18 May 2024

Backstage Hair Secrets & Styling Tips from the Hairstylist on CW’s Jane the Virgin

Michelle Rene Elam, the department head of hair on CW’s Jane the Virgin, shares her TV styling secrets and tips for creating the hair on Season 3. What is a typical day of filming like? How do you keep the hairstyles looking freshly styled for hours at time with HD cameras?

Michelle Rene Elam shares a glimpse backstage. Watch new episodes every Monday night.

A Typical Hair Day on Set

A typical hair day is a marathon of creating styles. While we are designing the actors looks, executing hair changes through the day, and staying on top of their upkeep on set, we are also wig shopping and designing the next episode. We had an episode where waterfalls of gushing water fell on different actors. We had to shoot everything with their hair dry so we didn’t have to spend hours re-doing their hair from being soaked. The episodes keep us on our toes!

Hair Changes for Season 3

Big changes happened in Season 3. The lovely Gina Rodriguez, who plays Jane, returned with her head partly shaved, so I had wigs designed to portray her regular “Jane” look. She had to sport the wigs 16 hours a day. While she was on set acting, I would be prepping another wig for her next look. We did a lot of fun creations through the season the 1700’s, 1902, 1940’s, 1950’s, 1960’s, aging everyone 20+ years, a Cinderella & Prince Charming episode, cat woman, Cavemen, Flamingos, and a spin-off of a “Sex & the City” story.

We then jumped 3 years in time and everyone got a new overall slightly grown-up look. Jane sported her stylish natural short hair – no longer needing all the wigs except for flashback scenes or period pieces. Xo wore a shorter length and side part with a more natural curl. Petra’s hair was shorter and more relaxed. Rafael became Zen and messy after his bout in prison. It was an adventuresome and evolving hair season.

Tips to Achieve Long Lasting Waves and Straight Styles on Set

Long lasting waves are vastly important and vary with each actress depending on their hair texture. We had a very rainy season in Los Angeles, so we had to up our demands of keeping their hair in check. If their hair was falling flat, I would “wake it up” by flipping it to the opposite side rushing my fingers through to keep the curls flowing, then flip it back to continue matching in the scene. I also relied on White Sands Haircare’s Orchids Oil to control frizz, CHI Dry Shampoo for volume and removing moisture, and a stronger hairspray for better hold like White Sands Liquid Texture Firm Thermal Styling Spray.

Straight hair needs shine to really show its pizazz. It should be healthy and flowing, not stiff and brittle. We like to prep the hair well to protect it. Each day or each week might need something different as hair can be moody and tired, just like us. Protect it with a blowdry/iron spray like White Sands Liquid Texture Medium Thermal Styling Spray or White Sands Liquid Texture Firm Thermal Styling Spray, Living Proof’s Restore Instant Protection, or EVO Irons and Tools. Hair also needs nutrition – omega 3’s, green tea, acai berry, to name a few. The health of your hair portrays what your body needs.”

Styling for HD Cameras

Hairstyling for the camera is very different than for a day down the street, shopping or dining. Every strand out of place can look like a tree branch on HD camera. Yet helmet hair is not the goal. It’s a fine line to create the style looking free and natural, or formal and sexy, without it getting stiff and awkward. A boar hairbrush smooths the cuticle well. If there is a very troubled area, we might tuck the hair with a hidden hairpin. Creating a solid shape before they go to set makes the difference. We often use a volume mousse for the blow dry as it gives the hair something to hold on to hours later. CHI Haircare is great for normal hair, Fekkai is light weight for fine hair, AG FOAM Weightless Volumizer for long hair, and Moroccan Oil Volume Collection for strong heavy hair.


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