Arlene Martin could never have guessed when she was growing up in Youngstown, Ohio, that she would one day become one of the most sought-after hair stylists in the fashion and beauty world and work behind the scenes on one of the most anticipated shows on the Starz network, P-Valley.

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“I believe that the artistry of hair actually chose me. When I really think about it, I feel like it was a calling at a very early age,” Martin shares with ESSENCE exclusively. “I have always been a creative person, so it wasn’t a surprise that my destiny would be intertwined with the artistry of hair.”

The founder of Arlene Martin Hair & Arlene Martin Global is a force in the entertainment industry, as seen by her recent triumphs as a Department Head of Hair for “The Bold Type Season 5” and the critically acclaimed TV series “P-Valley” season 2.

Martin is familiar with the characters that work in the Mississippi Delta strip club. She was a key hairstylist for Season 1 of the show, in which she designed and styled hair for Uncle Clifford (Nicco Annan) and Patrice Woodbine (Harriet D. Foy).

Martin tells us that the brilliant Creator and Showrunner, Katori Hall, presented her with the opportunity to be the Department Head of Hair for P-Valley Season 2. “I’m forever grateful that she saw my outside the limits of conventional creativity and my artistic talent in hair design,” she tells us. 

While the work may sound fun and glamorous, it involves creating custom-colored styles with unique cuts almost daily. “It truly takes a team, and I can honestly say that I have the best team that gives 150% every day to ensure that all the wigs are created to perfection,” she tells us. With the support of her team, including Jason Yancey (barber), Latoya Kelley (hairstylist), Levura Geuka, Kasi York, and Demetress Valentine, they have created more than 400 wigs for the characters of the show. “Hats off to a fantastic core hair team!” she says with great enthusiasm.

When we asked Martin what inspired the hair stories that surround each character, she summed it up with one word: “culture.”

“Apart from the storytelling, the show is the visual aesthetic. The texture of our hair and the color and style communicate so much about the character and where they are in life,” Martin explains. “This season reflects life during the pandemic, and there are times when you see the characters with ”pandemic hair,” untamed cornrows, and afros contrast with glamorous locs, long tresses, and elaborate wigs. In addition, there is a theme of fairytales and how to add a new twist to the classics like Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood, and The Big Bad Wolf, to name a few.”

Uncle Cliff is one of the characters who is known for their complex hairstyles, and we were curious as to how she and her team came up with the ideas for her wigs. “When creating a style, I try to see each person/character for who they truly are,” she explains. “Katori Hall gives me the vision and direction, and I would turn her vision into a creative master design.” 

Martin teases that we may expect the unexpected from Uncle Clifford’s hair this season, which includes a wig inspired by Martin’s African ancestors, on whose shoulders she dares to stand. “We will dive into more of the roots of who she is as a person, which allows access to the era of the classic black hair shows and leans into our heritage and African ancestry.”

Overall, Martin wants people to see the waves, the textures, and the levels of intricacy that is Black hair. “The show was a passion project for me, and it was an honor to be chosen to lead in such a great production, so I hope that our viewers can see the hard work that went into every wig we touched and the reflection of who they really are.”

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