Journalism has taken me many interesting places and so it was 15 years ago in Los Angeles that I ended up at my first hair battle.
Back then, it was a fringe movement, a kind of traveling road show featuring hair of any hue coming down the runway set to music. It was wild and fun but the creations were still recognizably hair styles.
Not anymore. The fantasy hair design world, as it's now called, is all about creation. These are artistes. The point is to tell a story on the head, through hair.
That's the premise that fuels the cheeky "Hair Battle Spectacular" (Oxygen, 10 tonight), a competition show that brings 10 stylists together and pits them in a series of battles to win $100,000.
Hosted by Brooke Burns, the show takes you into a world you may not know much about and what makes it work is that the people involved take it seriously, even as they are doing something that is pretty darn ridiculous.
Most serious is judge Derek J. whom you might know from "The Real Housewives of Atlanta" or Chris Rock's documentary "Good Hair" as not just a stylist but the man who claims responsibility for getting gay men in Atlanta to wear stilettos. (Um, thank you?) Derek J. is the Simon Cowell on the show, giving sharp and pointed critiques, while wearing tight jumpsuits on his barrel-shaped frame and shoes more fabulous than Burns or the other judge stylist Lindsay Albanese. (Each week there's also a guest judge related to the challenge.)
The contestants range in gender, race, age and region; they have nom de hairs like Minista, Boss, and Malibu. In the first episode, no one stands out as a reality show star but no one seemed to be trying too hard either.
The challenges were fun; things start with a 'Check up from the neck up' a challenge in which the contestants have to incorporate an object they've brought from home into a creation. The hair battle involves being inspired by an alcoholic drink. During the battles, the stylists play ring announcer, while two models go head to head in a ring. It's wacky. No punches are thrown, however.
On the reality competition show scale, "Hair Battle Spectacular" isn't up there with say "Amazing Race, or "Survivor" or "Work of Art" or "Project Runway." But as a simple piece of pop culture, it's good, harmless fun.