“Shear Genius” mini-cap: the stylists do their best Marge Simpsons and Betty Boops


Last year Shear Genius was a bit of a surprise success for Bravo, and it rattled queer viewers, too, because it was, perhaps, the gayest television show in the history of the whole wide world. There were gay male hairstylists (standard); lesbian hairstylists (who knew?); a lesbian judge (who may or may not be Shane McCutheon’s doppelganger); and a gay male host whose thick Danish accent prevented me from understanding a word he said to anyone ever. (I may have to obtain a Babel Fish to understand him properly this season.)

But first, a confession: I have never paid $500 for a haircut. In fact, I do not even pay for haircuts. My, er, stylist, Jemma from Great Clips, cuts my hair for free because I taught her son to read. Meaning that I loaded him up with about 50 issues of Marvel’s Ultimate Spider-Man, and now he can turn off the television for a full 40 minutes at a time. My hairstyles vary from shoulder-length brown, to three inches below shoulder-length brown, and my perpetual styling request is that the shortest layer be long enough to go effortlessly into a ponytail. Which is all to say that I am not qualified to recap this show — but here we are.

Let me tell you how this beast operates; then I’ll introduce you to our contestants, judges and Charlie’s Angel.

Each episode will feature not one, but two challenges: the Short Cut Challenge and the Elimination Challenge. The first tests technical hairstyling ability; the second tests creativity and advanced skills. I have no idea what the difference is between those two things, but last season contestants would often win the Short Cut Challenge only to lose the Elimination Challenge and be sent home. It’s like my great-grandmother used to say: cocky scissors do not a Shear Genius make.

Our host is Charlie’s Angel, K-Mart sunglasses designer Jaclyn Smith, and she has lovely hair indeed. The contestants’ mentor is Rene Fris, with the accent. The judges are Kim Vo, who takes responsibility for Britney Spears’s hair in the first 2 minutes of the show, and Kelly Atterton, the west coast editor of Allure magazine.

The contestants are: [deep breath] lesbian hairstylist Dee Adams from Miami; Charlie from Denver whose Bravo.com sixty-second interview made me think he is going to be the purveyor of much drama; Daniel from Dallas who once styled hair on a cruise ship; Gail from trendy Columbus, Ohio who traded dreams of being a doctor for the hope of being a stylist; Glenn from Decatur, Alabama whose accent I am quite comfortable with, being a Georgia girl myself; Matthew from Dallas who said “wife” about sixteen times in his Bravo.com sixty-second bio (HE’S NOT GAY. HE HAS A WIFE); Meredith from Chicago who looks like a really made-up Angela Kinsey; Nekissa from Concord, CA who has owned her own salon for two years; Nicole from NYC whose bio says that she teaches classes at the nation’s biggest hair shows (I assume they mean the shows are big, not the hair — but a big hair show could be fun, too, I suppose — especially in a place like Nashville at a cotillion or the Miss Tennessee pageant.); Oshun from Los Angeles who styles hair for the NBC soap Passions; Parker from West Palm Beach who started out as a sculptor; and Paolo whose studio is called — I’m not making this up —Ego Mechanix. [/deep breath]

Welcome to season two of Shear Genius!

The contestants storm the Shear Genius salon, and Daniel says that he is way impressed with it, even though he has designed two salons himself. His face doesn’t so much say “impressed” as much as it says “I am about to pee my pants.” Jaclyn Smith greets them and comments that they are a beautiful group. Then she introduces them to Kim Vo, saying, “You need to work really hard to impress him… because he is a judge.”

We get an interview with Oshun who tells us he’s going to win the competition because he’s got the potion for the motion. He actually says those words: potion for the motion. “When I touch your hair and I do the flair, ’cause I’m Oshun and I’m deep.”

Parker says, “Everything my scissors touch is like supa-fly TNT!”

I have no idea what these people are saying. I’ve seen Beauty Shop; Queen Latifah did not talk like this.

Charlie says he will win because he “doesn’t give a f–k what they think of him.” OK, see, that I understood.

