the big picture of the character she is coiffing. She asks herself, “Are they employed, married, dating, single, good or evil.”

Or if a big change is coming up in the story,  she tries to reflect that with a more dramatic style. “I tend to use the ‘less is more’ theory,she reveals, “because I love hair that looks a little undone and effortless.”

After turning down an acting scholarship from his Junior College in Wharton, Texas (discouraged by his parents because acting would never be a “real job”), Charles Yusko floundered about at university and boring jobs until he was 28. That’s when he hit the road with his then-partner Dan, working as “pop-up performers”. The accolades convinced him to seek the perfect outlet for his creative energies, taking a job doing hair and make-up with the Austin Lyric Opera, where his talents were duly appreciated.

However, Charles claims the turning point was finding the Toni&Guy Academy in Dallas, as they provided him with the baggage he would need to become a true pro. Charles got his big break shorty after graduating from Toni&Guy, when he was asked to do hair on the film “The Alamo”. As a Texas native, he couldn’t refuse, arriving on the huge set at 4 AM to team up with 13 colleagues to style 300+ background figures on a huge set. He was hooked.

Charles envisions his career as a vocation.Film is hard work,” he says, “the rest of the world disappears and you become part of a massive city you help build and then tear down again in 2- 8 months.” He insists on top-notch education that offers advanced classes and opportunities to work on photo shoots. “Then work in a salon to build dexterity,” he advises, “as being fast and creative is the key. It’s not your personality, but your skill level that will make you a great film stylist.”

One of Charles’s most recent gigs was working with TNT on the set of ‘Dallas‘. “My job is making the actors beautiful or not so beautiful.” he muses,
but also to think of the costume, an earring to be showing, or a stunt that is going to happen.” Does hair color work into the show? “I like color to be soft,” he admits, “whether it is ombré, balayage or all over color depends on the character.” But sometimes there are drastic changes during the course of the show. “That when the fun of wigs comes into play,” he reveals. “Human hair wigs from Russia are the finest hair to cut and color to perfection. I love using OYA hair color to make that magic happen.”

By Marie Scarano



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