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By MAX MCQUEEN, Monday, April 28, 1997
HAIR STYLIST SHARES WIG KNOW-HOW TO HELP CANCER PATIENTS COPE
Think you have the ultimate bad-hair story?
You haven't talked to Donna Barrett Gilbert-Mann, a Scottsdale hair stylist who has worked in films and television for 30 years. Between Dolly Parton and the late Kate Smith, Gilbert-Mann thought she'd seen the hardest challenges a hair stylist could face until she signed on for Anaconda. Suddenly, she was deep in the Amazon jungle in May and June. And she had the heads of 21 stars and stunt people to keep from wilting in the Brazilian sun.
With an army of helpers, the Anaconda shoot didn't turn out so Bad - once the Emmy-winning hair stylist got through customs. "Getting through customs with my 'chemistry lab' was the toughest thing about the whole film. Brazilian customs were having a total riot. But I had to bring my entire beauty shop with curling irons, dyes, wigs - everything," Gilbert Mann said. Extreme isolation, humidity and cultural differences could have taken a toll on the cast. But Gilbert Mann credits Brazilian director Luis Llosa for providing what creature comforts were available. Making Anaconda proved to be a blessing in disguise, as the hard work and long hours were punctuated with lasting impressions of the Amazon's abundant flora and fauna and enchanting encounters with the region's native peoples.
Gilbert-Mann has seen plenty of bad hair in her day. Sometimes she creates the tangles, if that's what called on in the script, such as in The Miracle Worker, for which she won the Emmy. But there's worse things than keeping the curl in actress Jennifer Lopez's tresses in 100 percent humidity. A woman could have no hair at all.
Enter the other side of Gilbert Mann's career in hair. She makes wigs for women and men undergoing chemotherapy. Hair horror tale after horror tale was told to Gilbert-Mann by women going through chemotherapy treatments. She really didn't know how or if she could help. She kept praying for signs. And signs kept appearing. "Last time I was in Dallas, I was in a mall and within an hour, I saw this beautiful woman. Her clothes and make-up were impeccable but she had a horrible wig. I said, 'OK, Lord. I don't need any more signs,'" Gilbert Mann said.
Out of such divine plans and lots of her own money, Gilbert-Mann made a video that showed professional hair stylists and do-it-yourselfers how to cut a wig to size. The 47-minute tape is titled, Hair Again: The Magic of Wigs. "I firmly believe you can have on the greatest outfit and the greatest make-up, but if your hair isn't right, you're not going to leave the house. Us women don't do that. Hair is our crown and glory," Gilbert-Mann said. The video comes in five versions through Gilbert-Mann's own production company. Videos typically are bought at wig stores by women who've just found out they have cancer. They're not ready for a wig but they are ready for information.
Pat Moran, a videographer, turned to Gilbert-Mann three years ago after being told she had breast cancer. Being a single mom and business owner, she couldn't afford to look sick after chemotherapy. "I'm a girlie girl. So it was really hard to lose my hair," Moran said. "I have an unusually small head. Most wigs were too big. Had too much hair. And remember, chemo patients have very tender scalps." Out of a mountain of wigs, Gilbert Mann picked three for Moran - one each for glamour, business and sophistication. The best compliment Moran says she received in the 15 months she wore wigs was that no one knew she was wearing a wig. Now her cancer is in remission and her real hair is back.
A member of the American National Hair Loss Council, Gilbert-Mann doesn't make a move without input from the highest authorities on baldness, such as Dr. Whiting of the Dallas Mayo Clinic. The video starts with a long list of precautions to make sure at home stylists as well as professional hair cutters don't damage wigs.
"Every time I worked with someone who was losing hair because of cancer, I would learn even more about how they felt," Gilbert-Mann said. "You share what you know or you die with it. I decided to share, and I shared a lot about how to make a wig. That's what I do for the movies. They're bigger than life. If I've done my job, when people wear my wigs no one knows they're wearing wigs."
By Bob Fenster - The Arizona Republic , Sunday, May 18, 1997
HAIRSTYLIST FOR THE STARS HAS A LOCK ON DEMANDING TRADE
If you have a lock of hair from one of the Monkees in your rock and roll collection, then you should probably say thanks to Donna Gilbert Mann of Scottsdale. Mann, who was in charge of wigs and styling for the hairy shocker Anaconda, got her start trimming hair for rock bands on the old TV show Shindig. "The bands would come in off road looking dirty,"' Mann recalled. "I would shampoo all the stars, then give them baby trims." Then. she'd put the stars' cut hair in envelopes and pass them out. to girls in the audience. Having spent 30 years as hairstylist to the entertainment industry, Mann has worked on such movies as River Wild, Star Trek V and Rambo III.
She got her start in show business as a teenager, when she talked her father out of sending her to college. "I told him, 'Send me to a private beauty school and I'll make you proud of me.' "Before my father passed away, I got my Emmy for hairstyling. Hair is creative for me. I love doing it." Mann spent the early part of her career doing hair on tour for such singers as Kate Smith, Ella Fitzgerald and Dolly Parton. She now works on one or two movies a year, jobs she gets from people who know her work. "They need someone they can trust," she explained. Mann took Anaconda because she had never been to Brazil. "It's fun to travel when someone else is picking up the bill," she said.
"For Anaconda, I had to take a beauty shop of colors and chemicals and wigs with me to the Amazon because there's nothing on the river you can buy." The crew worked for seven weeks on a three-level yacht - one level Christine Keith/The Arizona Republic Donna Gilbert Mann says she had to take a "Beauty shop of colors, chemicals and wigs with me to the Amazon for the filming of Anaconda. Mann styled the movie's principals, including Jennifer Lopez, lce Cube and Eric Stoltz. She hired another stylist just to take care of Jon Voight. "Jon was wearing hair extensions, so we had to make stunt wigs to match," she said.
The fashioning of wigs during a movie production is a major chore. "I had 21 actors being photographed," Mann said. "I had to make matching wigs for the photo doubles and the stunt doubles. "Every frame I'm behind the camera ready to fix their hair. Everyone's hair in every frame has to match when they get to editing. Not just the actors but also their doubles." Although filming Anaconda on the Amazon brought a mix of dangers, snakes weren't one of them. "We had no problems with snakes during the production," Mann recalled. "But the river is full of piranha. They say if you're not bleeding, the piranha won't bother you Some of the actors would jump, that was deadly. On the last day of shooting, one of them got on my clothes. But one of the guys knocked it off and killed it. "I was ready to get out of there by then."
In her Scottsdale home, Mann maintains more than 2,000 wigs in baggies, some of which she uses on the job. "You never know when you need a wig for something," she said. She has also produced a video called Hair Again for people who have had hair loss from cancer and other diseases. In the video, Mann shows how to make wigs look more natural. "I don't want people wearing something that looks like a fright wig," she said. "When people feel better about how they look, it's part of the healing process." For more information about Mann's video, go to the "Hair Again" Website.