Hair Apparent

By Greg Archer

Originally published on Advocate.com June 23 2008 12:00 AM ET

Jaclyn Smith took down the bad guys on Charlie’s Angels 30 years ago, but now she’s happily traded in the pistol for the hair dryer. As host of Bravo’s hot-air hit Shear Genius, the titular angel generates buzz as the compassionate mentor to a slew of passionate, often emotional hair designers. The reality show debuted last summer. Season 2 premieres June 25 and features three gay contestants. Smith talks openly about her reservations about entering the reality TV fold and why she didn’t split hairs about Shear Genius. In between, she waxes philosophical about the Angels legacy, the success of her K-Mart clothing brand, and the recently relaunched Jaclyn Smith Home Collection. (Think Martha Stewart sans the Bree Van De Kamp gush.) 

Shear Geniusis one hot show. Well, it’s fun; it’s different. It’s certainly a new area for me. I learn a lot. I challenge myself. I went in a new direction, as they say.

What was so intriguing about this particular show? Did you have any reservations about doing reality TV? Definitely. Because I didn’t watch a lot of reality television, and my daughter said, ‘Oh, you have to watch Project Runway. So I did. And then I liked it. It was not what I imagined reality TV to be. I wasn’t a big fan of The Swan or Wife Swap. I mean, that sent chills through me. That wasn’t good for anybody to watch, I think. So when I tuned into Project Runway and saw real talent at work, that fascinated me. In fact, everyone, even if you’re not a winner, walks away with some enlightenment and growth.

Where you surprised at how well Shear Genius was received when it debuted last year? I was. That was fascinating to me. I’m used to doing a movie or a mini-series and the response to this was just amazing. I think, maybe viewers feel they’re dipping into real life. Certainly, on many Bravo shows, there’s a lot of expert advice. You learn a lot. I think it’s another world, and people are fascinated with the lifestyles.

I didn’t know what to expect when I first tuned in. That’s true. And I questioned the concept of hair. I thought, “Well, how far can we go?” But hair really changes a woman more than anything -- more than her makeup, more than her clothes. And I found that I really learned a lot. I came from the world of hair and makeup and fashion. My first job came from a Breck commercial a producer had seen. And I had thought I was kind of expert, but not so much when I got on the show.

So what have you been learning on the show? For me, it was like, “My gosh, you really need to think on your feet.” For the stylists, it’s not about being the “best” cutter or colorist. It’s about staying within the challenge; staying within the moment and not becoming too desperate about “I must win this” or “I must impress.” You have to get to “OK, I do color great.” So concentrate on the color. The stylists have to manage their time and please their clients. So there’s no going within yourself. You’re in the moment, and you’re constantly thinking. It’s not like you have a script and you can memorize your lines. You’re in your own world there; you can retreat. You cannot retreat on this show. There are a million different cameras on you at any given time. And you’re out there with all these people trying to be fair and honest. This is not manipulated. This is about being the best in a particular challenge.

Did you receive other reality TV offers? Were you choosy? Oh, yes. I’m always offered Dancing With the Stars. The list goes on. Dancing With the Stars -- you know, I love that show. I started my career as a dancer. And it’s something that, well, when you’ve really been at the top of your game and it’s something you go back to, perhaps your kicks aren’t there, or your turnouts aren’t. I mean, I was truly a dancer from the beginning, and that’s so much a part of me, and I don’t think I would want to do that show and not be my very best. And it also takes a great deal of time and commitment. I travel with my other work. I have Jaclyn Smith Home and clothing at K-Mart, and I visit my mom a great deal. You really need to devote full time to that. But the bottom line with Dancing With the Stars is that you always want to do what your body has done, and I don’t know if I can do that type of dancing today. But the list is out there if you want to do reality TV. I like what Bravo does because it’s truly about the talent. I don’t find it sensationalized. It’s about the talent, and that’s what intrigues me.

What’s the most stressful part for you? I like all of the contestants. And that makes it more difficult to me. I think the most difficult part of this whole process was elimination.

