What it’s like to be a hairstylist on ‘America’s Next Top Model’

  • Michael Kanyon was called to work for “America’s Next Top Model” in 2009 as a lead hairstylist.
  • He had to style over 20 models each episode, until they were eliminated.
  • “You had to do your hair in tents and in harsh weather conditions, like the 125-degree desert,” he said.

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Michael Kanyon, 48, a celebrity hairstylist who worked on “America’s Next Top Model” for nine seasons. This story has been edited for length and clarity.

I started cutting my friend’s hair when I was 14. It made sense to me; it was geometry, the way a person’s hair could be cut and styled to literally change how it looked. I know it’s not about saving lives or helping pay bills, but you can make a person feel better about themselves, and that’s what got me excited. to become a hairdresser.

I didn’t know there was a career as a set hairstylist. Your high school guidance counselor doesn’t tell you about it. I decided to go to Wilfred Beauty Academy in New York when I was 19 and then started working in a salon on Long Island. One night I heard about a famous editorial hairstylist in Manhattan, John Sahag, and thought his rock star vibe was so cool. I wanted to be like him. The next day I went to his salon and told them that I would not leave until he gave me a job. After waiting hours for a response, John told me to be there the next day at 5am. This work helped launch my career as a respected hairstylist.

At 22, everything changed for me

I had entered the fashion world and was booking hair styling jobs for models photographed by famous photographers. I loved this industry; energy, people, environment and, of course, models.

During the economic crash of 2009, much of my work with the fashion industry, celebrities, and TV shows came to a halt. I was going through all the money I had saved and wasn’t sure what was going to happen next. Suddenly one day my agent called me with an opportunity to work on a show I had never heard of that was filming in Hawaii. The show was “America’s Next Top Model”. I spent nine seasons working on the series as a hairstylist, and I was even often filmed in the episodes of those years.

I usually worked a season or two a year, and each season was six weeks or more. In my spare time, I saw private clients and took on extra work in the fashion industry.

The job was much harder than working on fashion shoots

There are over a hundred people on set every day. You constantly have cameras in your face and you deal with the energy of the models (often nervous and sometimes aggressive or assertive). It’s a reality TV show and when you put a handful of people from all walks of life in one room, you’ll each be trying to stand out in their own way. Each model brought their own energy and personality to the set, and most had never been filmed like this before.

Depending on the season, I had to start by styling 20-26 models for each episode. I had about nine assistants at the start of each season, and that number went down as people got kicked off the show. Even though it was a lot of work and long hours (often 12 hours a day or more), you were well fed and had a good salary, so it wasn’t too bad.

The job had so many perks, from trips to places like Hawaii, Greece, and Miami, and stays in four-star resorts to having access to all the equipment I needed to do my job well, endless wigs at the high end. – online products.

Michael Kanyon with his crew.

Michael Kanyon with the crew.

Suzanne Therese



But there were also some unglamorous moments on set, too. You also had to do your hair in tents and in harsh weather conditions, like in the middle of a desert with 125 degree heat. I also wasn’t used to deciding what kind of hairstyles to give models. Sometimes there was a theme, like making the models look like dolls in a box. It was a fast-paced environment and involved a lot of creativity.

From time to time, a surprise was thrown at you

Although the show has received all kinds of press over the years, my experience working on “America’s Next Top Model” has always been positive. When the model was in my chair, my main focus was to style her hair but also to make the process enjoyable. It was easy to do because everyone around me, from the camera crew to the producers, all seemed to be having fun with each other and with the contestants.

Michael Kanyon with Tyra Banks.

Michael Kanyon with Tyra Banks.

Jonathan Mannion Photography



Spending nine years on the show has made me a better hairstylist. It helped me work faster and I learned to deal with many different energies and personalities. It also made me start to understand how many hair products can really damage a person’s hair. This is what led me to launch a hair care line, Kanyon Beauty, after I stopped working on “America’s Next Top Model”.

If someone wants to be a celebrity hairstylist or work on a reality show, my best advice might seem a little tricky.

First, you need to get a portfolio of celebrities you’ve worked with before so you can find an agent. To get your first celebrity clients, you really have to put in the work like I did. You need to observe other famous hairstylists, network with people in the industry, and constantly keep working on your skills.

You can’t just think about it or dream about it; you have to go there and do it constantly. It’s the truth. That’s how I ended up working on one of the most popular reality shows in the world, and I’m proud of it.

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