Note from the KeraGirls: International Creative Team Member Abraham Sprinkle describes the challenges behind styling a 1960s-inspired test editorial photoshoot for MAC Cosmetics.
I often have stylists ask about my session work and comment that they would love the creative aspect of it. But in all honesty, it is no different than the everyday client in your chair: It’s all about knowing your clients and making their vision yours.
Here’s a perfect example: To a blonde, yellow = red! How many times have we gotten the call that their recent high-lift looks RED? For me, it took way too much energy to explain “cool” and “warm,” so what I did was mind read—knowing precisely what the client wanted, which with blondes usually meant ash = natural, natural = gold and gold = red.
This often happens in session work too, as a period piece may be envisioned as one image in your head and as another in the art director’s. Since you are the artist, your job is to read their mind and execute what will make them happy.
I was lucky enough to get called in for a test editorial with MAC senior art directors. My direction, or mood board, was 1960s but looser. In those days, hair was teased, lacquered, set, teased again, and the final shellac was applied; the finished style usually had a seven-day expiration window until your next appointment.
I knew I had two wigs to work with and that the theme was two sisters—one good, one evil. Both wigs were pretty short, and to make them look “loose” was going to be the challenge. I had to figure out what besides the longish, straight hair of the late ’60s would best fit this description. So, the night before, I stayed up using a friend’s head as a form and experimenting with what would work.
Diary of an editorial session for MAC Cosmetics
I double-check my kit. Since this is not a typical session shoot and we won’t be using props like wigs, I have to make sure everything I could possibly need is here.
I am almost out the door when I remember WIG CAPS (which are not a regular on my shopping list). The beauty of New York City is that you really can find anything at almost any time; the negative is trying to figure out whether these items are on your route.
After 15 minutes of Googling, I find a store on the way. As I begin to lug my extra-heavy kit down the subway stairs, I pray it does not open, as one would think I mugged a drag queen.
I arrive at Alcone, the equivalent to Toys “R” Us for makeup and hair artists. At the front door, I yell “DO YOU HAVE WIG CAPS?” — not wanting to lug my kit through the entire store only to be told, “We are out of stock.” I again see the beauty of NYC. (In most small southern towns, if a 6-foot-4 guy demanded wig caps, it might be seen as a bit odd.)
I arrive on set at MAC Studios to be greeted by makeup artists I have only seen in brochures and magazines. Definitely a star-struck moment!
The team begins to collaborate on the execution of the final look, and I am told that hair is key to complete. At this moment, my 12-hour deodorant fast-forwards to hour 11!
Model arrives. Sometimes things just fall into place magically. The model’s hair is a chestnut red brown. The darker of the two wigs is colored that exact same color—meaning I can incorporate her own hair into the look. This not only takes a lot of pressure off of me, but also gives me back two hours on my deodorant!
A flawless face is ready and I’m up to bat. I place the wig cap on, and I see the constriction is killing the model. But I ignore it: I have all eyes on me, and it’s no time for showing weakness. I carry on with Eye of the Tiger playing in my head. For those of you who have never worked with wigs or pieces, the challenge is the opposite of natural hair: With natural hair, you are trying to create bulk and body, whereas with a wig you are trying to decrease volume and make it look as if the model grew this hair herself.
My weapon here is a slight mist of Straight Day Keratin-Enhanced Styling Spray and a pea-sized amount of Timeless Color™ Fade-Defy Deep Conditioning Masque, blow-dried in the hair for added weight and control. This makes the wig lay flatter to the head. I then begin with a root-lifter tool and begin randomly half-barrel curling the hair as if the model had gone to the Hamptons and her perfectly set hair got disheveled. The final look: a 1960s teased bob with an effortless flow.
Look No. 2 must be started. The only true changes are going to be the lip and eye color and hair color—blonde this time. A fine line must be considered; even though the story is two sisters, at the end they must look like two completely different girls without obvious transitions. This leaves me no choice but to cut the blonde wig shorter. In wig work, even the cut must sometimes be altered. Not so much about precision but more about a balance with the head shape. I pull out my razor and go at it like the inner samurai I know I have in me.
Though everything looks great, it isn’t reading well on camera. The blonde wig looks like a big blob of mashed potatoes on her head. This is often a problem with blondes: Because of the delicate, pale color, definition and detail are often lost. This is why hairstylists use low lights to create depth and dimension.
I choose Iconic Polish High Shine Pomade to piece apart the top half and give it shine and movement, and MoldMe Matte Texturizing Cream on the nape area to create shadows and a head-hugging appearance. These tricks are crucial, as I can’t use the model’s own hair to blend, and so must rely solely on the wig itself.
The shoot is complete, everyone feels accomplished, and I have managed not to use the 12 hours of protection my deodorant promised!
Whether on set or behind the chair, our goal is to make the client happy. To do this, you must take away your own boundaries and open up to the client’s way of thinking. The secret is in never compromising your expertise, but knowing how to link your thinking into what they are expecting—also known as “mind reading.”