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Viola Davis’s Michelle Obama transformation in ‘First Lady’ relied on extensive ‘research’ by her hair and make-up team

Actor Viola Davis. Picture: Reuters/Carlo Allegri

Actor Viola Davis. Picture: Reuters/Carlo Allegri

Published Apr 21, 2022

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Hair stylist Louisa Anthony “did a lot of Google searches” to get to grips with how to “recreate” the 58-year-old wife of former US president Barack Obama's hair with “accuracy” on the 56-year-old actress.

Louisa told Harper’s Bazaar: “The scene where Viola is at a photo shoot with the now historic black-and-white dress – Ms. V embodied Michelle, adding “research was key to accuracy.”

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She added: “I did a lot of Google searches to study the hairstyles of Michelle Obama over her eight years in the White House. Each style has its own identity, and it was important to recreate the styles with accuracy.”

Jamika Wilson, the ‘How to Get Away With Murder’ star’s personal hairstylist who collaborated with the ‘Black Panther’ hair stylist on-set of the Showtime series, agreed that their needed to “precise measure and attention to detail”.

She said: “Michelle Obama had many iconic hairstyles over her eight years in office, each unique with its own identity. The hairstyles were curated and created specific to her, and as such, re-creating them had to be done with precise measure and attention to detail.”

The anthology series also brings to life two other US presidents’ wives; Eleanor Roosevelt and Betty Ford, played by Gillian Anderson and Michelle Pfeiffer respectively.

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Julie Kendrick, Gillian’s personal make-up artist was tasked with turning the ‘Sex Education’ star into the spouse of president Franklin D Roosevelt used “old-fashioned greasepaint” to nail the early 20th century period look on the 53-year-old actress.

Colleen LaBaff, who was in charge of Eleanor’s hair, dived deep into historical archives “not seen anywhere else”.

She said: “I watched the documentaries from Ken Burns and found pictures I had not seen anywhere else. It was amazing.”

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Valli O’Reilly, Michelle’s personal make-up artist, was tasked with giving the 63-year-old actress into Betty, the wife of president Gerald Ford, who wore “subtle” make-up.

She said: “Betty Ford was not a woman who wore a lot of make-up. She did wear some, and it was always subtle. She always looked put together in public in a classic way. Most women in those years never left the house without lipstick and their hair done.”

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