Paolo reveals that he used to have such a crush on Jaclyn when she was a Charlie’s Angel, even though he was a little gay dude. You think that’s weird, Paolo? My first crushes were Richard Simmons and Captain Kangaroo.

Jaclyn wastes no time bringing on the first Shortcut Challenge. 12 hair models walk into the salon wearing safety goggles. What does it mean? Will the contestants be using power tools to style hair? No! They will have five minutes of consultation time, and then they will have 45 minutes to cut their clients’ hair — blindfolded! They will be judged on technical skills, overall style and creativity. And, I’m assuming, their abilties to not harpoon their clients.

“Oh, f–k me,” says Paolo.

After commercials, the stylists snip away at their clients’ hair, and grope around for styling supplies. Most of the women in the safety goggles look pretty calm, and I’m not really sure why. I mean, your ears are cuttable too, right? And if someone jabs scissors into your scalp, your brain could leak out, couldn’t it? This whole thing seems perilous and the background music keeps chiming all sinisterly like the soundtrack to a game of Clue. “Mr. Green in the billiard room with the candlestick!” DONG! “Mrs. Scarlet in the conservatory with the rope!” DONG! Instead it’s like, “Is this your nose or your chin?” DONG! “Is my hand on the styling gel or the hairspray?” DONG! It’s making me very nervous.

Are some of the contestants worried? Of course. But not Oshun. He says he’s not afraid because he’s going to, “let his hands run through her hair because he’s deep like the ocean.” Have you got that yet? Oshun is deep.

Time is up, and now we are to hear Judge Kim’s thoughts on the blindfolded hairstyles.

He asks Parker what he was thinking. He was thinking he’s glad that’s over. His client is happy with her hair. It looks exactly the same as it did before he started.

Kim takes a look at Dee’s client’s hair and seems pretty impressed. It’s super cute; it looks good with her face.

“You weren’t scared to use a razor blade?” Kim asks Dee. “Nope,” Dee says, smiling. She’s a lesbian, Kim Vo — if this contest is about agility and dexterity of fingers in the dark, call it off and give Dee the money now.

Kim thinks Paolo’s work is just okay.

Paolo: “Dude, blindfolded. She’s lucky she still has her ears and eyeballs in tact.”

Next up is Oshun. We get to see how much motion potion he used with his eyes closed. “Where’s your line?” Kim asks. Oshun says duh, it’s right on top. Kim’s like, “I have never seen such a butcher job.” And that is because Kim is not privy to my second grade school pictures.

Kim is going to rank the styles from best to worst, and that is the order the contestants will be in when they pick their models for the next challenge. The top two are Nicole and Dee. Kim can’t believe these two were blindfolded; their cuts were that good! And the winner is… Dee, who smiles like Christmas. Dee is seriously cute, y’all.

Kim goes about announcing the order of win: Dee, Nicole, Meredith, Glenn, Daniel (who says he feels he got gyped a little), Gail, Charlie, Matthew, Paolo, and Parker. That leaves us with Nekissa and Oshun. “Hold up,” Oshun says. “I know I won’t be last.” Alas, he is. No, worries, though: he’s got some more of that convulted logic. “After today I’m going to step up my game. The best finish last, in the end I’ll be first.” I think he may be referencing the Beatitudes, but I’m not sure that’s the particular irony Jesus had in mind.

The twelve stylists move into their new digs, and boy are they happy. There’s a lot of chatter about how it’s really real now that they’re in the house. It seemed really real to me when they were poking scissors around those women’s faces with their eyes closed. Paolo wants to know who’s going to be the bitch of the house. Um, Charlie, obviously. Everyone talks about the competition and Dee says wisely that she’s just going to be the best she can be every single time.

The next morning (in the reality television space-time continuum) it’s time for the Elimination Challenge. Jaclyn introduces us to Rene who says, “Hi, hi!” Oh, God, I forgot about that — how he always greets us like a Telletubby. Rene will not be judging; he will be mentoring. (Walking around saying things like, “Yikes, really?”) Each contestant will choose a client and will style her hair in the manner of the celebrity photo she is holding. And the celebrities are… cartoon characters! Awesome! There are two of each character so we can compare the interpretations of the stylists.

