News Column

Styling a career [Telegraph-Herald (Dubuque, IA)]

September 20, 2013

YellowBrix

It's 4:30 a.m.

While most are two or three blissful hours away from hitting the snooze button, in the city that doesn't sleep, neither does April Schuller.

A native of Wauzeka, Wis., and a 2006 Clarke University graduate in theater, Schuller, 29, delicately divides her time between New York and Los Angeles as a freelance hair stylist in television and film.

"After I graduated from Clarke, I didn't know what I wanted to do," Schuller said in a phone interview from New York. "I had no idea people could make a living styling wigs. I had no idea jobs like that even existed."

Schuller worked in child care development in Germany after graduating from Clarke. Upon her return to the U.S., she briefly managed a restaurant owned by Wolfgang Puck in Las Vegas.

That's when opportunity came knocking.

In 2009, Bob Neumann, Clarke adjunct instructor of drama, sent Schuller a brochure about the Juilliard School's prestigious wig and makeup internship.

"They only accept two people per year," Schuller said. "I never thought I would get in. When I found out that I had been accepted, I just said to myself, 'I have to do this.' After that, all kinds of opportunities starting opening up for me."

Schuller relocated to New York City. After completing the internship and learning how to build wigs for Juilliard's drama, dance and opera departments, she earned her cosmetology license from Arrojo Cosmetology School. She trained under Nick Arrojo, of TLC's "What Not to Wear," and joined the union.

Upon graduating, she landed her first Broadway show, "A Free Man of Color." Since then, Schuller has tacked on Broadway credits, including "The Phantom of the Opera" and "House of Blue Leaves," where she was the personal hair stylist for Ben Stiller.

She recently made the move into television and film, working as a hair stylist for the Showtime hit series, "Nurse Jackie," and the movie, "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles." She also worked for the TV special, "The Kennedy Center Honors," attended by President Obama and Michelle Obama.

Aside from schmoozing with the president and first lady, Schuller has done hair for some of the biggest names in the industry. But she's not one to style and tell.

"I like to be discreet," Schuller said. "I think part of why certain celebrities like to hire me is because I treat them like normal people. I never get star-struck or nervous. I honestly don't know why that is, but I never do.

"Our industry is relatively small," she added. "I have found that if you show up for work on time and do your job well, you will get hired again and your name will get passed on. I don't have a resume. Usually, I get phone calls asking about my availability."

Schuller said hair stylists frequently are hired at the last minute. As a freelancer, she's tapped by celebrities, producers of TV shows and movies or the head hair designers of Broadway productions - though Schuller seldom finds herself venturing into theater as much these days.

"I like to remain open to opportunity," Schuller said. "Every now and then I will get to work with wigs on the set, and that is fun and refreshing. But since I made the transition to TV and film, I haven't done as much theater."

The perks of the job, Schuller said, is getting to experience New York City on a whole other level, often shooting on location. That has included New York's inner city morgue and the city's first bank vault, which has since been shut down and is located in an abandoned building in the Financial District.

"I get the opportunity to see things that are not accessible to the public," she said.

Schuller recently was styling hair for the CW series, "Beauty and the Beast," which was filming at the World Trade Center.

"We had the whole area and got a special tour," she said. "It's amazing."

The difficulty of the job is the long hours and erratic schedule. Often, Schuller's call times to the set are early in the morning and wrap up in the evening.

"But there are never any guarantees," she said.

Schuller spent the past five months working on a movie. As of this writing, her week included balancing her schedule between four television shows.

"Anytime I get invited to a friend's wedding, I RSVP, but I don't book my flight until about five days before," said Schuller, who added that a typical day can range anywhere from 10 to 18 hours - sometimes longer - five or six days per week.

"You work until all the scenes scheduled for that day are shot," Schuller said. "It's hard to make plans in advance, especially when you're working on several shows at a time."

Some of her favorite projects have included MTV's "I Just Want My Pants Back," where Schuller said she learned the ropes by working alongside friend and hair stylist Amanda Miller. She encouraged Schuller to pursue TV and film. Schuller also said she's enjoyed working with Mandy Lyons, Sarah Jessica Parker's hair stylist for "Sex and the City."

While Schuller said she's loving this phase of her career, it's miles from where she hopes she'll be years from now.

"I'd like to do this for about 15 years or so," Schuller said. "What I'd ultimately like to do is open my own bed and breakfast - someplace like Costa Rica. So, that's what I'm working toward."

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