 Anything we should watch out for this season? Well, there’s a Charlie’s Angels hair challenge. You have to see that one.

I have to ask: How many gallons of shampoo do you go through each year? Oh, God. Numbers are not my think. I have a husband who is incredible with numbers. I know I use a lot of shampoo. But I don’t wash my hair every day, and I think it’s important for people to not wash their hair every day because it’s important that they let the natural oils come in.

And you conserve water too. Yes, that -- and it’s good for your hair.

You mention Jaclyn Smith Home. What are you most excited about with that … because you launched that a couple of years ago, correct? That’s right. And I relaunched it with my own showroom. I brought all the licensees together under Jaclyn Smith Home a month or two ago. I have upholstery, rugs, and fine art reproductions. I have an exclusive line of fabrics. My goal was to be a silent interior designer and bring all the pieces together for the consumer -- do the legwork and they can make it their own so that they don’t have to run to a million different places.

Where do you get all the energy? Being a businesswoman is hard work, isn’t it? Well, I’ve always been energetic. My kids are 22 and 26 now. And this brings balance. I mean, still, family is number one. But we’ve been in K-Mart over 20 years now and we accomplished what we set out to do, which was to get fashionable clothes out there at affordable prices. All of that has been fulfilling and also a way to give back. There are a lot of ways to do things that are important. Rather than be a “lady that lunches,” I like to keep myself challenged.

FARAH FAWCETT KATE JACKSON JACLYN SMITH AARON SPELLING TRIBUTE X395 (GETTY) | ADVOCATE.COM

I have some Charlie’s Angels questions. Are you tired of being asked about the show? Oh, no. It’s gratifying to think we still have an impact so many years later. I think part of my being on TV now is from that appearance on the Emmys a few years ago, when Kate, Farrah and I were reunited for that tribute to Aaron Spelling. A lot of good things have come from Charlie’s Angels, and I have nothing but fond memories. 

Do you still catch certain episodes? Well, I haven’t lately. But when I visit mom, she will be watching it, and memories flood back. No matter how long ago it was, what was going on was very distinctive to that day, that shoot. It’s very hard to get reacquainted with the past, but when I watch the show it puts me there in a very clear way.

Any favorites episodes, because that cliffhanger toward the end of the series’ run -- the one where Kelly’s car flips over in midair -- was pretty amazing. That’s one of my favorites too.

Yeah? Yeah. Because I always liked it when I was called upon to do something emotive, and as I recall, that show was very emotional.

Although, out of all the Angels, I think Kelly’s story lines always went a bit deeper, you know? I think they put me as the emotional one. And I am in real life. I am a very emotional girl.

Well, you have a big gay following too. It’s wonderful. You can only be appreciative and grateful to loyal fans, who appreciate your work. There could be nothing better. It’s a validation, and it’s a great feeling.

So what’s the best advice you’ve been given? Certainly, to be true to yourself and never sacrifice your values. And to live beyond yourself. It certainly gives you a better life when you learn to see the bigger picture -- live beyond yourself, face your fear, don’t hide from it, go out on a limb. That’s where the fruit is. You can’t just shy away from things that scare you because it bites you back. I say, when you run from the dogs, they come after you. But when you place your hand down toward their chin, they’re yours. It’s like me going into business. People said, “What are you doing? Why are you doing that?” But it’s been terrific. And it’s opened up a whole new world. I am always one to say, “Don’t be afraid, go toward it.”

What’s the most interesting thing you’ve been learning about yourself lately? Oh, my! [Laughs] Hmm. Some of them are so personal, you know? I love to laugh, but that’s not the one I really want to tell you. It’s that I know my strong points and my weak points very clearly now. As you get older, you do know that. Before, you didn’t identify why you did some of things you did. I think I’ve learned that I need to be stronger, and I can’t tell you quite why, but I am very emotional. I need to be stronger, that’s all. I take everything to heart. I wear my heart on my sleeve, and I think sometimes I’m overly sensitive. I wish I could tell you more, but I don’t know if I want it in print. [Laughs]