Courtesy of Columbia TriStar

How dope would your hair look if you had a $10,000 wig budget? And how about an über-talented hairdresser like Tym Wallace scrutinizing your every move via a super-closeup iPhone app for moviemakers? You would be flawless, that’s what. Don’t take my word for it, though; see for yourself when Proud Mary
Taraji P. Henson’s latest star vehicle, hits the big screen today, Friday, Jan. 12.

To celebrate the film’s release—and all things hair—Wallace, along with hair-care brand Creme of Nature, recently hosted a bevy of beauty editors in the penthouse suite of 60 Thompson, a sexy little boutique hotel in New York City’s SoHo neighborhood.

Courtesy of Dana Starbard/Sony Pictures

Champagne and high tea were served while Wallace—who had just wrapped a publicity shoot in the adjacent suite of rooms—emerged and took his place at the center of the circle to tell the tale of how he built the hair story for Henson’s titular role as Mary. “Not since Pam Grier have we seen a role like this on film,” he said.

Clad in all black, with a razor-sharp brushed fade and a flute of Champagne at the end of his Yakuza sleeve-tattooed arm, he proceeded to hold court with a nod to the current national mood: “It’s great to see women taking their power back,” declared Wallace as the room raised their glasses in agreement.

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Wallace’s reading of the script for Proud Mary, directed by Babak Najafi, led him to create hairstyles so closely interwoven with the plot that he could scarcely reveal the number of hair changes, for fear of spoiler alerts. Wallace explained, “Contract killers move in mystery and in silence—the outside world is not supposed to know the personality of a killer.”

The role had many challenges: creating a look that was simultaneously fly, incognito and capable of standing up to the physical demands of Henson performing many of her own stunts. Wallace’s tactic was simple: “Keep it minimal,” killing it with a series of high-end human-hair wigs.

To hold those $575-a-piece human-hair wigs in place during filming, his adhesive of choice was spirit gum, specifically from WM Creations in its matte finish. Wallace, who has been looking after Henson’s tresses since the two met in 2015, does not like using glue for wigs; he feels it damages the hair and doesn’t clean up easily with 99 percent alcohol, the way spirit gum does. He’s a fan of buying French hairpins by the pound to secure wigs and pieces.

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No matter what you’re doing with your hair, Wallace maintains that edge care is a major issue—certainly, removing and regluing wigs twice a day takes its toll. His No. 1 weapon in the war on edge erosion is his own “special concoction” of oils, including Jamaican black castor, jojoba, tea tree and coconut oils, adding a dash of lavender oil to neutralize the smell of the castor oil.

Courtesy of Dana Starbard/Sony Pictures

As for working with Henson, Wallace says she’s the kind of client “I prayed for. She’s hilarious and she lets me do anything and everything to her hair.” But one thing Wallace won’t do is leave a weave in longer than two months without taking it out for a one-week breather and mandatory maintenance, which always includes trimming split ends. “One bad petal kills a whole flower; same for split ends in your hair.”

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He also cautions against braiding hair too tightly, citing an epidemic of traction alopecia he’s been seeing lately, due to braiders who are so deft at their craft they can “catch and braid your eyebrows!”—a truth that made the room erupt in laughter. But Wallace got serious as he slid his signature glasses down his nose, peering sincerely at the editors gathered: “Tell your braider not to touch your edges, and give those braids some slack.”

For everyday edge care, he advises using edge-taming products that don’t list alcohol as the No. 1 ingredient. He also swears by tinted gels to boost the shine and luster of edges, giving that extra touch of #BlackGirlMagic. According to the Wallace gospel—where hair is a “relatable form of ministry”—tips for maintaining straight hair include using leave-in conditioner and heat-protectant products.

Now in his 12th year as a hairdresser, he’s happy to see that so many women have had a come-to-Jesus moment and joined the natural-hair movement. Says Wallace: “We have the best hair in the world. It does everything. All we have to do is protect it.”