How they turn aspiring singers into stars.


When Simon Cowell makes a biting remark about a contestant's appearance on the popular Fox singing show The X Factor, he's insulting more than just the singer. The show has a trio of people it calls its "glam squad," the image makers who take these regular people plucked from obscurity into stardom and make them look like stars.

We spoke exclusively with hairstylist Ken Paves (yes, the man behind Jessica Simpson, Fergie, and Lady GaGa's manes), former model-turned-makeup artist Kristopher Buckle (clients include Renee Zellweger, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Demi Moore) and celebrity stylist and designer June Ambrose to find out how they turn a plain Jane into J-Lo.

The Clothes

There's more than meets the eye when it comes to transforming the show's contestants. They not only have to look good on stage in front of millions of viewers, they also have to be "marketable," and that takes more than just a good singing voice. "Fashion is about self-expression and a statement about our times," Ambrose says. "And it's my job to market clients in a way that will reverberate with fans."

For example, Ambrose says she took R&B singer Marcus Canty (pictured above on the left) from "baggy and boring" to "street chic with a rocker twist," with just a wardrobe change. With curvy contestant Melanie Amaro (middle), it was actually the inside they focused on, not the outside. "We celebrated her curves and worked on building her confidence," Ambrose says.

The Makeup

From fashion to face, Buckle had to make sure the makeup made a statement. "Taking someone's look to the superstar level requires a few steps that most people reserve for those special occasions of life, but when you live in front of the camera, everything you do is a special occasion!" Buckle says.

"I first help the talent find a feature on their face that they would like to accentuate, and then I de-emphasize anything that distracts from that feature. That's how the look of a star is born!"

To do this, Buckle says accentuate or correct bone structure flaws through an application method called contouring. What he calls the "magic of makeup."

"Noses can be straightened, cheekbones raised, jaw lines sharpened. You can use anything from a taupe shadow to a bronzer to shade under the bones you want to magnify and shade directly on top of anything you want to reduce," he says. Aside from contouring, contestants need to up the glam factor with dramatic smoky eyes and of course, false eyelashes.

The Hairstyles

The hair frames your face, and Paves knows what it takes to bring tresses to the next level. "I apply all my best tricks," Paves says, "whatever it takes to make someone feel like a star!"

He explains the difference between looking average and looking like a star is all in how a person feels. "I try to find out what makes them unique and then I draw on that for their hairstyles. Stars stand out in a crowd so I enhance whatever it is that will make them look un-ordinary.

For example, 13-year old fan favorite Rachel Crow (pictured above on the left) has tight curls so rather than just straighten her hair out; I made her curls bigger and attention grabbing."

With Amaro, Paves gave the island-native textured "island-esque" hair, so she stays true to her roots (literally,) but still stands out from the pack.