In this interview, we step into the captivating world of hair transformation with Rukey Styles, the Emmy-nominated hairstylist behind the scenes of hit TV shows like HBO's "Southside," Disney's "Sneakerella," and the exciting new series "Saturdays."
Hailing from Chicago, Rukey Styles takes hairstyling to a whole new level, constantly pushing the boundaries of creativity. In our exclusive interview, we delve into her innovative journey, where she's not just a hairstylist but a true artist, shaping and adorning Black hair with jewels, clips, and unique designs that add a touch of magic to every character she works on.
PH: Your work on Saturdays has been submitted for a Children and Family Emmy. What was your creative process like when designing and making decisions for the hair on the show?
Rukey Styles: After reading the script and taking note of events that would call for a hair change because of action and time theme, I consult with creator/producer Norman Vance, producer Skot Bright, the writers and directors for the corresponding episode to share photos of options for the different events, and see what they envision for the actors, while getting feedback on my ideas, and communicating how these things may affect budget, time and other departments.
I then talk with my team about the decided direction for the episode and see where they can contribute their ideas.
PH: Which character was your favorite to work on in Saturdays?
Rukey Styles: I can honestly say that all of the characters on Saturdays had hair moments that I am very proud of. Each one’s look was created without lack of thought. This was the premier show of young people of color. I wanted the looks to be as wide of range as possible so that our viewers could see themselves in our characters on our show. I made sure to connect something from the actor and the personality of the character, and their storyline (what the character is experiencing and doing).
PH: Describe this character and why their hair was so significant to their characterization/narrative building.
Rukey Styles: Within the diverse hairstyles, actress Danielle Jalade, who played Paris Johnson rocked her natural afro every chance she could get, the bigger the better. This was something very familiar with her so we played with her texture and changed her shape with her styles, usually accentuated with her twists on the side.
Payton Basnight's character Ari loved butterflies so I pitched boho butterfly locs and we garnered them with every type of butterfly the city had. Daria John’s character Simone was into the feels, and energy.. she had a bohemian vibe so we mixed feed-in braids with loose curly textured hair and I located artists who made hair ornaments with natural stones and crystals. We can't forget about her signature heart shaped baby hair hairs.
We were very creative with attachment of hair extensions, beading and ornaments to have quick application and removal to change between scripted days.
The subtle nuances to choose to round out Cal, actor Omarr Gooding (Paris' dad) hair vs. his son London played by actor Jermain Harris in order to show distinction of generation, were not by chance. Most of all I am proud of my team who executed these looks. I am honored that they trusted me to do the things we did. Our hair team really brought these characters to life. Shout out to Nadling Fletcher, Brittany Powell, Gina Baker and Kelvin D. Ingram Jr.
PH: Which products did you use in your production of this character’s hair designs?
- Aveda Control Paste
- Aveda Neutriplenish Multi Use Hair Oil
- Aveda Be Curly Curl Enhancer
- Aveda Brilliant medium hold hairspray
- Bio Silk Silk Therapy
- PreEminent Shining Foam
- Hask Argon Oil Repairing System
- Hask Coconut Oil Nourishing System
- Hask Orchid and White Truffle deeply Moisturizing System
- La Easia Diamond Shine
- Schwarzkopf Gots To Be Glued Blasting Freeze Spray spray and Invincible Styling Gel
PH: What design/creative challenges did you encounter while working on this character and their hair?
Rukey Styles: The challenge is that the three best friend leads of the show are children which means they cannot work long days so production compensates for that by having a photo double and skate double. Anytime one of the girls works we have to prepare 3 of the same styles for 3 people for the look created and whenever there is a change, at some point ALL of them will need to be changed into that look. And of course we want to give different looks!
MONSTER SCENE: In this meeting I thought, “Oh this is a light episode for hair.” Norman said I want some monster hair. I said, “Ok”-- as I usually do but I needed to process what exactly that could mean. I went back and forth trying to see what it could be. What we figured out were shapes… Ok! Then I figured if the costumes were glowing in the dark maybe the hair should too. I remembered I used some glow in the dark hair paint on another show that we could use. We did a test and the paint only showed up in person, not to the high def camera. I was surely happy to see that it didn’t work during our test other than “on the day”. I had to figure this out now because I sold the idea. We ended up using LED lights similar to the ones on the wardrobe and It was a success. I was so excited and proud of what it became from an assumed light hair episode to a creative opportunity of learning for us all.
PH: What was the dialogue like between you and Norman Vance Jr. regarding this character?
Rukey Styles: During- Norman wants to hear that his department heads are forward thinking with how their decisions and creativity could impact other departments. He wants to know that I am proactively reaching out to collaborate to learn limitations if any and get these things done. Filming this show during a pandemic made me notice this.
After-Covid- Masks-= Unspoken dialogue. When Norman Vance and executive producer Nicole Dow saw the actors, their eyes smiled. *TWINKLES I'd call it. I knew we were delivering what they saw for their story. This was this part of the most important dialogue. Dialogue of approval! Yasssss!