Best described as a Project Runway for hairstylists and colorists, Shear Genius tests competitors' skills in a variety of challenges—including giving a haircut while wearing a blindfold.
Sally Hershberger did an amazing job as judge last season, and now I've taken on the role with Kelly Atterton, West Coast beauty editor at Allure. Actress and designer Jaclyn Smith hosts the series, and stylist Rene Fris serves as the mentor for the competitors.
My goal is to bring the game on and turn up the heat. Judging can be so hard because what I really want to do is run up and hug the contestants and say, "Don't worry! It's all going to be okay!" Of course, that's counterproductive (not to mention frowned upon by the producers). The idea is to give them an outlet to show their stuff, not to baby them. I have a favorite saying: "Orchids blossom best in the spring when they've had a cold winter." My job is to be a little bit cold to allow these folks to bloom and be brilliant.
On each episode, the stylists face two challenges: The short cut challenge tests their technical hairstyling skills, and the elimination challenge tests their creativity and advanced skills. Each challenge is inventive and just a little bit outrageous. There's a huge amount of stress involved, because they have to color, cut and style hair—all within a very tight time frame.
From top: Kim Vo and Shear Genius host Jaclyn Smith serve as judges on season two of the show; Vo scrutinizes a cut created by one of the competing stylists.
When I'm judging them, I look for integrity. Do the candidates really know their work? Do they live it and breathe it? Are they open to new experiences and willing to learn from the process? Do they have energy? This last one is really critical, because I firmly believe that energy attracts even more energy, and that's the kind of atmosphere you want flowing through a salon.
The show presents a great opportunity for the stylists to become true professionals and work at becoming legends. They have to leave behind the nerves that were so much a part of the beauty school experience, and they must find their centers if they are going to emerge successful. As you well know, it takes a lot of blood, sweat and tears to be a great stylist or colorist, and you have to maintain your focus every minute of every day to make it all work.
My goal for the show is for viewers to be able to take away the language of the hairstylist and use it to their benefit. If, by watching Shear Genius, a client can show up in your chair and explain what she wants in words that you both understand, it will represent a real evolution in our industry. And I'm delighted to be part of generating that kind of change. —E-mail Kim Vo at [email protected].