When she thinks back to her first hairstyling job -- at a Fantastic Sam's in Round Lake in the late 1980s -- Kim Ferry laughs.
"To the Round Lake people, I apologize, because I was terrible back then. I was learning how to be fast and do a lot of different kinds of hair," she said.
5 things you might not know about hairstyles you see on TVCelebrity hairstylist Kim Ferry, a native of Gurnee, shares some insider info:
• It's not up to the stylists to choose the hairstyles. Every look is preplanned and preapproved by many people on the show, including directors, writers, producers and actors. Sometimes the network even weighs in.
• Hair stylists typically get only 30 minutes to do each actress' hair. Men take only about 15 to 20 minutes.
• In the "Pretty Little Liars" scene where Ashley Benson leans back into the salon washing sink, Ferry was holding her extensions in place. Ferry's hands and wrists can be seen on-screen.
• Male actors don't like to admit it, but they enjoy using hair products as much as the women.
She must not have been that terrible, because the Gurnee native and Warren Township High School alumna went on to style hair on some of TV's most popular shows and biggest celebrities.
Ferry is now head of the hair department on ABC Family's "Pretty Little Liars," after more than two decades styling tresses on "ER," "The Office," "Babylon 5," "Veronica Mars" and other shows.
Celebrities such as Steve Carell, Mindy Kaling, Kristen Bell, Ashley Benson and Amanda Seyfried have sat in her chair, and she's done hair for dozens of magazine photo shoots, including People and Rolling Stone.
One of her favorite jobs was working on "The Office."
"We laughed every single day," Ferry said. "I spent nine years with 'The Office.' Nine years. Who gets to say that?"
In one episode, Carell gets gum stuck in his hair and hears the best way to get it out is to add peanut butter. So Ferry created something that resembled gum, which she lodged into his hair, and then later artistically smeared peanut butter on his scalp.
In another scene, Meredith (played by Kate Flannery) has lice and has to shave her head, so Ferry created a special bald cap for her.
"It's special effects as much as it is hairstyling sometimes," Ferry said. "We get challenges all the time."
While Ferry's job requires long hours, Ferry works just as hard off the set. The 46-year-old single mom cares for her two boys ages 8 and 10, sits on the executive board of Hairstylists & Makeup Artists Local 706, and actively works with St. Baldrick's Foundation in memory of her mother, Helen, who died of cancer in 2001. As much as time allows, she makes wigs for cancer patients.
"I wish I could do it more," she said, noting that her father, Vance, also is battling cancer now. "The little things you can do to help people are what really make me happy."
Ferry recently launched her own line of Hair Ferry styling products, and "The Office" star Mindy Kaling inspired her most popular item, the Hot Spots heat mat.
While doing Kaling's hair one day, Ferry fretted over the thick, black mat where she set down her hot irons.
"I said, 'I wish they came in bright colors. I could so do this better.' And (Kaling) said, 'Why don't you? You could do that!' So Mindy Kaling planted the seed for my business," she said, proudly adding that her colorful mats are made in America.
The seed for her showbiz career was planted here in the suburbs. When she heard they were filming scenes from the John Hughes movie "Curly Sue" in Libertyville, Ferry went to the set and talked her way past security, saying, "I'm with the people doing makeup and hair." She ended up introducing herself to movie makeup artist Susan "Sam" Mayer. They talked for three hours, as Ferry soaked up information about the job and the industry.
"She was, like, 'You probably won't make it, but good luck, kid.' And I said, 'I am going to make it!'" Ferry recalls.
After managing hair salons in Round Lake, Libertyville and Gurnee, Ferry moved to Los Angeles in 1992. For the first six months, she scrimped by working as a shampoo girl on nonunion shows, making $100 a week. She got her first big break helping out the stylists on "Babylon 5." When they saw she could do hair, her responsibilities grew. Then one job led to another.
Ferry often thinks back to how much that conversation with Mayer meant to her when she was starting out, and she tries to pay it forward.
"I get emails all the time through my website, asking, 'How do you get in the business?' So I do my best to answer every one of them. I'm going to try to keep the circle going."
-- Jamie Sotonoff
• Dann Gire and Jamie Sotonoff are always looking for people from the suburbs who are now working in showbiz. If you know of someone who would make a good feature, email them at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.