Once the province of shopping mall mavens, gum-snappin' waitresses and Amy Winehouse, bouffant was in and big hair was beautiful, if only for one night.
The ladies — and one gent — of the International Fantasy Hair Competition proudly wore their hair hats high in the name of art and a good cause.
The competition attracted stylists and their models from around the country with prizes ranging from $1,000 to $7,500. All proceeds from Thursday night's hair-art show at the Verizon Wireless Arena went to the New Hampshire Food Bank.
In the final minutes before the show began, stone-faced stylists put the finishing touches on their chicken-wired and pomaded masterpieces. What emerged from the piles of discarded Styrofoam clods and noxious clouds of hairspray were divas with heads decked out in pink lilies, forests of furry trees, and coifs of cotton candy.
Top honors went to model Amaris Brown of Detroit and stylist Kevin Carter of the Detroit suburb Farmington Hills for “Proud Peacock,” a big spray of feathers with hair shaped into what looked like the bird itself.
But the real secret to being a big bouffant beauty?
“Pain. Lots and lots of pain,” said 5-foot-1 Melody Longobardi, 26, an account manager and one-night model from the Hyannis, Mass., area who sported a 3-foot cherry tree on her head. “It's all about posture and pain.”
Longobardi was standing at a 45-degree angle, the hairy cherry tree on her head giving her a gravity-induced, yet graceful, backbend.
Stylist Dru Sisson, 25, said she chose the cherry tree to symbolize the strength and beauty of womanhood. Of course, she said, her previous models were mannequins, with plastic necks, who didn't need to walk.
Longobardi said she had a strategy to keep the tree aloft: “Keep your bum out and your head straight.”
Sisson chimed in that women need to walk like that to be ergonomically correct anyway, not just when they wear foliage.
But that approach would have been the undoing of Melissa Minuti, who was tightly wrapped in a slinky slip of inky black hair.
“She hasn't been able to sit for five hours,” stylist Jamie Rogers, 24, of Weare, N.H., said as she added a last dash of hairspray to Minuti's backside. “The idea came to me in a dream. I saw someone in a hair suit in my dream. It was like an epiphany. I just woke up and thought hair suit, that's what I need to do,” Rogers said.
Minuti, 23, of Manchester, didn't look amused.
“It's a little itchy,” she said.
Some people might dream of having the freedom in real life to walk tall with a bun of birds, or windmills of feather-duster frills. But Boston paralegal Kelly Norton, sporting a gigantic puffball of tufted hair clumps and chain mail, said she was seriously considering wearing the hairstyle to work the next day.
“Actually I might have to,” said Norton, 28. “I think it's welded to my head.”