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How the ‘Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies’ Hair Department Paid Homage to ‘Bad Sandy,’ Rizzo and Frenchy

“Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies” hair department head Jaala Leis Wanless had the tall order of preluding the Pink Lady look that was to come in the “Grease” world. While the original Pink Ladies were defined by permed, pink, 1980s-inspired hair, Wanless tells Variety that her muses for the prequel were real-life people from the 1950s.

“When I’m entering into a creative process, I do tons of research,” Wanless told Variety. “Especially when dealing with ‘Grease,’ going back into the 1950s.”

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Like showrunner Annabel Oakes, Wanless did extensive research surrounding the demographic of real people living in the time period set by the prequel series. “I tried to [fully] immerse myself into what I was seeing,” Wanless shared. “I went through a lot of print, advertising [and] movies from that era…I was trying to [make] our version swing right into [the 1950s].”

However, it’s evident that the Paramount+ series was developed in modern years, and this is something that Wanless acknowledges. “[Modern influences are] always going to creep in no matter how much you try [to diminish them]…There are always moments where you’re like, ‘Is it [the ‘50s]?”

Nonetheless, the hair team did a noticeably upstanding job at replicating that classic 1950s Grease look with each of the characters. In order to expedite the responsibilities, Wanless created a lookbook for her team to reference, loaded with inspiration from the time period.

“I put a bible together for my team so that everybody had an idea of styles that they could do,” said Wanless. “[The] book explained cultural differences; what was happening in segregation, women’s rights, [etc.], and then I went into men’s hairstyles, the background of what the Greasers came from and then into women’s hairstyles.”

Though Wanless admits she did reference 1950s starlets like Lucille Ball, Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe when conceptualizing looks, she “didn’t focus as heavily on the celebrities” due to her research efforts.

With respect to how Wanless crafts each hairstyle, she says it takes “a lot of prep work” to accomplish each sleek, refined look. “You have to think about layering product into the hair like you’re getting dressed for a winter day,” she reveals.

After the initial blow dry, moussing, curling and setting process has been completed, Wanless reveals that the “secret of having hairstyles last longer than 40 minutes” while actors are working is letting each hairstyle cool for about “35-40 minutes.”

“On a good day, [it] would [take] about an hour,” Wanless dishes.

As a series so referential to its iconic predecessor, it is inevitable that some clear parallels between the two projects would arise. These similarities prevalently creep in during Episode 8 when dorky, goody-two-shoes Dot (Josette Halpert) transforms herself into a bad girl to catch the attention of her male companions at Rydell’s prom — ring a bell?

“Annabel [Oakes] came up to me, and she’s like, ‘[For] Dot’s prom [look], she’s gonna try to be the bad girl.’” said Wanless. “And I’m like, ‘Well, why don’t we try to aim for ‘Bad Sandy?’”

Upon first glance, it’s obvious that Dot is paying homage to the late Olivia Newton John’s “Bad Sandy” that shows face at the end of the film. “Every once in a while, we do little nods to the Pink Ladies [in] the original movie, and this was one of those instances.”

Wanless reveals another gesture the show offered to the likes of Sandy, Rizzo, Frenchy and Jan during the end of the series’ first episode.

“There are these silver-clad dancers with pink hair; that was our nod to the original beauty school dropout,” Wanless started. “I said, ‘I feel like we have a chance to foreshadow for the movie, [and] I would like to [replicate] the hair from ‘Grease.’”

Upon a rewatch, Wanless’ vision is clear — four actors sport the classic Sandy, Rizzo, Frenchy and Jan haircuts in a stunning millennial pink shade. “We just [needed to] have a flash of them right in [that] moment.”

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