"It's nice to know that all hairdressers are the same crazy, level of crazy across the world," said celebrity stylist Kim Vo about the contestants on the new season of Bravo's reality series "Shear Genius." As the third season of the competition series begins tonight, viewers will notice the inclusion of more non-American contestants to shake things up a bit on the series. Vo, who along with incoming host Camila Alves were on hand for a recent press call touting the show's return, explained that the new episodes "had international people from Canada, Great Britain, Australia and what was amazing was the challenges were almost real life, like real celebrity challenges as what you would have as a celebrity stylist."
While Vo was quick to say he was not putting down last season of the show he couldn't help but gush that "this season really we turned up the heat. And we really did look at what were things that celebrity hairdressers did or they do and we really put that into the challenges, into the test. And these are challenges that are real-life challenges. There are more well-rounded challenges."
One thing Vo and new "Shear Genius" host Camila Alves agreed on was that drama is a big ingredient with the new cast. "Oh, it's very dramatic," Alves said. "I mean the cast that we had... they're all characters and they are very strong minded so it was for sure dramatic. Let's put it that way." Vo, displaying his signature wry wit, added, "And now we've got international drama, honey."
How did the Brazilian-born Alves, best known for being a model, designer and girlfriend of Matthew McConaughey, become the new host of the show? "The people from Reveille and Bravo came after me. We had a meeting. I told them what I did like about the show, what I did not like about the show. We had a very honest sit-down. And I went and did the test and the producers and stuff really worked with me. They saw something that they really liked and they wanted to be part of the show. And we were able to pull it off. I mean it was a lot of work because English is not my first language."
The hosting duties were new to Alves but, according to new mother (of a child she had with McConaughey), the experience on "Shear Genius" was a positive one that will stay with her forever. "I loved it because I was able to bring a [new] side of Camila... it's like I want to see everybody doing their best and I want to see everybody succeed. I was able to bring that with me and I absolutely really loved it and one really cool thing to see was that by the end of the show the contestants had respect and appreciation for me and I'm taking that with me wherever I go."
Besides the new addition of Alves, Hollywood hair stylist and hair product entrepreneur Jonathan Antin also joins the show as a judge. Antin, who had his own reality series, "Blow Out," on Bravo in 2004, is known for not holding back with his honest and often abrasive opinion. "Oh, he's definitely a character," Alves said. "He's not afraid to say what he thinks." According to Vo, the fact that he, Alves and Antin don't see eye to eye on things helps the show in the long run. "I mean, what a dynamic team this was up there. I think we had a ball and we all bring things that are different to the table but they seamlessly came together. And you know we're hairdressers. There's always a little bit of drama in between hairdressers I'm going to tell you right off the bat."
Alves also explained the very different personalities of the threesome that viewers will see on the show. "We have Jonathan Antin, who is awesome. He's really awesome in the show but he is a wild card. He's not afraid to say what he wants. And then you have Kim who's a sweetheart but also is not afraid to [say], 'I don't like this. I don't like this. That's not the right way to do it." And then you have me who is sitting there as a client, but you know I'm cheering for these stylists. But also, I've got to be straight up and honest with them. And then you have a guest judge. And we had some characters as guest judges this season for sure as well."
As for how the contestants are chosen, how much does personality play in the decision over skill and talent? "I honestly think that we really struck a balance this year which I loved," said Vo, who is entering his second year on the show. "When you're on TV you've got to be charismatic because as a hairdresser you've got to be charismatic and you've got to have actual persona and presence, so that's a part that is entertaining but it's legit and it's going back to the hair dresser � but there authentic, they are truly talented people."
Alves chimed in that she was in the casting room when the show was auditioning stylists and the actual hair styling talent goes a long way in the decisions even when someone's personality is undeniable. "A lot of the people who did have big characters [the producers] were like 'oh my God, this one will be great for the show' and 'people would love watching this person.' But if they didn't have a high level of skills and expertise in the work that they did before the backup or what they were doing they were not even considered to be in the show."
Of the new personalities competing this season, many of them wear their big egos on their sleeves and make no apologies for any inflated ideas of themselves and their expertise. How bruised did the egos get when they are told that their work is sub par? Alves said that you have to remember that the contestants "are grown up people who have been doing hair for years and years and years and they have their own salon and they have their own thing going so when... this [judge] is telling them straight up that their job was not good at all, that's going to shake them up."
Vo also explained that the challenges made for the competition were not constructed merely for the sake of the TV cameras and can help everyone involved learn a thing or two about the work that goes into hairstyling. "We've kept it very real life," he explained. "We've really kept it authentic. There's always an entertainment side of this, obviously, but if you're not a hairdresser you're going to take something away. They're going to bring [an idea] to the hairdresser and say 'this is what I want; this is what I saw on 'Shear.' And if you're a hairdresser you're going to learn something from it. We have wonderful challenges that are really to make the hairdresser well rounded. For example, we have this one challenge and I can't give you too much except it's a romantic book cover. And I know that I've done things that you have to step out of your elements of the salon. And it's amazing to see the ingenuity of these hairdressers blossom. People that you just thought couldn't do it or may have a challenge with it blossom and are amazing."
The third season premiere of "Shear Genius" airs tonight on Bravo at 10:00/9:00c.