What It's Like To Be A Hair Model (Spoiler Alert: It Kind Of Hurts)

When a friend of mine who's a stylist at Arrojo asked me to fill in as a live mannequin, I had no idea what I was in for.
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When a friend of mine who's a stylist at Arrojo asked me to fill in as a live mannequin, I had no idea what I was in for.

I recently had the opportunity to be a hair model for the Arrojo salon’s annual trend-forecasting hairstyle presentation event thingy, aptly titled “Arrojo Underground” (because it’s, like, super-exclusive VIP and “underground,” you know?).

A friend of mine from college is a colorist and stylist this fanciest-of-pants salon in NYC. Because of our friendship in conjunction with her dearth of guinea pigs to practice coloring/processing techniques on (and my plethora of free time) I was a regular in her chair for a handful of free or cheap perms. (Oh, you thought this perfect mass of wash-and-go mermaid waves was natural? FOOLED YOU.)

The thing about having friends in free places is that if you want to stay in their grace, you do contextual favors for them sometimes. It’s like if your friends keep asking you to go out with them and you keep saying no and then eventually they just stop asking you to hang out altogether. Never stop hanging out!

So when said pal, Dylan, asked me to fill in last minute as a hair model/live mannequin, I was like, Sure, why not, I’m not doing anything that night

Little did I know that apparently this event is apparently a BIG DEAL to all the top beauty/fashion peeps on the internet/in NYC. I mean, there are velvet ropes involved so you know that you’re in exclusive territory. Had I known that this would require more than just sitting in a chair while Arrojo’s stylists petted my head and said “Good job” as they compared plaiting methods, I would’ve maybe showered that morning. I should have known something was up when Dylan texted me asking me what my clothing size was. And that I should bring heels.

Before the stylists descended

Before the stylists descended.

I got there in the early afternoon, and my team of stylists sat me down and proceeded to strategize how they were going to do this cornucopia of braids on my head. My “team’s” theme was Dystopia: Post-Apocalyptic Beauty, which is naturally right up my alley. 

Of their three models, I was their “subterranean” model (the others were "extreme desert" and "extreme subterranean," which doesn’t make sense because then you'd pretty much be a blind mole person). So I wasn’t really surprised when the outfit selected for me was something you probably would’ve seen in that third Matrix movie that I didn’t finish where everyone is living near the Earth’s center. AKA Zion. AKA a big rave? I don’t know, I just remember everyone wearing what appeared to be American Apparel’s black lamé material and lots of sexy “dirt” sexily smeared on their glossy sweaty bods.

Cut to me slouched in a chair, further impairing my posture, while a team of stylists braided my hair and also pieces of fake hair onto my head for FIVE STRAIGHT HOURS. It started out all nice and easy, spritzing their Hydro Mist to prep all over my dome, which smelled amazing, by the way. That was pretty much it for the soft petting portion of this styling sesh. I’ve never seen the necessity of “prep sprays” for hair. Like, wouldn’t you just wash it? Or if you’re in a time crunch, maybe just dry shampoo it? This one claims to seal the cuticle with moisture, but more importantly to me, I now smell like girls! Smelling like girls is like the #1 thing I can do to feel more in control of my life on the most superficial plane. And sometimes that’s enough.

One of the main dudes handling my hair started by tying five vertical tails down the back of my head, pulling them so taut I’m pretty sure this is the poor man’s facelift.

“Is that too tight for you? Let me know!” he asked, yanking away as he secured my hair with what I believe is the world’s strongest rubber hair band.

“Nah, it’s cool. I have a high pain tolerance,” I replied, trying too appear cool and down and “up for anything,” which altogether would probably sound like a I’m cruising for hella D if included in a Tinder profile.

Hair took 4 hours, makeup less than an hour. The ratio of pain to gain is starkly not in my favor

Hair took four hours; makeup, less than an hour. The ratio of pain to gain is starkly not in my favor.

And then two more stylists braided those tails, and then somehow took a big waft of extension, braided that, and then wrapped it all up in my real-hair baby braids to form this cornucopia of plaits on my head like a braided faux-hawk. 

I looked around me at the other girls getting their hair colored, curled, and fro’d, as stylists fluttered around to get their models ready in time for ze big show. Things were getting sculpture-y. 

One pair of drag-queen feather lashes plopped on my eyes later and it’s nearly show time!

Kind of like the Sith side of Queen Amidala

Kind of like the Sith side of Queen Amidala.

“Here put this on,” one of the coordinators for our team said, as she threw a pair of bronze faux-ripped leggings and a fringey black lamé crop top in my arms. I’m like, OK, I can don club-wear for the 30 minutes this will probably take. Easier said than done as I’m squeezing my size 8 arse into size 4 leggings. I silently prayed to Our Lady of Oprah for confidence and grace and absence of bloating. I figure I can get by with at least two out of three.

Walking on a stage/platform in a room jam-packed with fashion and beauty industry people, bloggers and other hairstylists as the stylist who tirelessly concocted this magical gravity-defying coif presents you like a debutante under the merciless gaze of her colleagues did make me feel a bit like Liam Neeson’s daughter in Taken minus the sequins and crying. But instead of creepy human traffickers, it’s just a crowd of hairstyle enthusiasts grinning and snapping photos. 

I will admit, I was a bit concerned that my one feathered eye would appear like some shaded lazy eye, so I might’ve been straining my eyelid muscles to hold them up. See, the cool thing (IMHO) about being a hair model is that no one really talks to YOU; they just congratulate your stylist’s work, which seems appropriate to me because I didn’t do anything except demonstrate extreme patience and cooperation. My role is pretty much to be a live mannequin upon which these guys can douse their creativity.

Earth, Fire, and Wind I guess. What better inspiration than the impending global warming/freezing doom?

Earth, Fire, and Wind I guess. What better inspiration than the impending global warming/freezing doom?

Anyway, you were probably hoping I would write something showing you how to do this yourself, but I just wanted to share my experience as a pawn in this crazy game. I wasn’t telling anyone how to do their hair or makeup; they were telling ME. Rather, they were executing it on me. I mean, come on, the REAL heroes here are the folks whose lives are dedicated to making people pretty and feel pretty and ostensibly better about themselves. Give it up for hairstylists, y’all! Their zealous dedication to personal aesthetics is something I can only hope to aspire to. 

Now if only I could up my shower game to more than three times a week. Maybe if I kick gluten I’ll have more energy to put into my appearance.

SIDENOTE: Maybe you guys can help me with this Twitter thing. Because I FINALLY signed up for one and I have no idea what kinds of things to tweet that I don’t already kind of do via Facebook status update or Instagram. This feels like that the prom scene in She’s All That and Usher Raymond is all, “Everyone do what I showed you!” and everyone knows all the choreography. Except I’m like Rachel Leigh Cook’s awkward male BFF who doesn’t. Twitter is a lonely place thus far.