The third season of FX’s Pose delivers one of the best series finales of the year. Some of the characters get a fairytale conclusion while others have a brighter future. As journeys come to an end, head hair designer Barry Lee Moe (who worked on every season) was determined to give these iconic characters the looks they deserved.
At the beginning of season three, Pose enters the mid-90s–OJ Simpson’s highway chase is huge news. Moe turned to legendary women in the music industry to style characters like Mj Rodriguez and Hailie Sahar and we are immediately informed of the time period. One of the biggest episodes of the season is Angel and Papi’s wedding. When Moe saw what the costume designer had in mind for Indya Moore’s wedding dress, he knew the stakes were high. The result is one of the most stunning looks of the entire series.
It’s hard to believe that Moe hasn’t won an Emmy yet for his detailed work on this show. He has so much respect not just for the actors but the characters themselves, and he infuses his work with unmitigated devotion. His work is a passionate love letter to the trans community, and he should be rewarded for his absolute determination to look forward and make these women feel as beautiful as they are.
Awards Daily: Are there any hairstyles from the mid-1990’s that you were excited to include with this new season?
Barry Lee Moe: In honor of the R&B music legends from the 1990s, I incorporated a wide range of popular hairstyles from the time. Mj Rodriguez slayed the popular Toni Braxton pixie cut, Vachensky (who plays Nefertiti Kahn) rocked Janet Jackson inspired “Poetic Justice” box braids, and Hailie Sahar donned Mariah Carey’s signature sun-kissed curls. I also pulled inspiration from music groups like TLC, En Vogue, and SWV to create a wide range of looks for our amazing background actors. This season is full of iconic silhouettes that will take you back in time.
AD: In the flashback episode, we see Blanca and Angel with much shorter hair. Tell us how you coordinated with the makeup department to create those looks.
BLM: Blanca and Angel’s short looks this season were representative of their journey and an integral part of telling their stories authentically. When I got the script for episode three and saw the flashback to 1983, I already knew I’d revisit Blanca’s short look that debuted in season one, but I wanted to update the cut and show a more refined style. At this point in the story, Blanca had spent a decent amount of time with Elektra and was starting to update her look. There is also a moment in episode three where we visit the piers and meet a teenage Angel for the very first time. My instincts told me to take Angel’s signature curly bob with bangs, from season one, and take it even shorter to demonstrate the passage of time. This all changed when I got a phone call from Janet Mock and she told me that Indya wanted to cut their own hair to portray this vulnerable, heartfelt moment in the story. I put together a mood board with images that included a range of shorter cuts that Indya had in the past and through discussion and collaboration, we decided on the final look. The day of the haircut, Indya’s hairstylist, Tene Wilder, cut off approximately 12 inches in length. I held Indya’s hand as Tene did the initial cut and we all bonded in the moment. It was an exciting, emotional day that will stay close to my heart forever. This is an important example that demonstrates how important it is to collaborate with your actor’s. It’s the only way to create a look that is inspired and authentic.
AD: I’m obsessed with Angel’s wedding day. I think it’s the most beautiful she’s ever looked (and that’s saying something). What pressures did you have to create a fairytale moment for the entire cast and what did you want to most achieve for Angel and Papi’s special day?
BLM: This wasn’t simply a dream wedding for Angel and Papi, it was also a love letter to the entire trans community who are far too often told that love is something out of their reach because of who they are. Janet Mock, writer and director, wanted every single actor in this episode to experience the love that exists when we choose to fully embrace it, regardless of anything else. Once I saw Analucia McGorty’s rendering of Angel’s wedding dress, I knew that she needed to look more beautiful than we’ve ever seen her before. A silhouette so beautiful, that it would express the overwhelming love of this incredible moment. By adding a 30 inch fall to the back of her wig, Angel’s hair stylist, Tene Wilder, created a romantic wedding day look that will go down in history. Each and every background actor was also dressed beautifully in custom gowns and gorgeous updos that exceeded my wildest dreams. This remains one of my favorite episodes of the entire series because it honors the trans women who are the very heart and soul of Pose. It’s an episode for the girls and a celebration of the joy that they all deserve.
AD: How did you want Elektra to look like money? She has always looked perfect, but season three takes this to an entirely new level. How did you want to enhance that journey with her flashback with her mother?
