Rukey Styles has worked on various projects from the young adult dystopian feature film Divergent to The CW Network's 4400 and recently, Disney's Sneakerella and Disney Channel's Saturdays. Each project is unique in its own right, asRukey Styles worked to ensure that each character was as authentic to their reality as possible, whether it be because of the character's attributes, background, or situations occurring in the story. Rukey Styles discussed how she got involved in hair styling, what makes Disney Channel's Saturdays a unique project to work on, and how her work has gotten her nominated for an Emmy and submitted for a Make-Up And Hair Award.
Culturess: What drew you to Disney's Saturdays?
Rukey Styles: Well a colleague of mine said that he thought that I'd be a good fit for it. So he put my name on the list of people to be interviewed and that's where it started. But, let me back up a little bit. He reached out to me and he said that he thought that I would be a good fit for the project. He said it was creative, it was ethnic hair, and he thought that I would have an opportunity at some fun on it so then he put me on the list and I got an interview.
Culturess: Is there a difference between working on a Disney Channel series in comparison to a feature film like Divergent?
Rukey Styles: Well, the preliminary steps are the same as far as preparing for it, the storyline, and creating the characters. However, Saturdays was unique in a sense, if we are to compare the two productions, the main cast was filled with underage children so there was a time restraint. Children have labor laws. Therefore, they can only be on set for a certain amount of hours. They have to go for schooling for a certain amount of time. So for Saturdays, to accomodate their work schedule, and again they are some of the main characters, the top main characters, so they are on screen a majority of the time. We had to accomodate their schedule by doing doubles and skate doubles. Doing photo doubles. So maybe while we're filming a scene and it's on the back of one of the girls, it's not one of the girls. So whatever hair style that we did on the main characters, we did multiples to accomodate the time. For skate doubles, they had the same hair style, the photo doubles had the same hair styles. Three hair styles per character, so that was nine for the three main girls that were underage.
Culturess: How do you combine Afro-American style and culture with a youth-driven nostalgia Disney Channel series?
Rukey Styles: Well the fun thing about Saturdays, I will say, there was always a theme throughout the episodes. Like they did a battle scene and it was reminiscent of the old school hip hop cipher battles and so nineties, I know the nineties, I remember it. So, I'm able to mix a little bit of that nostalgia, mix a little bit of that history and mix it with current day. Of course, all the girls felt comfortable that they could pull off the look well. It was really fun. It was an ode to, I won't say my childhood, but my adolescence, my young adulthood, and again, that's very familiar to me.
Culturess: How did you get your start as a hair stylist?
Rukey Styles: I started playing in my hair when I was in high school. I had a lot of hair and it was very long. So back then, I would get roller sets, a stylist would roller set my hair, and I was under the dryer forever. I couldn't stand it, I really couldn't. I felt like that was like a torture treatment. I was growing up in my hair stylist chair becoming this teenager that knew her things, like the current hair style, and he didn't realize that I was growing up right in front of his face. So, I decided I would start playing in my hair. Some of the things people didn't realize that I actually did the hair style on myself but I was my worst and best client. It came to the point, I remember my mother saying, 'Well, you better clean up your room so you can go get your hair done' and I remember saying, 'Well, I'll clean up my room but I don't wanna go get my hair done.' So I continued to play in my hair, broke it off really bad, messed it up really good, and soon after 'cause I started hair school two days after graduating high school, I went to hair school and learned that some of the things that I was thinking in my head, I was thinking without the terminology. I was thinking, 'If I hold the hair up like this and turn it around and cut it, I think it will do that.' and when I went to hair school, I realized, 'Woah, I was right on some of this stuff.' The hair care, I had to figure that out. But, I was right on some of the fundamentals of hair styling and so that excited me even more.
Culturess: Which project has challenged you the most?
Rukey Styles: I think reach project challenges me in a different way. So, Sneakerella, we had doubles because of underage actors. But we were also working in the height of the pandemic so that's something. I did Sneakerella before I did Saturdays, of course, and Saturdays also had action. Sneakerella had dancing. Saturdays has skating so with that it bumped it up a little bit more. It was more actors that were children and it was more that they had to do so doing multiples was a challenge. I think absolutely every show has, it has had something that has stretched me in a way that made me stronger and better for the next project.
Culturess: How does your outlook on life impact your work?
Rukey Styles: I am a kind of black and white person. Either it is or it isn't. So, whatever I try to commit myself to, I wanna make it work. It's no in-between. I have to get it done and that's something that has been with me since I was a young adult because I was a single mom and at the end of the day things have to be done. Sometimes, you might not feel well. Sometimes, things aren't the most favorable to deal with. Sometimes, you're working with very little but have to make the most out of it. So that transfers over to the hair styling 'cause when it's time to shoot, it's time to shoot and what can you do? You have to be ready so you gotta get it done.
Culturess: What was it like to be nominated for a Children and Family Emmy in 2022 for Outstanding Hair?
Rukey Styles: It was amazing, absolutely amazing to be nominated for hair. I recall thinking I knew that we were doing some things at a very challenging time. A team of artists that did not know each other before this production and we got together and we worked together and we created something really nice that I'm really proud of. It did not feel real until actually being at the Emmys. My body just was buzzing because this is something that I've always wanted. But to see it, to touch it, to be there was an amazing experience that my entire department will never forget. Hopefully, we'll get back there.
Culturess: What was it like to be submitted for a MUHA?
Rukey Styles: It's awesome. I mean, it's another opportunity to be among my peers, to be recognized for our work. I mean, again, this was another project that we did some really interesting, creative stuff. To be among other creatives, it's a great opportunity.
Culturess: What was the process of working on Sneakerella?
Rukey Styles: With any production it starts with reading the script. We call it a script breakdown that we read it, we learn who each character is, we find out what they have to do, and we come up with options that hit all of those parameters. Age, financial standings, social stature, all of these things, and we come up with some options for a style, and when we meet with the producers, writers, creators, to see if what we're thinking is what they envision. Sometimes it's not, and sometimes it's more than what they envision. Sometimes, it's the piece that brings it all together to solidify that character and it's the visual. After we do that, then, we talk with the actors. We find out what their preferences are about certain things like, someone, an actress, and this isn't specific to any production I've worked on, but, there can be an actress, I've experienced this before, an actress that thinks her ears stick out so can we keep her ears covered? So, things like that. Sometimes, a person, because they're human just like us, 'Oh, I think my forehead is this or that,' so we try to accomodate any insecurities as well and mesh all of these things together so they can feel like their best self and really nail that character on screen.
Culturess: You also worked on 4400. What went into making each hair style unique to the time period that each character came from?
Rukey Styles: That question answers itself because 4400 was a great production. I hate that it was canceled. 4400, each character was unique because of their time period that they were from which made it really exciting and so the time period, who the character is, what they're going through. What are they doing? What are their actions? These things play a part in the selection of the hair style. How long have they been up? How long have they been without their basic neccessities? Because the people from 4400 just landed. They fell out of the sky. So for quite some time they were without combs, brushes, you know, all of these things. You keep these things in mind. Would their hair be prestine? Probably not. So those type of details are things that I like to keep in mind when styling. Yes, we can do these great styles and some of the styles may not be great depending on who the character is but it has to be authentic to the storyline and what would be most realistic.