Dee and Parker choose Betty Boop. Glenn and Nicole pick Jem. (You guys, Jem!) Daniel and Gail pick Wilma Flintstone. Charlie and Matthew pick Marge. Paolo and Meredith go for Judy Jetson. And that leaves Oshun and Nekissa with Lucy of Peanuts.

“Go, shake it!” says Rene.

Nicole’s model wants a style she can still wear to work or whatever, which means no pink highlights, which means no Jem. Argh. There’s always one in every competiton — one model who signs up to have her hair done and once in the chair refuses anything to do with scissors, color, or styling products. Why did you come on the show, then, Nicole’s model?! There’s a lot of color mixing from the other contestants, and then Charlie tells Rene that instead of coloring his model’s actual hair, he’s going to make a blue pubicy-textured wig. No, really, he says “pubic-y.” Rene is like: dude, gross.

What amazes me is how much smack these contestants are able to talk while styling. And still no one gets poked in the eye. Two-and-a-half hours later, Rene says, “Scissors down!” in the manner of an SAT administrator, and it’s time for the Hair Show. Neeko is today’s guest judge, and he has styled Halle Berry‘s hair, and also Pink‘s.

Here are my favorites from the Elimination Challenge:

Daniel’s Wilma. He’s from Texas and seems right at home with — what he calls — this big ol’ bun, red and beautiful.

Charlie’s Marge Simpson. Charlie says he choose Marge because she is the “snarky matriarch of the suburban working class.”

Dee’s Betty Boop. Dee says it’s very 1920s with the pin curls, and it totally is. This model could walk right onto the stage of Anything Goes and start tap dancing; no one would question her.

Parker’s Betty Boop. She looks like she boop-boopy-dooped right out of the cartoon!

Jaclyn says that Nicole, Parker, Meredith, Dee, Glenn and Paolo are all safe. They are, however, not geniuses. They must leave the hair show while the judges discuss the other hairstyles.

Thus saith the judges: Charlie’s Marge is humorous, but not so much wearable. Matthew’s Marge looks like Peg Bundy. Nekissa’s Lucy is modern and wearable, which is what Nekissa was going for — grownup Lucy, not seventh grade Lucy. (Grownup Lucy charges $150 an hour for therapy.) Oshun’s Lucy gets slammed. Oshun protests, “I gave Lucy life!” I’m pretty sure Charles Schultz gave Lucy life. I’m also pretty sure Oshun is going home. Daniel’s Wilma is fantastic. Nekko says, “Can I touch it?” Daniel subtly corrects Neeko’s grammar, saying, “Yes, you may.” Neeko thinks Daniel used too much hairspray. Daniel says he is from Dallas: he keeps a can of hairspray in his back pocket. Gail’s Wilma has too much technique and not enough simplicity — which sounds like a bang-on Tyra-ism to me.

The contestants leave; the judges deliberate; Jaclyn does not crack a smile. She needs to have a chat with Cat Deeley, the most amiable reality television show host ever. Smiling is good! Everyone loves a smiler!

All 12 contestants come back in. Jaclyn teases Charlie about how great he is, but also — sorry! — he is not a genius. This episode’s Shear Genius is Daniel! Daniel wins immunity for the next challenge! Daniel is squirming around again like he has to pee! I know that look; I have a Beagle puppy.

Then, predictably, Jaclyn tells Oshun he has made his final cut. He must return to the house, pack his bags and leave — wait, wrong show. He may now say goodbye to the other contestants. “Holla,” says Oshun without even looking at them. And as he skulks out the door, he mumbles, “This is bullshit.”

In his exit interview, Oshun says that the playing field wasn’t what he expected, in that — I’m assuming — all the other player were better than him. He says his plan had been to downplay his skills for a few challenges and then bam! bring it on for real. Apparently Oshun is as good at strategy as he is at metaphor.

Next week: more color, more scissors, and — according to Daniel — more drama than a daytime soap.

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