Now in it’s tenth season, The X Factor has become one of the most popular programmes on UK television. We love to laugh at the talentless wallies that take to the stage, drool over Cheryl’s outfits and start the countdown to Christmas as soon as the live shows begin. This year has been the best series in what seems like a long time, showcasing a huge variation of talent and fresh young things that are vying to be the next pop star. When each contestant steps out in-front of a cheering audience, it’s not only their vocals that we’re paying attention to – but their clothes, hair and makeup. It seems that the creation of a credible artist isn’t just about what comes out of their mouth, but the delivery of the whole package. I was lucky enough to be invited by the official hair sponsor, TRESemmé, to watch the live show, meet the contestants and spend time backstage with head stylist Jamie Stevens. I was surprised at how relaxed everything was, how much freedom the contestants have to wander around, the happiness in the air and the collective passion towards something that’s clearly life changing for a lot of people.
I got to chat to The X Factor’s head stylist Jamie Stevens in the ‘hair room’ backstage, asking everything from his favourite products, how each look is created and what ‘show day’ is really like. Between visits from contestants, Sinitta singing in the corridor and a party happening in Dermot’s dressing room a few doors down, this is what he had to say…
What are your ultimate products that you can’t live without backstage?
Definitely the TRESemmé Ultimate Hold hairspray; we go through a lot of it in this small room as it really does hold everything in place, is fast drying and brushes out easily if we need to re-style. I also love the TRESemmé 24 Hour Body Plumping Powder to add volume at the root and texture to the hair.
How much time do you have to prepare each look?
The first year I had to pull together mood boards for each individual look and present it to everyone, but now I’m in my forth year everyone is quite relaxed. I generally have an idea and we sit down with the contestants, pick two or three looks from which they can choose. I would never force someone to do something that they’re not happy with; it’s their crowning glory, so if they’re not happy with it it can affect their performance. Generally we always work a week and a half in front of each show, sitting down with the whole team on a Tuesday to discuss the looks for that weekend.
How do things progress towards showtime?
Things always change at the last minute because it’s live television. During rehearsals on a Saturday we do the full look to ensure they’re comfortable performing, giving us feedback on whether or not the hair feels secure or they want a little bit more height. Now the big boss is back (Simon Cowell,) he ultimately has final say on everything – even the hair. There was one week with Lola where Simon said she looked too much like Martine McCutcheon, so we brought the height down a little bit… It’s serious business!
What are your favourite types of looks to create?
We take lots of inspiration from trends. Ultimately we want to be on-trend and create looks that people want to aspire to have. At the beginning of the process we sit down as a team and try to identify key trends and styles that we think would work on the show, creating mood boards we can work from. With Lauren she’s still very young at 17, so there’s not too much high fashion stuff we can do without making her look older – we want to keep her looking young and fresh, so that’s where the plaits come in.
Do you like to create a signature look for each contestant?
Not necessarily, that’s not always the plan. With Fleur she absolutely has her look and her image so we cannot change that; Simon is very strict about her curls being left as they are and that’s her thing. I get that because as an artist they grow and they evolve, but Fleur is a ready made artist and she’s already got her statement look that’s never going to change. However, someone like Lauren will progress and change – she’ll probably go longer and blonder.
Tell me about boys hair…
Boys are boys. Unfortunately short hair is short hair so there’s only so much you can do, especially on young guys that are really into their quiffs. The guys from Stereo Kicks all had the same hair when they first came on the show, so trying to get them all to have a change was a challenge – we gave them a bit of a TRESformation and tried to make them individual but blend as a band. There’s only so much you can do with guys hair, and bar Mikey from Only The Young who has slightly longer hair, they’re all quite similar!
How long do you have to create each look on show day?
We’re here on a Saturday from 10am until 10pm, but ultimately it’s a singing show not a hair show so we only get them for a limited time when it suits their schedule. On average we get girls for about 45 minutes and boys for about 15 minutes, but it’s a live show so often they have to shoot off and do a rehearsal or sound-check mid-way through and come back later on. It’s rare that they get to sit here for the full time, but they all want to be in the hair room – it’s the place to be and where they hang out.
It was so much fun being backstage where all the magic happens. The set is so much smaller than you think from watching on telly, while the backstage area is full of people rushing around getting ready for showtime. The contestants can be found quite happily enjoying a sandwich or a can of coke in the bar ahead of the show, chatting away and clearly reveling in every minute of this extraordinary process. Every single person I met was adorable (Stevi really is the nicest guy like the say, Ben Haenow is as hot as they come, Lauren is naturally beautiful, Fleur is the sweetest and most bubbly person I’ve ever met, Stereo Kicks are loving the female attention and their quiffs in equal measures and Andrea doesn’t stop smiling,) making The X Factor a great place to be.
Are you a fan of The X Factor? Who are you rooting to win this year?
(For all my backstages shots from this weekend, check out my Instagram page!)