“Practice, practice, practice. Do what we as hair stylists do: create. Think out of the box. Get some old wigs and curl them.” These are just a few snippets of advice from Broadway wig master Daniel Koye.
Daniel Koye’s Broadway credits would have any hairstylist weak in the knees – Chicago, Cinderella, Spring Awakening, Jersey Boys, Rock of Ages, Big Fish, Book of Mormon, Follies, and Mary Poppins to name just a few. He brings great experience from Broadway and has extended his skills to television shows as well.
Growing up with his mother as a hairstylist, it was natural for him to start doing his own hair as a drag queen, so he attended beauty school as he would do drag at night. After graduating, he worked in a mom and pop shop then at Lancôme, where he would get his big break after being introduced to a fellow hairstylist who asked that he sub for him and learn the hair track for Lea Michelle in Spring Awakening. It was his very first Broadway show and while backstage he remembers feeling “I’m home,” and it’s all history from there!
Since then, Daniel has developed a product line, DKoye: The Product, which was created out of the lack of theater hair products on the market. The first product, The Control, was a hit with the performers for its fast drying hold and control. He even developed and created a product with Bernadette Peters, which she named Dkoye: The Smoothing Cream. The range is now complete with a collection of shampoo, conditioner and styling products. It was also chosen to be the official hair product sponsor of the seventh season of RuPaul’s Drag Race! This award-winning hairstylist and self-published author of Broadway Magic Workbook is also a very active philanthropist. He volunteers annually as the hair and wig coordinator for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS: Broadway Bares benefit. And it doesn’t stop there! He also donates a portion of the proceeds from the sales of DKoye: The Product to the BC/EFA as well.
For this profile, I was lucky enough to reach out to Daniel and get some of his best advice for hairstylists just beginning to build their wig skills, which is pretty amazing coming from the Broadway wig master himself! You can thank me later.
Daniel Koye: The Interview
What should a hairstylist expect when first working with wigs?
It’s not real! You don’t have to be as soft as you do with working with real people hair. (Just make sure you block-attach the wig to the wig block securely).
Know what the hair you’re working with is. Is it human? Is it synthetic? Is it a blend? Is it yak? This will help you know what tools to use to achieve the look you are creating. Put some tracks of hair and see them in. See what you can create. Creative roller sets (especially for synthetic or human hair wigs) can really help you learn the way the hair moves. When working with a machine-made wig, there’s about 60-75% more hair in the wig than you need. Therefore, thinning a wig is key to help you achieve the most realistic look. This pertains to both human and synthetic wigs. The more hair, the “wiggier” it will look. There are different thinning techniques you can use. Using thinning sheers and going to the base of each track of hair and cutting from there is one way. Another is it to cut chunks of hair out in sections all over the wig. Be careful not to take too much out in one spot or the wig will start to look bald.
Another thing to keep in mind is that the cutting tools you use should be separate from those shears you would use for your clients or your paper cutting scissors. When cutting synthetic wigs, it will dull your blade faster so keep them separate.
There you have it! If you want some great hands-on experience with Daniel Koye, be sure to sign up for his Intro to Wigs class at MWS Pro Beauty April 27th.