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Meet the Edinburgh pair who styled the hair of MTV awards stars

Jason and India Miller. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

Jason and India Miller. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

PERHAPS Katy Perry will need her bouncy barnet re-dyed candy floss pink. Perhaps Kanye West will need his pristine beard waxed into shape. Or LMFAO might just need their afros bouffed. Anything could happen when Nicki Minaj, Lady Gaga and Pink appear on the same bill.

But whatever the needs at this weekend’s MTV Europe Awards, Jason and India Miller will be there with their tailcombs, their cans of superstrong-hold hairspray ... and their mobile phones to text their children, just in case they haven’t a clue who the uber-cool person sitting in their hairdresser’s chair even is.

The couple, who are international creative and artistic directors of the Charlie Miller empire in Edinburgh, have been teasing the tresses of rock’s bold and beautiful since the awards ceremony descended on the Capital back in 2003.

“We just thought, ‘They’re coming to our town, we’d better get in touch with them,’” says Jason. “We went for an interview and got on really well. Then they asked us back again, and again. It’s pretty much the same sparks, the same staging people, the same catering people every year – it’s like a family.”

Over nearly a decade they have been to Copenhagen, Portugal, France, Germany and Spain, styling the likes of David Guetta, the Black Eyed Peas, The Darkness, Moby... does Moby even have hair, I wonder suddenly? “Well, not really,” concedes India, “but it might need shaved off.”

Fair enough.

On Sunday it’s happening all over again when they travel to Frankfurt to “head the looks” for the 2012 awards. That basically means ensuring everyone’s hair – from the biggest stars to the backing dancers – is looking just the way they like it.

“You need to know how to 
behave,” says Jason. “You have to work hard, obviously, but you also have to keep the privacy level for what they call the ‘talent’. They have to know you’re going to handle it well, you’re not going to take photographs of them, you’re not going to ask for autographs. You have to be respectful and work really fast. It can be chaos. But it’s great fun.

“It’s amazing. There’s Robbie Williams or there’s Lady Gaga, just walking around. You might hear this amazing voice coming from the stage, and it’s Beyonce doing a soundcheck. The atmosphere is quite remarkable. You just have to stay cool, so everyone acts as though it’s completely natural. You feel so lucky to be plonked in this situation and to see it.”

Just before the show, the hair and make-up room tends to become a cool hang-out area for the celebrities, presenters and supermodels who are guests. All the beautiful people in one room. It hardly seems fair.

“Bar Refaeli was there one year, and Ronaldo’s girlfriend,” says Jason. “I don’t know who some of them are. The thing is, you never know who’s going to come in. If it’s a really big name – someone like Beyonce – they travel with their own people but you’ll end up doing their band members and their dancers. Then you might be called to go to their rooms if they just want privacy.”

The needs vary from a simple blow-dry or up do to something a little more elaborate.

“I did Adam Lambert last year, who was singing instead of Freddie Mercury with Queen,” says Jason, “and he had amazing hair. It was a huge blow-dry with blue in it. Or you might get someone saying, say, for Katy Perry’s backing dancers, we want them all to look exactly the same, with the same ponytail and the same hairband. And there are 40 of them. And you only have half an hour.”

“The most challenging thing,” says India, “is the turnaround while the show is on. You might have one artist with ten dancers. When they come off, those ten dancers could quite possibly be on stage again in ten minutes but have to look completely 
different.”

The Millers will be taking a team of five to Frankfurt, where they will be joined by an army of German hairdressers covering backstage, the private dressing rooms and the so-called “glamour pit”, where the last-minute tweaking happens before someone goes on stage. So, in this tense atmosphere full of rock-god egos, surely someone throws all their toys out the pram?

“Some of the most important people are probably the nicest people and the most professional,” insists Jason. “You do get a lot of 
characters.”

This is all the culmination of an eventful year for the Miller family. In July Charlie received an OBE for services to hairdressing from the Queen at a ceremony in Edinburgh. The first Scottish hairdresser to receive such an award, his career started in 1960s men’s hairdressing, when the demands were for a Perry Como or a Tony Curtis.

But when Vidal Sassoon started developing geometric shapes for women, his precise training told him he could do the same. He cut his wife Janet’s hair (the pair met when she was just 15), then some of her friends, and the rest is pretty much history, with not just the patriarch but also his son and daughter-in-law recently taking their places in the UK Hairdressing Hall of Fame – the only family to do so.

Now 68, and still with a luscious head of gleaming white hair, he concentrates on his charity work, supplying wigs for the Teenage Cancer Trust, and has happily handed over the radial brushes to the next 
generation.

“India has the most talent and the smallest ego in hairdressing,” he says proudly. “I’m talking about the whole of the UK. She’s famous for it.”

She’ll need to call on all her reserves of patience and humility on Sunday.

“I’ve seen 30 heads of hair having to be changed in 30 minutes,” she says. “We’ve seen the list for this year and one of the artists performing has 100 dancers, so we know what we’re in for.”

“It’s fantastic,” adds Justin, “most people would pay to go and do this.”

• The MTV Europe Music Awards are on Sunday, 9pm (tv.mtvema.com) www.charliemiller.com

Ceremony known as ‘Oscars for youth’

THE MTV Music awards is one of the biggest nights of the year in the music industry, and a rare chance to see some of the most famous names in rock and pop perform under one roof.

The awards were originally set up as an alternative to the Grammy Awards, and the show has often been called the “Oscars for youth”, given its predominantly teenage audience.

Despite its humble beginnings, however, it has become a coveted award in the industry since the first ceremony was held in 1984 at New York City’s Radio City Music Hall.

The show came to the Capital in 2003, when superstars such as Beyonce Knowles, Justin Timberlake and Pink brought the city to a standstill.

At the time the event in Leith was hailed as the biggest music event Scotland had ever seen, and two thousand tickets sold out in just 14 minutes.

After the awards, celebrities held a lavish bash in the Ocean Terminal complex, while MTV ensured the whole city could enjoy the show by putting on a free concert in Princes Street Gardens featuring Jane’s Addiction, The Chemical Brothers and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club.

The show regularly courts controversy – as it has done from the very first awards which featured Madonna performing Like A Virgin – and notable incidents over the years have included everything from expletive-riddled nursery rhymes to Kurt Cobain spitting on Elton John’s piano.

 

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