Mary Ann Valdes: Career of a TV hairstylist, Part 1

Rosanne Ullman | July 10, 2011 | 10:12 AM

In the 1980s, and Mary Ann Valdes was living her dream: styling hair at her own Miami, Florida, salon and teaching cosmetology at her own institute. Little did Valdes know that her dream was about to explode into a grandeur that would take her in a whole new direction.

Valdes had become friendly with a California hairdresser she'd met when he was doing platform work at a hair show she'd attended. She invited him to give an in-salon class to her staff, and from time to time they'd touch base. One day he called.

"He knew someone shooting a commercial in Miami," Valdes recalls. "They needed a hairdresser on set to do cornrows, and he knew I could do them so he called me. That was my first job on a set. I thought it was fun!" Even though she never imagined it would lead to much, Valdes joined the union that would allow her to work on set if more local opportunities popped up. The opportunity that came along was NBC's "Miami Vice."

one thing leads to another

Working on that show provided Valdes with a lot of contacts within the industry. In 1994, two actors she knew got cast in the series "Chicago Hope" and urged her to make the move to L.A. to join them. She's been a Hollywood hairdresser ever since, working on a long list of sets ranging from films "The Birdcage," "Spider-Man 2" and "Blades of Glory" to television's "American Dreams" and, beginning in 2007, ABC's hit series "Ugly Betty."

Valdes was nominated for an Emmy for her work on "American Dreams" and again for the first season of "Ugly Betty," although she came into it halfway through the season after tying up another project. Valdes does the hair for leading lady America Ferrara, as well as supporting players Eric Mabius, Vanessa Williams and Rebecca Romijn. A staff of three takes care of the rest of the cast, and they all pitch in to make the guest stars and extras look the role. Valdes enjoys having to design a variety of looks, since Betty works in ultra-stylish Manhattan but lives in less trendy Queens.

"I never set out to do hair for films and TV," Valdes says. "Living in Miami, that was the farthest thing from my mind. It just kind of happened. But I have no regrets!"

For more on Mary Ann's experiences on set and advice to stylists who want to go Hollywood, see "Get Set to be On Set."

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