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Black People on TV! Queen Charlotte; A Bridgeton Story.

Hello Auntie? Yes, it’s me. Just calling to say there are Black people on TV. Yes, on now, on Netflix! The show is called Queen Charlotte!'


Hair & Makeup Designer Nic Collins shares her process for creating looks for actors of colour and turning actress India Amarteifio young Queen Charlotte.


Younger Queen Charlotte with big afro curls and tiara
Queen Charlotte Netflix




If your hair is black, brown or other. Textured, curly, coily, kinky or straight. If you wear your hair in braids, twists, dreadlocs, protective styles or wigs.


If you are a person of colour, mixed heritage, biracial, black, brown, young or mature in Queen Charlotte; A Bridgerton Story You get to see versions of yourself and the people you grew upwith dressed in splendid elegance for a few hours in any week you want to choose.






Queen Charlotte; A Bridgeton Story. Hair & Makeup Designer Nic Collins shares her process.

Queen Charlotte; A Bridgerton Story is a Bridgerton spin-off series. It tells the story of a young woman named Charlotte and follows her through the early stages of her marriage to King George III. The story is told by her older self in a series of remembrances in a flash back format.


HOW DO YOU GET STARTED IN YOUR PROCESS


RESEARCH & DEVELOPMENT

I will read the script a few times to cement the information into my head to get a firm understanding of what is happening in the script with the characters. What they are doing in their scenes and work out a plan for what needs to happen with their hair and makeup. I form ideas for every single character and from this will get an idea of what wigs need to be made, how many of them will I need, and what materials & items are needed to make them. E.g. will we need bows, rolls, textured hair, ornaments and so on.


I do extensive research on the time period and start to formulate my mood boards. Ideas and inspiration come from everywhere, and by the end I will have collected hundreds of images. It is important that the images on our boards reflect the diversity our cast.


I will also have watched a lot of period films and read books and looked at life in the present day for inspiration, including fashions shows and the catwalk. I even look at architecture and fabric patterns and replicate some of those patterns in the hair. Although we studied paintings of the real Queen Charlotte we didn’t replicate any of her looks. Throughout this whole process I will be in conversation with the director, writer, costume and art department heads. They wanted a true representation for all the people in Queen Charlotte's world and the Bridgerverse. Making sure that any textured hair and makeup is presented truthfully and thoughtfully.


'There was a picture of Lauren Hill on my moodboard. I really apprecitated that, as her colouring is similar to mine.'
            Arsema Thomas, Young Lady Danbury.


PREPPING THE HAIR

Protecting India Amertifio's own hair was a priority from the start. We made sure it was always in good condition, well-conditioned and treated. Her hair was braided into a protective style (cainrows) which took about 40 minutes. We always put a wig cap on to protect her hair before putting her wig on. The cainrows and the wig cap also act as an anchor for the wig. Once the wig is on India's head we will ask her how it feels and if the wig placement feels comfortable. It's important we collaborate with our actors and so India is able to give feedback into how the character of Charlotte is being represented.


On the makeup truck we start the day by putting music on - it relaxes everyone and creates a great working vibe. We work methodically and aim for Indias hair and makeup to be completed within an hour and 15 minutes. The first few tries will always take longer - but that is the timing we work towards. We make sure our actors are comfortable in their chairs and that our working areas are organised. The makeup truck is our daily workspace and so there will always be half finished wigs, loose hair and accessories lined up here and there. It can get crowded but our actors enjoy seeing all the wigs in process.




WORKING WITH WIGS

All of India’s hairstyles in the show are wigs. We had several wigs made to her exact head measurements, they are hand knotted onto fine film lace by our wigmaker. An important styling consideration for the wigs was the texture and look of the hair. We designed them to replicate the curl pattern, colour and texture of India's own natural hair.  We always knew we were not going to go beyond a natural haired look for the younger Charlotte and that gave us freedom to create hair designs that were able to move her look forwards.


Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story is an emotional story and we wanted Charlottes natural hair to be a big part of her story. If we had put her in big colourful wigs from the start, it wouldn’t have had the same emotional effect. We wanted to tell a story through her hair; that being a story of a young woman going to a strange country where the people didn’t look like her, and whose hair does not look the same the others around her.


'My favourite part about my hair is that my own hair texture is presented in a period style, which is not common. To be able to wear a style that is elegant, beautiful and replicated in a wig that is not a straight wig; still having my curls and coils. It is a real privilege to be able to wear this wig. Something that looks so different from what you usually see.'
- India Amarteifio, young Queen Charlotte.

WHAT IS YOUR PROCESS FOR CREATING THE WIGS


DESIGN & BUILD

I work out the wig designs from all the information I have and from the research I have collected, and will make decisions on which wigs will need which elements. Our wigs are accessorized with hair additions, jewels, bows, flowers, feathers and delicate fabrics. We worked closely with costume designer Lyn Paolo and with Laura Frecon to make sure key accessories like tiara’s were showcased properly. They built in secret panels into the jewellery to make it easier to float the tiaras in the hair.


Processing the hair to create the styles is a team effort with everyone in the makeup department helping out. The hair is processed in every way you can imagine. We roll it around rollers, on long cocktail sticks, on large U shaped hairpins, on Dowling that has been specifically cut into all shapes and sizes. We boil, steam or bake the hair which gives us a range of contrasting curl patterns - from the very tight to curly to waved.


