Hair Evolution of Tyra Banks

Just call celebrity hairstylist Oscar James a magician because when he touches hair magic happens. Between doing Tyra Banks’ hair 3 times a week for “The Tyra Banks Show” and working with her on “America’s Next Top Model” James is the mane man of the moment and dishes how to get Tyra's star studded style. By Qianna Smith
ESSENCE.COM Mar, 11, 2009

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From the catwalk to prime-time and daytime TV, Tyra Banks has worn many hairstyles throughout her career. With a new season underway and new natural do being debuted on “The Tyra Banks Show,” we flash back through her many looks with her star stylist Oscar James.

Interviewed by Qianna Smith

2 of 13 Oscar James

Just call celebrity hairstylist Oscar James a magician, because when he touches hair, magic happens. The New York-based stylist has worked with stars like Iman, Vanessa Williams, Beyoncé, Halle Berry and Tyra Banks.

His work can be seen on magazine covers and the editorial pages of ESSENCE, Vogue, Glamour, InStyle and Cosmopolitan. Between doing Tyra Banks’s hair three times a week for “The Tyra Banks Show” and working with her on “America’s Next Top Model,” James has become the media mogul’s mane man.

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1997
“This dress was so sexy and simple that I wanted Tyra’s hair to be short and modern. I tucked most of her natural hair away and made custom hair pieces that we clipped in and cut into a layered bob. I left out only enough of her natural hair to cover the pieces. I used a flat iron to get the roundness that I wanted to achieve. The only products that we used that night was a pomade on her hairline to help it lay and shine and a little holding spray.

Avoid the choppy-weave look by putting lots of thin wefts in rather than a few thick ones; that way when you cut, it will look more like real hair. Use a razor on the ends of the hair to soften it and make it appear more natural.”

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1998
“I was with Tyra at the fitting for this dress in Los Angeles. When I saw the great beading and the simple silhouette of the dress, I instantly knew that her hair had to be up to show off her beautiful shoulders and neck. I blow-dried her hair up and away from her face using a paddle brush. I then curled it loosely with a quarter-size curling iron and sprayed each curl with holding spray and set it with Velcro rollers for about 30 minutes. Next I took the rollers out and teased the crown to add fullness that would last throughout the night,” says James.

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1999
“For the Espy Awards the dress was strapless and floral and very sweet! I wanted to keep the hair fresh and young. I custom-made six hair pieces then pinned them to a Styrofoam head, applied tons of mouse to the dry hair and corn-rolled two rows together across horizontally making three braids. Next I dried them under a hood dryer for 45-60 minutes and let it sit overnight. You’ll want to shake out and fluff the hair until you get the desired fullness. Be careful not to over work the pieces or they’ll become frizzy. Lastly, I clipped them in between her natural hair and blended. I sprayed the hair with a volumizing holding spray and added flowers to finish the look. My tip for making hair pieces is to sew two wefts together to get maximum fullness. I used a lighter weft underneath her natural color to add highlights.”

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2007
“At Fashion Rocks, I knew Tyra was going to be rocking several avant garde looks so her hair had to work with several outfits. I always love when her hair is up and away from her face. I pulled her hair up real tight into a high ponytail and used lots of pomade to control the edges and make them lay super flat. I then wrapped weft extensions around the ponytail so that I’d have plenty of hair to pin into clusters of knots to create the shape that I wanted. If you’re doing this at home, you’ll want to flat-iron your natural hair first to get it super sleek and shiny before you snatch it up into the high ponytail,” explains James.

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2008
“Tyra chose an off-white jumpsuit for this party. It was kind of simple so I felt like we could make a real statement with her hair. I gave her a graduated bob cut with heavy bangs to make the whole look a little modern and young. I applied a styling gel to her hair while it was wet and used a large round brush to blow-dry it and give it shape. I always pay special attention when blow-drying the bangs being sure to pull the hair up and away from the head to create roundness. Avoid using too much heat when flat-ironing your own bangs because it can go flat and look too thin. The heavy bang is what makes this style rock!”

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2000
“Tyra chose a dramatic dress and wanted her hair to look effortless so I simply wet her hair and added a mouse to give the curls texture and hold. I dried it with a diffuser and used a nickel-size curling iron to curl the surface and any pieces that were frizzy. The entire styling process took 45 minutes. To create this at home you’ll have to have naturally curly hair or use curly extensions. Be sure and scrunch your hair from the ends up squeezing out the water as you scrunch. Then apply mousse to soaking-wet hair. Avoid a “too frizzy” look by curling bits that need it.”

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2008
“When I’m styling Tyra, I’m usually inspired by what she will wear. I saw this beautiful bright red dress and I knew that her hair should have soft, touchable waves. I took one-inch sections of hair, sprayed it with a holding spray and wrapped it around a quarter-sized curling iron barrel and held the hair for a few minutes. Avoid using too small sections of hair when doing this at home; you want to create waves, not curls,” says James, who has been working with Tyra for the last 15 years.

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2008
“[For this look] I blow-dried her hair straight using a paddle brush and then took three-inch horizontal sections and flat ironed them using a light weight holding spray to seal the hair cuticle and add texture. I brushed the hair through to break up the hairspray and added a little serum to control any flyaways. I suggest investing in a hard rubber comb attachment to make blow-drying effortless at home,” says James, who describes Tyra’s hair as seamless, timeless and fun!

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2008
“I wanted to try something different for this gala because Tyra’s dress was so daring. We went for darker hair. Rather than over styling her, I tend to like to change up textures and color to make a statement. We used a temporary color in medium brown to add depth and dimension. I like Beautiful Browns by Clairol. When using a temporary color at home, always apply a protective base around your hairline nape and ears to avoid color stains on your skin,” dishes James, who was first introduced to Tyra through celebrity makeup artist Sam Fine 15 years ago and it was “hair at first sight.”

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2009
“This season on ‘The Tyra Show’ we’re taking it to the next level and getting more real than ever before by encouraging women everywhere to own and rock what they’ve got and be proud,” says Banks, who is pictured in New York’s Union Square stripping down to a flesh colored body suit and donning a scarf to conceal her new do.

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“For the season five premiere, no fake hair, I’m rocking my REAL hair. This will all be going down on September 8, 2009, which we’re declaring National Real Hair Day! We welcome everyone to go natural with me,” says Banks. Check the star’s natural tresses on the premiere episode of the new season airing September 8, 2009, on The CW at 4:00 P.M.

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