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Being on Oprah was like entering Fort Knox yet with a slight twist of being questioned by the FBI. Oprah herself was lovely, brilliant and much shorter than I expected. She was very pleasant and engaging although the interaction was brief. The true experience was with her team that managed us. We were a group of hair dressers doing real time makeovers. This means that in 45 minutes we cut and styled the hair, did a wardrobe change and had makeup touch ups completed. All of this occurred while returning on stage for the finale. In all honesty, we had 25 minutes to do all of this. It was a big deal at the time because it was the first time it was done in real time. Imagine doing all of this with 2-3 production individuals following you and filming it so they catch all the action of the hair dropping to the floor and blow drying the end result.
If you are a hairdresser reading this, you understand the hazards of this situation. Your adrenaline is pumping to cut the hair into a precision haircut that is going to be on National TV and Oprah is going to comment on it, all the while you are using sharp tools, hot tools, and trying not to trip over the production crew's cords. While you are cutting the hair, the makeup artist is doing touch ups and you're now working around 3-4 people in trying to cut and style the hair. No pressure at all to try to not cut yourself or someone else.
However, all of that just wasn't quite enough. What her team really wanted was for us to color the hair in that short time frame as well. That conversation started before we arrived to the studio. Our internal team continuously said no but they thought they would give it one last try to get us to do it once we arrived. They did this by un-noticeably separating us by giving individual tours and then asking each one of us if we could color the hair during that time frame as well. Individually we tried explaining that it was impossible. They pressed hard and we explained that the application alone would be 15 minutes minimum and then there is processing time. Of course we didn't want to upset the crew and we each individually explained with polite reasoning and eventually they gave it up. I mean after all, who wants to upset Oprah?
The production team created a salon in a portion of the studio for us to literally run off stage, into the salon area and begin working on our models. This sounds exciting but throw on a nice pair of heels and doing a marathon may be very similar to the experience. It was beautiful and fully functioning as a salon, with the exception of all the TV cameras filming you.
The models were individuals that wrote in as to why they should be considered for the makeover. My model was a sweet 14 year old girl that had never had her hair cut. Oprah's team had all bases covered with the makeover models: All of the models had to sign agreements that they couldn't cry on stage. So as we cut off their pony tails live on stage, they all smiled (mostly) when they turned around to the crowd.
When we were cutting off their pony tails, I had troubles getting the pony tail cut. My darling model had enough hair for a third world country and I couldn't get it cut off as fast as the others. My shears were shoved down onto my fingers and I felt like I was chopping down a tree to save my life. In reality, everyone else got their ponytails cut off and were holding them in the air with the exception of me. So, of course, that caused Oprah to come over to me and make light of the situation, which in turn gave me a little more air time than my fellow stylists. Which they all made sure to mention to me.
At the end of the day, the power of Oprah is impressive. The model whose hair I cut changed into a yellow cardigan sweater when returning on stage. That yellow sweater sold out across the country in one hour and retailed at $200.00. Yellow -- who knew!? After filming our show, Oprah went on to film two more that day. She went from one studio to the next, filming back to back segments and was 100% fully aware of everyone's names, stories and led the show. Simply impressive.