Executing a Hollywood hair moment isn’t easy, but hairstylist Linda Flowers has mastered the art both on and off-camera several times over. Flowers, who is the lead hairstylist for The Hunger Games, has been in charge of the perfectly coiffed styles in some of Hollywood’s biggest films, including The Social Network and Iron Man 2. With 34 years in the hair industry under her belt, the LA-based stylist has also launched her brainchild, the TopStyler, and will soon add a version for professionals this summer.
Here, she shares her experience working on the set of The Hunger Games, some tricks of the trade, and what’s next for her.
ELLE: How did you get your start styling hair for films?
LF: I’m one of the really lucky people! I knew someone who was working in television and I went to visit him on set, for a TV movie 17 years ago, and it was a Western in the middle of nowhere. I was there for two weeks on vacation and they asked for helped. That’s how I got my start.
ELLE: As the lead hairstylist for The Hunger Games you oversaw everything from the design and styling of wigs, to true hair transformations (Jennifer Lawrence going from blonde to brunette). What was the biggest challenge on set?
LF: To get that hair color I rented about $30,000 worth of hair for half a day—it actually came out to about $1,000 to rent it. We bought all these different colored wigs to see how dark we wanted to go for Jennifer. The biggest challenge on set was the humidity and the long hours we were working. The long hours take a toll on everybody, but I’d say the biggest obstacle was the humidity.
ELLE: Any tips for fighting that humidity in real life?
LF: It’s just something you have to constantly keep up with. I mostly use Joico products and I used the Topstyler a lot to give Jennifer’s hair texture. It was very natural; I made it look like she had naturally wavy hair, and it was more structured looking.
ELLE: The Hunger Games is set in the future, did that affect your styling?
LF: I had to come up with a design that was going to be appropriate, without a [reference] to look to. If you do a 1930′s style, you know what it looks like. When you’re doing bright colors for hair it can look kind of Mardi Gras-ish. This was a very sophisticated group of people [in the Capitol setting] so it had to be classic. Doing something that was couture and high-fashion was a challenge, because we didn’t want it looking like a Halloween party. With Effie I did a beautiful finger wave bob, and of course her wigs were different colors. I mixed classic styles with contemporary colors and textures, and it was really quite beautiful.
ELLE: What character allowed the hair team to push the envelope the most?
LF: Definitely Effie and everyone in the Capitol.
ELLE: Did you feel pressure being tasked to bring the ‘Katniss Everdeen braid’ to life?
LF: No, not really. The first thing I did to Jennifer they loved, the first thing I did to Effie they loved. I got really lucky. We couldn’t have any hair at Jennifer’s nape that would catch on her [costume], so it was really functional to her character. I started braiding on the left and went over the nape, with the pony coming down over the right shoulder. When she would reach for her bow, there was no hair to get caught on it. It was really functional.
ELLE: What day-to-day braided style is your favorite, for those looking to experiment with the look off-camera?
LF: I put braids in a lot of the scenes that Jennifer did. [When she was on the chariot and in the red dress scene]. I would say, don’t be limited to just putting braids down the side of your head. You can braid with extensions, and use it as a headband or to put your hair up. There’s just so much you can do with it. Also, think about where you normally start a braid, and maybe think about starting it someplace else.
ELLE: What’s a must-have product or technique for ponytails, when taming flyaways?
LF: I’m a fan of hair spray. Sometimes I put a little hair spray on my brush to tame my flyways. A lot of people think stiff when they think of hairspray, but I usually don’t finish with hairspray. I style with it and brush to get lots of body and control flyaways.
ELLE: What’s next for you?
LF: We are coming out with a TopStyler Pro in the middle of this year, for hairdressers. You can do texture services. I’m definitely doing [the second] Hunger Games installment in August, when we start filming. Right now, I’m taking some time off to promote my product.
ELLE: How did you get the idea to create the TopStyler?
LF: I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if I had this shell that went right over my finger sets,’ and that’s how that thought process happened. I kept trying to develop the idea over the years. Finally I took the plunge and hired an engineer to do the prototype for me. Working on film, it raises the bar quite a bit. When you work those long hours you need the hair to hold. Sometimes curling irons don’t hold without burning the hair; sets tend to last longer on those 14 hour sets.