Ursula Stephen is one woman who really knows her stuff when it comes to all things hair.
Whether it’s creating an iconic cropped pixie cut for Rihanna or playing with new hairstyles to try on Laverne Cox, Stephen is the beauty guru behind some of Hollywood’s brightest stars. She started her career early on, doing hair after school. Now she creates some of the fiercest hair looks while running her own Brooklyn-based salon.
Yahoo Beauty had a chance to speak with Stephen, and boy, did we learn a lot. We talked about the ins and outs of wigs, what could have made Halle Berry’s Oscars hair an undisputed red carpet ’do, and her best advice for new hairstylists looking to follow her career path.
Yahoo Beauty: What advice would you offer to someone who has never worn a wig before?
Stephen: You have to try and educate yourself first. If you go to a real wig shop, you can have a real conversation with the staff as opposed to a general beauty supply store. In a wig shop, they will have someone working who can actually talk more about each of the wigs. You can then try them on and buy one you like.
What’s the price range for different wigs, and is there a real difference in terms of quality?
You can find wigs from $10 to probably about $10,000. There’s something out there that fits every budget. Obviously, the more you spend, the better quality you are going to get. You can really find great wigs for about $300. Everyone is selling wigs right now, so there are definitely a lot of options out there.
Do you have any wig-maintenance tips?
I think it’s very important to not sleep with a wig on. The whole idea is that you should be able to take it on and off. You should rock the wig, but maybe not as often as you would your own hair. Also, you have to wash the wig. You want to treat it as you would your own hair to keep the longevity of the wig.
Do you have any tips for trying to get your wig to blend properly on your head?
It depends on what kind of wig you have, and if you have any hair left out. Also, remember you will get better and better the more you try, and it will eventually become second nature to you.
Keep in mind, whatever texture or style the wig is, your hair needs to match that. If it’s bone straight, your hair needs to be pulled out and bone straight wherever your natural hair is left out. If the wig has a curly texture, use a curling iron to wind your natural hair around those pieces.
It also has a lot to do with you allowing your stylist to walk you through how to do it. Or, you can have it styled and customized, then take it off, and have your stylist walk you through the steps of styling it.
What kinds of issues can happen if you don’t properly take care of your hair underneath a wig?
I think the biggest issue you come across with a wig is if you abuse it. Your hairline can break off a little because you’ve had the wig holding on to it every single day. But, again, the great thing about a wig is you can take it off and on, so you should really be conditioning your hair in between. It’s one of those things where if done properly, it can be very beneficial to someone who is struggling with breakage or trying to transition from relaxed to natural. It’s a good way to give your own hair a break. That’s why a lot of celebrities are wearing wigs now, because they can maintain their look without damaging their own hair.
What are some of your favorite celebrity hairstyling moments that you’ve recently experienced?
I always have a great time with Laverne Cox. She plays a lot of different roles, so it is always fun to sort through different looks with her. She has no problem with people knowing she’s wearing wigs. Now, she’s actually been wearing her own hair. It’s dark and it’s beautiful, but she does like to see herself with lighter hair. That’s her thing. She really loves to have fun with different looks. She’s also a great example of someone who has worn a lot of wigs and allowed their natural hair to breathe and grow out healthy.
Why do you think wigs are so much more popular now than they have ever been before?
I think because the type of wigs that we are dealing with now are a lot better than what we have had before. The wigs are so different and so much more believable. But now, we have people wearing wigs that look so good that you can’t even tell they are wearing one. People can now wear wigs with more confidence.
We are dying to know, how often does Rihanna wear wigs?
Honestly, I don’t know. She’s actually not an adamant wig wearer. She will wear her own hair or a clip-on extension. She’s not what I would call “a wig girl.” She’s not one of those girls. She might wear it for a video or things like that, but for everyday, she would rather have a full weave that she’ll blend with her own hair.
What were your thoughts on Halle Berry’s hair at the Oscars?
It was definitely a wig, and it wasn’t that attractive to the eyes. I don’t know what happened there. I would have chosen something that looked a little more natural. Whether it was a wig or not, it has to look natural. It needs to be believable. Especially if you do a red carpet, the hair needs to flow fluidly with the outfit. It shouldn’t stick out like that. You hair should be an accessory to your outfit that flows. The curls were amazing, the color was pretty good, but it just didn’t look natural on Halle. That’s why it’s really important to try on wigs first, because the same thing you see on one person may not look good on another. It has to be believable to the eye.
Do you have any advice for someone who may not be able to afford to go to a salon?
Let’s be honest, you are probably only going to your stylist maybe once every two weeks. You definitely spend a lot more time with your hair, and you have to learn how to maintain it.
There are really great products you can get that are inexpensive. There’s Dove, Suave, and Tresemmé. They have quality products like you would get at a salon but at a better price, and you can find them anywhere. There’s something for everyone. You just have to do the work and figure out what works for your hair, as well as having those conversations with your hairstylist. They can help you figure out how those products will work on your hair.
You have had so much success throughout your career. What advice would you give to anyone following in your footsteps?
I would say be willing, be able, and be ready. A lot of times there are stylists that really don’t want to do the work. You have to respect the process. You can’t skip stuff. You have to do the dirty work sometimes and just let things happen as they should.
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- Halle Berry’s “Wild and Free” Oscars Curls Divide Twitter