Behind the scenes at the X Factor

with the show’s lead hair stylist, Aaron Carlo

The X Factor is one of the most glamorous shows on TV. But creating all the glitz involves a lot of hard work behind the scenes. And, as lead hair stylist on the show Aaron Carlo explains to Lesley Neil, it also involves a lot of skill and planning

What’s life like behind the scenes at The X Factor? It must be fairly high pressure.

There are definitely moments of nerves from the contestants, and there are moments when it’s manic – like right before a live show. But actually, everything is scheduled, and everyone knows what they’re doing, so it’s not too crazy. I’m a pretty chilled person, so most of the time, people are coming into the hair room to hang out, listen to music and take some time out for a gossip. Everyone always commented how the hair room was the calmest place to hang out.

Did it get more tense the nearer it got to the final?

It definitely got more tense for the contestants as the weeks went on. You could see them feeling the pressure, but they all handled it so well. I could never have done what they did.

How many stylists worked with you on the contestants’ hair?

I normally had around five or six on my team. But it’s actually not the contestants who take up the time, it’s the choirs, dancers, bands, cheerleaders – we were expected to do all of them, so that’s a lot of bodies to get through. On the final, I had around 10 people working with me as it was a much bigger show with even more people in it.

How much time were you given to work on each contestant’s hair?

It all had to work around other departments, so it was normally 10 minutes here and there – sometimes half an hour if we were lucky.

What products did you use and why?

I used a lot of the Tresemme Creation Hairsprays, because there wasn’t really any time to prep and these sprays are a quick solution for speedy styling. I used lots of oil for dry ends too. I love the Tresemme Oleo Radiance Oil Elixir, and the Tresemme Instant Refresh Dry Shampoo for flat roots.

How did you decide how you’d style each contestant’s hair each week?

It was a decision reached between a lot of people. We would have an idea at the beginning of the week, but that would usually change. Then on the Saturday, we’d chat through it with producers, contestants and mentors. But the style could change between the dress run and the live show because someone upstairs didn’t think it worked on camera for the show. So it was a lot of compromise and opinions, and trying to please everyone.

Whose hair did you most enjoy working on?

I loved Alien Uncovered, because they literally were up for anything and I got their style straight away, so they completely trusted me. I was gutted when they went home so early because they were a laugh too. Louisa and 4th Impact have amazing natural hair, so that was always good.

And whose was the most difficult?

Lauren’s was the hardest to start with because she had all these dodgy extensions left in and the producers had really strong opinions on how they wanted her to look. But we gave her a new set, which she loved, and she is an absolute dream to work with because she’s hilarious and we really clicked. I love her.

Which hair were you most proud of?

The styles we created on Alien Uncovered were amazing and I liked the makeover we gave Lauren.

And are there any looks that you wish you’d done differently?

No, not really. I'm glad I just kept the contestants as themselves with no drastic changes for the sake of it.

How did you land the X Factor job?

I work with Simon Cowell’s girlfriend Lauren, who is a dream. She said I should go for it and they sent an email suggesting me. Then I just had to meet producers and various other people. They called a lot of my existing clients for references and they asked a lot of beauty editors for their recommendations – and that was that.

Have you done lots of other TV or film work?

The X Factor was actually my first TV gig. I started off in a salon in Bournemouth and did modelling for a bit, which brought me to London. Then I got back into hair and worked my way up a salon chain to become art director. While doing that, I was working mainly for fashion and beauty magazines and brands doing shoots and shows. I ended up working with Little Mix, which got me more into music and celebrity. It’s all just kind of snowballed from there.

Did you always want to be a session stylist?

I didn’t even know what one was when I first moved to London. I didn’t really know there was a world outside the salon, but my strength has always been styling and I’m obsessed with fashion trends, so it was a natural fit I guess.

What’s next in the pipeline for you?

More work! Just back to normal working with my usual clients, who I’ve neglected during the show. The girls (Little Mix) go on tour early next year, and I’ll be doing more editorial work again and loads of travelling I expect. I’m also starting a YouTube channel for easy, accessible hair styling tips because I don’t think there’s really many out there for girls to copy.

Which of the X Factor judges’ hair would you most like to get your hands on and what would you do with it?

Oh, they look great already, so I’ll just leave them to it. Rita’s hair gives me life!

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