When Hollywood needs fantasy hairstyles, they weave it to Steven. But styling for showbiz hardly compares to taking an appointment for a salon visit.
“Getting work done for television is different—a lot of times Hollywood wants something done ‘yesterday,’” says hairstylist Steven Noss in an interview with Made in Hollywood. The Pittsburgh-based hair guru, known as “Weaven Steven,” creates over-the-top wigs and hairdos for clients like Lady Gaga, “America’s Next Top Model” and “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” among others.
Noss shares an abbreviated telling of his career creating coifs on TV and his path to fantasy hair design in his new book “Weaven’s World: A Journey With Fantasy Hair,” available now. By his definition, fantasy hair is “hair that is constructed into unique shapes, objects, etc. using basic and advanced styling techniques.”
On the book’s cover, a knockout model wearing only strategically placed blonde hair is prominently featured. Leaving no doubt that it’s not a dress made from a traditional fashion textile, the style is replicated on top of her head where a disco ball is perched.
“The dress on the cover of the book took me eight hours just to construct it,” Noss says, adding, “the headpiece took me three hours.” Creating artsy wigs and the dresses (also made of hair) to match is Noss’ niche discipline.
His variety of styling, technique and imagination—outrageous, whimsical, laughable and provocative—are included in more striking images inside the recently released book, a collection of fantasy hair pictorials.
How he transforms hair is impressive—in fact, “Vogue” featured one of his pieces last year—but it is his presentation that is the true spectacle. Some of his more eye-catching creations utilize motorized parts and other unique materials.
“My displays look amazing,” he says, recalling the reaction he received on his first time serving as the wig vendor for Logo’s “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” Toting a haul of wigs on spinning mannequin heads, Noss says onlookers in the studio “went crazy.”
“When I went with the set director she said she never seen anything like it. My pieces consisted of sculpted pieces, motorized pieces, flowers out of hair, pineapples out of hair and all styles,” he recalls. “The one thing about hair is that the possibilities are endless.”
Noss’ experience working on the seventh season of the series, which wrapped in June, included re-creating wigs worn by the late female impersonator-actor Divine (actor Harris Glenn Milstead’s drag alter ego) from her many appearances in director Jon Waters’ cult films. Contestants donned the hair for a challenge that paid a nod to Waters’ former muse.
To replicate Divine’s iconic, larger-than-life hairstyles to perfection, Noss had to study Waters’ schlock flicks. “I made sure I kept watching them and snapped pictures on my cell phone,” he explains, “so I tried to make them look as authentic as I possibly could because Divine was a mess with her crazy hair.”
Noss supplied more fantasy hair creations for the show’s eighth season, which premieres next year, and the second season of its spinoff “RuPaul’s Drag Race: All Stars,” also due next year.
As avant-garde as his designs look, the construction is equally unconventional. Noss often starts with a latex base, newspaper and nylon stockings to assemble his creations. “Then I’ll take hair and start gluing and building it up,” he explains. “I’ll take five scarves for the draping, sit it under the dryer for an hour—and then it’ll give it its shape. If [somebody’s] appointment is at 12, construction is done by three or four. ” He says detailing, like adding rhinestones or other accessories, “could take more hours.”
But before Noss puts his hands on any hair, he reaches first for a pencil and paper. “That’s where the creative starts—always by a sketch,” he says. “I always try to think of the new, next thing and I’ll sketch it out too.”
Noss’ career as a hairstylist began after graduating from the Pittsburgh Beauty Academy in 1985, where he pursued a specific interest in the institute’s black hair studies program.
Every state requires licensure and education for hairstylists, barbers and other cosmetic professionals, and periodic license renewal is required. The first step to obtain a license is to enroll in a state-approved cosmetology or barber school. Typical programs last nine months.
Many hairstylists perfect their craft by regularly taking courses, attending workshops and trade exhibitions. Still, fantasy hair design “is a self-taught art—there’s no schooling,” Noss insists. “You can take classes for foundations, but it’s like tattoo artists—there’s no tattoo school. You learn as you go.”
Noss’ segue into fantasy hair design began in Detroit after he attended Hair Wars—an annual touring event where hairstylists showcase their most extravagant pieces. It is one of the largest African-American hairstyling exhibitions in the United States.
And to witness Hair Wars competitions—where stylists become entertainers and present their creations with theatrical flair—there’s little to wonder why he was awestruck. “It’s not really doing hair on stage,” he says of the competitions, “It’s more like a skit.”
On his first experience as a competitor, when the tour’s leg reached Miami, he showcased his elaborately styled coifs in the theme of “The Wizard of Oz.” “At the very end I had a little person crawl out of Glenda’s gown—the place went crazy,” he recalls, laughing.
Noss quickly became a fixture on the national Hair Wars tour, flaunting his showmanship and mastery of fantasy hair design. One of his performances helped land him in front of a much larger audience—living rooms across the country. “I was twerking and doing loud music and that’s how I got appearances on ‘The Ricki Lake Show.’”
He made multiple appearances on Lake’s talk show (she affectionately refers to him as “my boo” in his book) where he created what he describes as “the world’s only ‘flying’ fantasy hair piece, the hairy-coptor.” Seamlessly blended into the hairpieces that it surrounds, the hairy-coptor—a motorized toy helicopter—is creatively styled and perched on top of the model’s head. And yes, its propellers really do spin and it does fly.
Of course, more opportunities came—often with tight deadlines and big demands—to feature his designs on several television programs. No matter the obstacles, Noss says he remained disciplined. “The best advice that I’ve been given is to make sure you’re on point, you’re on time and your work stands out as the best. You want to keep your reputation.”
Such is his reputation that Lady Gaga commissioned a custom wig. The pop star’s memorable, quirky blonde hairpiece worn in 2009 featured an oversized button-shaped updo with long pin-straight tresses that cascaded down her shoulders. Naturally, when a nationally-aired commercial for Butterfingers wanted to feature Lady Gaga-inspired hairstyles worn on dogs, Noss was put to work.
“America’s Next Top Model” tapped Noss to design fantasy hairpieces for Tyra Banks’ long-running model competition’s cycles seven and 14. Banks also had him appear twice on her former self-titled daytime talk show.
On the Style Network’s “Split Ends” reality show, he created a hairpiece adorned with American flags for singer Joanne Cash, sister of the late Johnny Cash. Noss also crafted a patriotic fantasy hair design—red, white and blue waves that resembled the American flag—for “Soul Train’s” famous Soul Train Line dance. It was the first time such a wild prop was used in the long-running musical program. Noss says he made “hair history.”
Internationally, his fantasy designs fascinated audiences too, cutting up coifs for French, Canadian and German television programs.
Typically, Noss is approached for television assignments, but sometimes he pitches producers with his own ideas. “If you can think of something over-the-top, they will consider it,” he says of working in showbiz. “TV is tough,” he admits. “It has to be exactly what they’re looking for and something different and they’ll say yes—but it has to be something really unique. I always try to think of the next new thing.”
Click here to learn more about Weaven Steven.