Pink's Hairstylist on Creating Her 'Warrior Princess' Look for the Billboard Music Awards: Exclusive
Pink quite literally lit up the stage at the 2016 Billboard Music Awards on Sunday with the performance of her single “Just Like Fire.” From dangling above the crowd on a gilded harness to posing in front of a giant clock face as it burst into flames, the leather-and-tulle-clad singer made a bold impression.
Also memorable was her undercut hair, which was styled by her longtime hairstylist Pamela Neal, whose other clients have included David Bowie, St. Vincent and Bjork. Billboard chatted with Neal about creating the star’s look for the night.
What was the inspiration for this look?
Pink wanted to feel sort of “warrior princess,” to use her words. And she was on the silks, so everything had to play second fiddle to that; nothing could get caught on the ropes. The makeup was really strong, with this sort of editorial-looking winged black eyeliner almost like an animated character. With all that going on, I felt like the hair needed to be a little bit quiet.
In keeping with the warrior theme, I made three simple buns and allowed the little ends to spring out and wing backwards, echoing the wings of the eyeliner. It also kept them out of the way of the costume so nothing got snagged. Then I exaggerated the ends to make them a little harder. The color is pink right now, which immediately lends itself to the softer side, so I felt like we could get away with really spiking out the pieces.
From the front, it seemed lovely and quiet. But then from the side there was a three-dimensionality, because of the spriggy little buns. From the back it became almost mohawk-like. We all agreed it was the right thing for that outfit.
Did you have specific references that you were thinking about ahead of time?
Pink’s hair is in this little bob almost to the bottom of her ears right now, which you haven’t witnessed because she rarely wears it down. During fittings, she had her hair up in a little bun and it just leant a whimsical, not-overdone aspect to the look. So our inspiration was just from how she’s been wearing it lately, purely to get it out of her face. Then we stylized it to work with this outfit.
How long did the process take?
It’s a well-oiled machine when we get her ready. I’ll rough it in, then we’ll see the makeup go on, then I’ll stand back and have a coffee and think, “Hm, what do I want to add?” and I’ll go back and in and tweak. It took about an hour.
What adjustments did you make on this style after stepping back?
I got the two little buns in place, and I had allowed the little springy pieces to be soft and natural. As the makeup got fiercer, I decided to make them spiky. So I took a straightening iron and some wax and pulled them out and directed them backwards.
The other thing I always do is imagine what could go wrong. I usually go back in and reinforce, which doesn’t make anybody happy, especially Pink. She’ll say, “I thought you were finished!” But anything could happen. So I went back in with a needle and thread and I sewed them up really nice and tight. I have more faith in sewing than I do in elastics.
What products did you use?
I softened with Davines Oil Non Oil and Oi Milk, which add nourishment and luster and shine. Pink’s hair is very thick and curly and bleached, so it loves oil. Then I stiffened with hairspray and wax. Hairspray stinks; it’s annoying in general. But I’ve found one spray that’s less likely to kill you than all the others, called Onesta. They go by the green environmental rules a little bit better. And though I can’t say I ever bring it out for anybody else, I still use that Paul Mitchell wax that’s been around for about 25 years on Pink because it just works for her hair.
How has your hairstyling relationship with Pink evolved after working together for years?
She trusts me, which is wonderful. I feel confident, when I have an idea, of proposing it. And she’ll always say, “Ok, let’s try it!” There’s no limit. As long as it looks great, she’s happy to do it. She’s my favorite client, obviously, for that reason. There’s a freedom and spontaneity to it.