BLM: When Ryan Murphy told me that he wanted Elektra to look more expensive than ever before, I thought to myself, how is that even possible? She’s always been a vision of luxury and wealth, but now it needed to be elevated. Since we’ve never seen Elektra with shorter hair, I decided to give her a cutting edge look with a sophisticated new haircut. By taking her hair much shorter with a sleek, sexy bob, I could instantly see a change in not only the overall look, but also in Dominique’s energy when she stepped on set. This cut took her to another level and really delivered the expensive look that made this episode such a success. It also helped to illustrate Elektra’s journey from 1978 into the present which was filled with challenges and triumphs. She’s fought for everything she has and deserves to bask in the glory of her success.
AD: There is a romanticism to Blanca this season with her relationship with Chris. How did you want to convey that through her hair design? Does she like to make the distinction between when she is working and when she is going out with her new man?
BLM: Throughout time, long, beautiful hair has always conveyed romance, whether in paintings, movies, or books. There’s an energy and joy that exists in the hair and that joy permeates the soul of the woman wearing it. In season three, Blanca discovers honest, genuine love for the first time when she meets Christopher and I wanted her hair to reflect that love through length and texture celebration. For Blanca’s work look, I used IGK’s Mistress Hydrating Balm on wet hair, worked the product through with a wide tooth comb, and let it air dry. I imagined what her morning routine would be before a busy day at the hospital. It was an easy, low maintenance process that still kept her curls healthy and hydrated. Outside of work, Blanca’s hair has more volume, curl definition, and style. I enhanced the texture in different ways throughout the season with a diffuser, curling iron, and sometimes a simple finger wave set for a more defined wave once combed out. All of these techniques brought an air of confidence, pride, and once again, LOVE to her hair.
AD: How many pieces were created for this season and how does that compare to the first two years? How did the intimacy between the actors and the hair team change with all the pandemic protocols in place?
BLM: By the end of season three, the hair trailer was filled to capacity with wigs, hairpieces, extensions and more. I had over 20 custom lace-front wigs for our principal cast and an entirely separate hair room at the studio filled with over 60 additional wigs for day players and background actors. New looks were introduced and debuted on a daily basis and my team of amazing stylists were always setting and styling something new. As a hair stylist and wig designer, Pose is the ultimate gift of creativity and inspiration, allowing me and my team to imagine the impossible and make it a reality, every single day.
Although the production environment changed after COVID, the new restrictions and limitations didn’t pull us apart, they actually brought us closer together. When we returned to work, our nation was hurting, and the BIPOC community, specifically the Black Transgender community, was disproportionately effected by the events that unfolded over the summer. It was imperative to have honest, open conversations as we moved forward with the intention to help, heal, and overcome the obstacles of discrimination that exist in this country. Pose has forever changed the landscape of television and it is our duty as storytellers to educate and enlighten the world while simultaneously honoring the joy that is the heart and soul of the community our show represents.
AD: I need to know everything about the long ponytail that Elektra wears briefly in the first episode. We only see it for a few seconds while she is at work, but that hair whipping around is aspirational.
BLM: When this scene was filmed, I knew it would be the last time we saw Elektra at Hellfire in the series. She had so many great dominatrix looks in Season 2, my favorite being the waist length braid with a fringe, that I wanted to create an epic final look to say goodbye. I was looking through old pictures of the Hellfire set, when it occurred to me that a leather flog would make the perfect ponytail. I purchased a few options from The Leather Man in NYC and then had to figure out how to make it all come together. In my mind, this was a moment where fashion meets function, and I wanted her to be able to pull the flog out of her wig and put it to use whenever necessary. I went to the hardware store and found a stainless steel u-ring, that was the perfect resting place for the flog, and then braided it into the base of her wig. Although it didn’t make the final cut, the flog was fully removable and Elektra handled it like a pro!
AD: I love the image of the four women strutting down the street in the final episode. How did you want to leave us as we say goodbye to these beautiful Characters?
BLM: I wanted to celebrate the journey of our four leading ladies by taking their looks to a place that honored the progression of their characters from season one until now. As we see them come together on that iconic cobblestone street in NYC, we see love and joy realized through costumes, hair, and makeup. All four looks bring out the best in each of our ladies. You can’t help but smile in this moment as you realize that pure, honest love is possible when you allow people to find their joy authentically. We’ve watched these women go through so much during the series and this episode honors their hard work and sacrifice. They’ve given everything they have to be an example to the world, both on screen and off.
I actually just watched this scene on the big screen at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena for a special FYC event hosted by FX. To see Blanca, Elektra, Angel, and Lulu join up, one final time, brought tears to my eyes and a sense of hope to my heart. I love these women so much for inviting me into their world. It was an honor to uplift their experience and pay tribute to their legacy, one hairstyle at a time.
The final season of Pose is streaming now on Hulu.