CAGES

Giorgio Gallieria my assistant Hair and Makeup designer constructs all the cages for our queens. He is a masterful cage maker. The cages are armatures that sit under the hair and they take a lot of time to work out. The grand Georgian wigs you see are all built with cages underneath the hair. The cage is needed as hold the hair / wig in shape. We make the cages hollow to keep the whole structure relatively lightweight and easier for our actresses to wear.


Queen Charlotte from Bridgerton heart shaped wig with bows
photo: Netflix / Nick Wall


Obviously our elder queen comes from Bridgerton but our story was told separate to theirs and our designs were our own. However we pay tribute to Bridgerton and especially to Mark Pilcher the Hair and Makeup designer from season one who passed away in 2021. He made a white wig with bows and diamonds for the Queen and out of all his wigs that was my favourite. It was beautiful work and so on our our show I created a wig just out of bows as my nod to him.


HOW DID YOU CONNECT THE LOOK BETWEEN THE TWO VERSIONS OF THE QUEEN


The through line between both versions of the queen is the hair. Queen Charlottes hair is all about emotion, imagination, inclusion and showcasing textured hair in its glory. Ours is an intimate storytelling with the hair. There is a 40 year difference between the young Queen Charlotte and the elder Queen, and so by the time we get to the elder Charlotte she has been queen for a long time. Her hair and her wigs have evolved and become bigger, bolder and more elaborate. We wanted to show from our young Charlotte how that happens.



young Queen Charlotte with loose natural hair at bedtime

CHARLOTTES HAIR STORY

Episode one shows the audience how the hair story started when Charlotte is whisked off to England to marry the king. We see her hair in an afro, which was unlike anything British high society was accustomed to. At the end of the episode one, the newly married queen is sad and alone in her bedroom without her new husband. Her hair is un-styled, uncombed, its in its natural state. The staff don't know what to do with her or her hair. From this point we have created a story to be told through the hair. As her staff gets to know her and care for her, her hair moves from natural hair to being wigged, and the time period moves from the Georgian era into the Regency era. Her hairstyles get larger and larger moving towards the elaborate hairstyles we know in Bridgeton.


There are moments when the hairstyle between the two Charlottes call back to one another i.e when the young queens hairstyle is reflected in the elder’s hairstyle. There are several scenes where this happens. It felt natural for us to make these connections. When the Regency (elder) Queen Charlotte learns that her son and his wife are expecting a baby, if you notice her wig is a mimic of the youngers Charlotte’s wedding hairstyle. Then In the final episode when the elder Queen Charlotte goes under the bed to comfort her husband King George, who is having an episode, she is wearing a version of young Queen Charlotte’s high pony style from episode one.


Young queen Charlotte with natural dark afro and her dog. Elder queen Charlotte period hairstyle and her dog
Queen Charlottes hair evolution
'Queen Charlotte’s wigs are particularly spectacular. The idea that these are women of colour with the hair needs of women of colour.'- Creator Shonda Rhimes

MAKEUP

We are careful to take care of India's skin when getting it ready for makeup. I prefer to apply foundation with an airbrush so that skin looks as natural as possible before I layer on the rest of the makeup - e.g. the brows, eyes, lips, and cheeks. At the end of her makeup process we will add a couple beauty spots to her face. One above the eyebrow and the other under her eye, on the same side. The beauty spots are actually prosthetic pieces we made because our elder Queen Charlotte Golda Roshoveul naturally has these beauty marks on her face.



WHAT ABOUT THE LOOKS FOR THE BACKGROUND CAST


Black / brown actress with period hairstyle plaits and dreadlocks
The show featured every hair texture - photo Netflix/Annie Little

Except for Indias wigs, every other wig was constructed in-house and every style was unique. My team handled over 1,000 wigs through the series. The most important element in those wigs to us was texture.


Wigs allowed us to build towering hairstyles on people that were in keeping with the time period. Our wigs fell into different themes, occasions and colour pallettes. Mixing historical research with bold, modern styles.


We wanted to include every type of hair texture that authentically exists. From the tightest curliest coil of hair to the straightest, smoothest of hair. We wanted everyone to feel represented equally across the board. It was really important we did that.


Our looks incorporated centuries of black hairstyles from braid work to coils, to locs. As opposed to going for fanciful hair colours we tried to stay true to natural hair tones, hair colour and hair texture. We knew we were creating looks that could have existed in history, but as yet have not been represented.


Our show featured hundreds of supporting artists and almost everyone wore a wig. As a makeup department we were in our element and it felt proud to be creating something special. Very few people had their real hair used. Everyone wearing a wig felt and looked fabulous.


Consider we had over a 1000 wigs to create, try on and put onto 100s of supporting artists.

Black and white background artists in queen Charlotte in period wigs and costumes
Every supporting artist looked & felt fabulous - photo Netflix /Annie Little

'I hope a whole generation of people are inspired by our work.'
Nic Collins, Hair & Makeup designer.

 

QUEEN CHARLOTTE: A BRIDGETON STORY is on Netflix. Released as a 6 part TV drama in May 2023 on Netflix Queen Charlotte; A Bridgerton Story. Written by Shonda Rhimes, Directed by Tom Verica. Stars India Amartifeo as the young queen, Golda Roshevel as the elder queen. Hair and Makeup Design is by Nic Collins and assistant Designer Giorgio Galleria.


Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story received a Prime Time Emmy for Outstanding Period and / or Character Hairstyling, and a Hollywood Makeup Artist and Hairstylist Guild Award for Best Period and / or Character Hairstyling.


Marc Pilcher won an Emmy for his work on Bridgerton. He passed away in 2021 from complications from the COVID-19 virus.


All images Courtesy of Netflix.




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