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[06/25/08 - 12:40 AM]
Interview: "Shear Genius" Host Jaclyn Smith & Judge Kim Vo
By Jim Halterman (TFC)

"Ugly hair never sleeps." This enlightening (and undeniably true) comment comes from "Shear Genius" judge Kim Vo and we can expect many more pearls of wisdom when the series returns for a second season tonight at 10pm EST/PT on Bravo.

The creative competition series kicks off with twelve new contestants cutting and styling their way through a multitude of challenges to not only win the title of "Shear Genius" but also take home $100,000 from Nexus and a chance to style hair for an Allure magazine feature. Two challenges happen per episode � the "short cut challenge" where technical hairstyling skills are tested, and the "elimination challenge" which focuses on creativity and advanced skills. Through all this, stylists juggle not only combs and scissors but also massive egos and exploding stress levels.

Former "Charlie's Angel" Jaclyn Smith gracefully returns as host for the new season along with celebrity hairstylist Kim Vo and Allure beauty editor Kelly Allerton as judges and stylist Rene Fris as mentor to all the competitors. Smith and Vo recently talked about the new season, how they help each other tame their emotions and whether viewers might see a few "Angels" pop up in the salon this season.

First talking about the stylists, the six men and six women competing this year were somewhat different than the first crop that appeared last season. First time judge Vo recalls that, "The contestants were great. Because we had such unique competitions, everyone really did start out on an even field but you definitely saw some winners off the bat... and you definitely had a fair chance to really shine."

When asked whether this years contestants are better or worse than the first season, though, Smith comments, "I can't say the stylists are better. They're totally different. The second season is a very cohesive group. They really got along. I didn't see the desperation that I saw in the first season. Yes, everybody wanted to win but they were pulling for each other, which I thought was admirable and I like that. I think more talent comes out when you're not so desperate to win."

Talking about returning to her hosting duties, Smith said, "It was easier the second time around." However, she admitted that, "It was difficult at first. I had never done reality TV. It was rather daunting and frightening because it's not like just taking a character and creating it and... fine-tuning it. You are on the spot at all times and you have to be very present. It was challenging but I must say the second time around it was easier and I had fun and I loved the challenge of it."

Smith also talked about her expectations when first starting her hosting job last year. "Well, I was a fan of 'Project Runway' so I really didn't know what to expect and expectations in my life and I sort of stay in the moment and I go into things and... I just wanted to have fun. I just wanted to be challenged and believe me the first season I was challenged. And now I'm in the second season and it's gotten... it's another whole world. It was more challenging than I expected at the beginning... I had fun both times but being in the moment and being spontaneous and not getting so emotionally involved with all the stylists is difficult for me."

Smith laughed at herself when discussing the difficult time she has not getting emotionally invested in the stylists. As the competition goes on, she said, she leans on judge Kim Vo, for example, to keep herself in line. "Thank goodness I have him. Sometimes I'm in tears and he's there saying 'Now, wait. This is a competition." Smith admitted to getting weepy more than once last season, even when some of the stylists who were not necessarily her favorites were voted off.

Of course, with Smith being the host of the show, the suspicion that other "Charlie's Angels" alumni (and their trademark hair) might show up in the "Shear Genius" salon. Smith didn't want to give up all the details but did admit the rumors are true. "Well, there is going to be a 'Charlie's Angels' reunion on the show but it's a surprise. You will be surprised when you see it. We recreate our styles from the '70s with a modern touch. I thought it was challenging because you think of the simplicity of those styles but it was fun seeing the stylists." However, she did say that the usually focused stylists were a bit distracted. She added, "Having some 'Angels' there was intimidating to some of the stylists. I think it was harder for them to recreate the styles because we were there."

It's these innovative type of challenges, though, that are one of the staples of "Shear Genius." Smith elaborated by saying, "I think in these challenges, what's very interesting and why I was attracted to the type of show that Bravo does is because it is about talent. But it isn't just about the technical talent. It's about the mind and how you handle the stress of a particular challenge because [the stylists] are under such time restraints. I mean to do all the color, cut and style in two hours is difficult." In the episode airing tonight, for example, the stylists are giving the challenge of cutting a woman's hair while blindfolded. Not only do we see jagged edges in hair length but a little blood is shed, too.

Do Smith and Vo ever suggest competitions for the stylists? "We all contribute to the ideas of the challenges," Smith said. "But Bravo really has a handle on what they want. I think they welcome our ideas but Bravo has the last word." As evident from the success of the first season (as well as all their reality shows), Bravo knows what it's doing.

Both Smith and Vo exhibited little fear when it was suggested they have their own tresses cut by the stylists. Smith said she, "would let them work on my hair. I would also refer them since they're all extremely talented." Vo added that a mystery person already saw extraordinary talent in one stylist in particular, "One of the [guest] judges asked for the card of one of the stylists."

"Shear Genius" premieres tonight and regularly airs on Wednesdays at 10pm EST.





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