It’s not easy being a hairstylist to the stars at a high-octane televised event like the BAFTA Television Craft Awards. The outfit changes are fast, perfection is essential, and every look must fit the creative brief. Luckily, Paul Edmonds has plenty of experience in hair artistry for photoshoots, the silver screen, and the red carpet.
As a BAFTA voting member and official BAFTA hairstylist, Paul was on hand to style awards show host Gbemisola Ikumelo. The BAFTA award-winning actor, writer, and director needed five looks for the ceremony, which is a live-streamed event dedicated to celebrating the very best behind-the-scenes talent on television.
Now that the whirlwind of the BAFTA 2021 awards season has passed, Paul sat down to divulge what it was like to work with Gbemisola on each of her iconic afro hairstyles.
Finding the look
The first step in creating a show-stopping look is a consultation. Paul meets with each of his clients to better understand their hair type and condition before he styles it. Clients discuss the looks they want to create and the outfits they plan to wear so Paul can offer his artistic guidance.
“Gbemi is good to work with because she has a definite idea of what she likes and what she doesn’t like,” says Paul. “She’s got curl type 4C (a very strong afro curl), so we needed to work out what we could do. Her outfits were already put together, so the consultation was a process of working around those and having a bit of playtime to decide what would look best.”
Gbemisola didn’t just bring her outfits along to the consultation. She also brought a selection of hairpieces and wigs so she and Paul could try several looks. “Gbemi likes wearing lots of wigs and changing her look a lot, and that made it quite easy,” Paul says.
Using wigs and hairpieces made it easy to quickly change between looks for filming throughout the fast-paced awards ceremony. “If you work in production, you very often have to do things quickly,” says Paul. Under the current COVID restrictions, styling took longer, and contact was restricted, making hairpiece artistry even more essential to the smooth running of the event.
Creating the perfect base
After selecting five different finished styles, Paul needed to create the perfect base for Gbemisola’s natural hair. This made transitioning between couture styles faster and more efficient without sacrificing any of the edgy glamour.
“I plaited her natural hair away,” says Paul. “We knew we wanted it to be up and tight at the sides, so we worked ahead and slicked everything back to avoid damaging her delicate hair during styling.”
Look one: Nigerian princess
Gbemisola wanted to arrive in style with a look that channelled the opulence of Nigerian royalty. To complement the inherent sophistication of the concept, Paul and Gbemisola opted for an afro wig of curls and delicate highlights.
“It’s synthetic but looks like real hair — it’s quite refined and has beautiful highlights. Sometimes new wigs can look shiny and too ‘unreal’, especially under artificial light, but this one was perfect.”
Paul cut the wig to suit the shape of Gbemi’s face, giving the hair a polished, red-carpet ready finish to complement her stunning dress. Shaped afro hairstyles are rising in popularity as more women swap their relaxers for a more natural look. “I’ve noticed curly hair is making a comeback,” Paul says. “Lots of women are growing out their relaxers and going for a shaped style.”
Look two: Red hot sophistication
For her opening monologue, Gbemisola wanted something smart and sophisticated, with a shot of unique personality. “This is an everyday wig — a kind of well-worn afro wig,” says Paul, “it’s not real hair, but it looks very convincing.”
Gbemisola brought three potential wigs to wear with this dazzling white ensemble: black, bright red, and dark red. Working together with Paul, she sampled each option with the outfit to find the perfect amount of ‘edge’.
“The black looked a bit too harsh, and the bright red didn’t look quite right with the white of the outfit. It just clashed too much! She’s very pretty, and we wanted something equally as feminine but also quite edgy, so we settled on the dark red wig.” As with the ‘Nigerian Princess’ look, Paul cut the wig into a shape that was customised to Gbemisola’s face. This extra detail is incredibly important when styling wigs and can help make artificial hair look more real.
Look three: Floral faux hawk
Gbemisola had a clear idea of what she wanted — edgy, fun, and creative hair balanced with a delicate floral print outfit and sophisticated neutral makeup.
“You can’t see from the pictures but there are five different bun-shaped hair pieces,” Paul says. “The finished look is separated into buns which went down her head and were then overlaid at the end to match her hair. I took it slightly to one side in a kind of coquettish way. Almost like wearing a beret.”
Look four: Casual and cool
This laid back, relaxed look was easy to style but very effective. Gbemisola chose one of her longtime favourite wigs to help emphasize the authentic laid-back vibe of the shoot.
“Gbemi is very good at knowing her look, so it makes things much easier. She has a very casual, everyday wig in a traditional afro style, so we styled it and finished with a classic black beret.”
The trick with this look was to ensure such a casual wig could pass as natural hair and that it could be styled informally to complement the overall tone of the outfit. Paul’s solution was simple: “sometimes if you ‘rough’ these wigs up a bit, they look better!”
Look five: Vintage vixen
Gbemisola’s final look for the closing speech was a classic vintage silhouette brought to life in a stunning bright blue houndstooth print to give it a modern, edgy vibe. The hair was no less extravagant.
“Gbemi wanted the hair to look like her own, so we pinned it up and used separate hairpieces to create the look. We had a kind of pompadour at the front, then the rest was down so we could get lots of fullness in the back.”
Like the first look, this second outfit had a hat, so Paul adjusted the hair’s design to accommodate this extra element.
How to ace afro hairstyles on the red carpet and beyond
The perfect red carpet look is nothing without a healthy natural base to work on. Even if you’re partial to a wig or hairpieces, caring for your curls is a must.
“Afro hair takes a lot of looking after, and everyone will tell you something different when it comes to general care and maintenance. You have to work on the individual and their unique hair type,” says Paul.
Products like the new Kérastase Curl Manifesto range are ideal for helping to nourish and tame even the kinkiest hair types. “It looks at the hair’s very particular needs and provides weight so that you can actually control it,” says Paul.
Got your own red carpet moment coming up? Book an appointment with the team at Paul Edmonds London salons for occasion updos, afro hair services, nourishing treatments, cuts, and much more besides. We look forward to welcoming you!