400 Wigs Later: ‘P-Valley’s’ Lead Hair Stylist on Creating Season 2's Best Beauty Looks
Arlene Martin shares the most challenging and inspiring moments that went down in the hair trailer this season.
P-Valley’s first season was without a doubt my favorite show to watch during the early days of the pandemic. There wasn’t much to look forward to during the summer of 2020, but hearing the show’s eerie theme song each week created a sliver of joy. The Starz series lures you inside The Pynk, a strip club set inside the fictional town of Chucalissa, Mississippi. There, we meet the club’s eccentric owner Uncle Clifford (Nicco Annan) and tenured queen bee Mercedes (Brandee Evans). We get immersed in the ongoings of The Pynk through the lens of Hailey (Elarica Johnson), a new dancer who comes to Chucalissa to flee her shady past and immediately clashes with Mercedes.
Though each episode has a delightful dose of campiness and melodrama, The Pynk always feels like a very real place. It’s so rare that the veil is lifted on strip clubs. To some degree, they’re still shrouded by fantasy and distorted by a fear of women’s hypersexuality. Aside from films like Hustlers (which is iconic) or Showgirls (which is iconically bad), strippers tend to be ornamental on screen. But in P-Valley, they’re the stars of the show even after they leave the stage. Moments on the pole feel like dream sequences and moments of reprieve. Off-stage, we see those on and around the pole grapple with abusive relationships, grief, homophobia, and toxic masculinity. The show’s second season keeps those struggles as focal points. “P-Valley subverts a lot of expectations of what a strip club culture is,” showrunner and creator Katori Hall said in a teaser for season two, which premiered on June 12 and currently airs Sundays at 10 p.m. on Starz.
Just like in the show’s first season, a key element of the P-Valley universe is the wigs. At The Pynk, wigs are almost akin to mood rings, with characters swapping them out seamlessly and sometimes unceremoniously a few times each episode. For characters like Hailey, they’re a means of masking her mysterious backstory and keeping a low profile. For characters like Uncle Clifford, The Pynk’s non-binary, no-nonsense ringleader, they allow her to express her truest self. This season required hair department head Arlene Martin and her team of five to create and customize (the tedious task of plucking and trimming the lace hairline to make it look more realistic) over 400 wigs. “My goal for this season is for everyone to see a piece of themselves in every actor and that they can see a piece of themselves in the hairstyling,” Martin tells Coveteur.
Ahead, we caught up with Martin, who took us behind the scenes of the P-Valley hair department, to share the most challenging and inspiring moments that went down in the hair trailer this season.
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