Megan McLachlan chats with Emmy-nominated hairstylist Jerilynn Stephens about her work on NBC’s The Voice.
NBC’s Emmy-nominated reality show The Voice is focused on the voice of musical artists hoping to be the next big thing in popular music—but don’t forget the hair, which gives them a look as unique as their pipes.
I had a chance to chat with hairstylist Jerilynn Stephens about her Emmy-nominated work for Season 16 and why she really hopes this Emmy year is her and her team’s year to take home a golden statuette.
Awards Daily: You’ve been nominated for an Emmy seven times for hair-styling for The Voice. Do you think this could be lucky No. 7?
Jerilynn Stephens: If there’s ever gonna be a year I want to win it, it’s this year. My key hairstylist Meagan Herrera-Schaaf—she is fighting Stage 4 colon cancer, which we found out directly after this season. So if there’s a year, this is the year that I want to win it for her. So hopefully seven times the charm for sure.
AD: That would be great. The episode you and your team are nominated for in 2019 is the “Live Top 13 Performances.” What are some of the challenges to hair-styling on a live show? How many people’s hair are you in charge of?
JS: I’m in charge of all of the contestants—at that point it’s 13 artists. Then on top of that, I also have background—strings (violinists), horns, drums, dancers—any background on stage, I’m also in charge of, and I hire a team for that as well. The hard part is always being able to maintain a look throughout the day. We have to have them 100% for rehearsals, and that’s usually around 11 a.m. And they have to maintain it for the live show at 5 p.m. The challenge is making sure that it looks good, that they look on fire by the time they hit the stage.
AD: That would be tough! People move around. (Laughs)
JS: Usually it’s the minors, people under 18, that you’re like, ‘Quit laying down!’ But you’re also like, ‘You’re a kid! I’m sorry.’ (Laughs)
AD: That’s funny! In your nominated episode, my favorite look is Mari’s Ashanti performance of “Foolish,” with that cool faux hawk and the jewelry on the sides. How did that look come about?
JS: I need to tell you—I was in love with that look as well. The collaboration is always my team, the artist, and of course the wardrobe, the song, and then of course producers and NBC. We’ve been on the air for so long, that my producers and NBC have kind of let go. They just know we’re going to do amazing work. Sometimes we’ll make adjustments during rehearsal. But that particular look which I love came from just looking at Pinterest and Instagram. I’m always trying to find new trends that are starting to happen. Honestly, I had to push for that look with so many accessories on the side of the head. My producer was kind of like, ‘I’m not real sure,’ and I sent her four or five pictures on Instagram and said, ‘Girl, it’s happening.’ And she said, ‘OK, all right, I trust you.’ Sometimes you have to show how it’s really happening out there because they always want our show to be a bit more fashion forward.
AD: Well, that was definitely fashion forward. You did your job. I also love the way Maelyn Jarmon’s hair is completely outlined with red during “The Scientist.” How often does the set lighting highlight your work in a surprising way?
JS: Oh my gosh, the set lighting is our nightmare! The back lighting could be tragic. It has to be smooth. I had Meagan in charge of Maelyn, and the attention to detail that Meagan had on all of her work was impeccable. For me, knowing that look she was doing and with the back lighting, she nailed it. That’s one of our hardest things is when we bring on a new hair stylist. I say, ‘Listen, you’ve got to look at the back lighting. You think it looks good in person, but it doesn’t on camera.’ Meagan is attention to detail to perfection.
AD: That’s good that you have her. There’s a great shot of Oliv Blu’s “Smooth Operator,” where it starts out tight on her face and then pulls back to reveal her hair, with three beautiful tight buns where she looks like a goddess. When coming up with these styles, does your team ever collaborate with the directors on cool reveals like that?
JS: Our director, Alan Carter, is super on that stuff. He notices things and will do shots, because we have rehearsals, and then he actually designed the shot to do that.
AD: That’s great. You get to meet new artists every season. What do you do to get to know them and cultivate relationships with them so that you bring their personality to life through their hair?
JS: Honestly, I really start to develop relationships right as we hit the live shows, and not in a bad way. There are blinds, battles, and knockouts. It’s hard for me to learn one hundred people’s names and get to know them. In Season 3, I had to emotionally detach myself because I could not go through every season crying when someone goes home. In the live shows, it’s when I really get to know people. I have them put Pinterest boards together when they’re entering the battles. I want to know what their vision of themselves is. Really the show is all about transforming this artist into a star and who they want to become, how they see themselves moving forward and how they want America to see them. This is something that’s so important. That’s why I like to put together Pinterest boards of hair inspiration, that by the time we hit live shows, it’s like, yes, girl, can’t wait to have fun. Or if someone is a little more conservative and they don’t like to alter from the beachy waves, we let them be them, but maybe let’s throw in a braid. (Laughs) Hair extensions, wigs, and accessories are a huge part of our live shows.
AD: That’s got to be a lot of fun. If you and your team win for Outstanding Hair-Styling this season, what would an Emmy win mean to you?
JS: If we’re ever going to win, this season would be the perfect season. If god or the universe said, ‘Hey, you’re going to win one time in your career—which year do you want it to be?’ I’d say this one. It would mean everything. Every nomination, I’m so grateful for, to be recognized for our hard work, because every single live show we put on is like a Grammy episode. Every single time we’re always striving for our best, and I’m just so grateful for a nomination, but to be honest, I’d love that trophy.
The Voice returns for Season 17 Monday, September 23 on NBC.
Megan McLachlan is a freelance writer that lives in Pittsburgh, PA. Her work has appeared in Buzzfeed, Cosmopolitan, The Cut, Paste, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Thrillist, and The Washington Post. Follow her on Twitter at @heydudemeg.