Chicago native Jessi Dean believes ‘the proof is in the hair’ and offers a full line of hair care solutions including custom wigs, hairpieces and extensions through the Jessi Dean Human Hair Extension brand . Twenty years of experience coupled with a highly developed sense of style, color and form have enabled Jessi to build customer loyalty and begin a career as a department head for major film and television productions, including MGM’s “Candyman” produced by Jordan Peele, FOX’s “Next”, Netflix’s “Beats” and CBS’s “The Red Line”. Jessi’s also styled the hair for HBO’s “Lovecraft Country”, Showtime’s “The Chi”, FOX’s “The Oprah Winfrey Show” and “The Big Leap”. Upcoming, Jessi’s work can be seen in “Power Book IV: Force” by Starz and “The Shining Girls” by Apple TV +, with Phillipa Soo and Elisabeth Moss.
The Chicago Native is an experienced professional who has been designing hair for over 20 years. Jessi Dean is a member of Local 476 and an alumnus of Pivot Point and Dudley Schools of Cosmetology. Currently, her work can be seen in Universal Pictures’ Jordan Peele film Candyman. She’s a passionate hair designer and spoke to the Chicago Defender about her experience as a department head for a big movie.
Chicago Defender: What prompted you to style your hair, and when did you know it was something you wanted to do as a career?
Jessi Dean: I think I was born loving hair. Since I was young, I was this little girl who cut the hair of my dolls and styled them. So I always knew that I wanted to be a hairdresser. I went to college knowing this and left after my freshman year because I was spending more time in the dorm doing the ladies’ hair on campus instead of going to class.
I made my living working in the dormitory.
Chicago Defender: Have you always wanted to get into hair styling for movies, music, and TV? How did you manage to break into this industry?
Jessi Dean: Absolutely. I always wanted to work in the entertainment industry, but I didn’t know how to get there. I didn’t have the resources, just a dream and a vision. It was about networking and putting oneself in a situation. I sued people I met who advised me to contact the local unions; then i started working at a salon called AJs because i heard the owner was a celebrity stylist. He was working in the capacity and the field in which I wanted to work.
He became a mentor and would offer opportunities to take jobs he couldn’t take. The rest is history.
Chicago Advocate: You are the president of the hair department in the new movie, Candyman. Watching the movie, the women have beautiful natural hairstyles. What was the creative process for you? How did you determine how you wanted the hairstyles to be in the movie?
Jessi Dean: It’s really the art of imitating life. Take for example the character of Brianna (played by Teyonah Paris). She is a curator, an artist, a designer. I felt her hair would reflect an extension of her personality. She would be a woman who wears her natural hair in a versatile way. For Candyman, most of the looks involved natural hair. I have worked with natural hair most of my career, so it comes naturally to me. I absolutely loved Teyonah’s look. Her hairstyles really allowed me to show off the versatility of natural hair.
Working with Vanessa E. Williams to create the look for her character, Anne-Marie McCoy, was also a great experience. Since her character was in the original film, we wanted to show her journey from then to today in her hair. She stayed true to who she was in the original movie, and I loved capturing that in a creative way. I wanted the hairstyles to be beautiful and effortless, like so many women in real life.
Chicago Defender: You used real jewelry and turned it into hair jewelry for some of Brianna (Teyonah Parris) looks?
Jessi Dean: Yeah, for Teyonah I created hair accessories from jewelry to give her natural hair a different look. I also created a pin-up style so that it also shows a more elegant look. As a creative character, I thought she would be the kind of woman who would do something like this to make her hair more unique and original. It’s all about versatility. I love working with different hair textures and creating personalities and characters through my styles.
Chicago Defender: Natural hair is big now. What advice would you give to women who want to go natural or to women who are already natural to take care of and maintain their hair?
Jessi Dean: So many women are complaining about the texture of their curl pattern, but you can’t fight it. Find out what works for your hair, curls, and texture. Don’t compare your texture to someone else’s. I think that’s where the frustration can come in.
Work with what you have and be the prettiest version of yourself.
Chicago Defender: You’ve worked as a stylist for over 20 years. What do you like the most about it?
Jessi Dean: I love expressing my creativity through hair, but more importantly whether I’m styling a celebrity or a client, the most rewarding part for me is making women feel good about the way they look. It pays me more than anything.
Chicago Defender: As the head of the film department in charge of hair, what does this process look like?
Jessi Dean: It’s my role to create characters through their hairstyles. This requires having a research team with regard to the script. Then I imagine the vision, and our team comes together to execute it. Even outside of the hairdressing department, I loved working with everyone on the film. The whole process was so inspiring. I was honored to be part of this team.
Everyone constantly feeds on each other in creative ways. This is the inspiring part; watch each department do its job. I often call it the ultimate team. All of these components, departments, etc. come together to make this special movie. You understand that you can’t just depend on your craft, but that you have to bring all the expertise into the set.
Watching it all unfold makes me want to step up my game all the time.
Chicago Defender: You were born and raised in Chicago. What is it like working on a movie set in your hometown?
Jessi Dean: It’s a surreal moment for me in my career, growing up in projects to now live out my dream while working as head stylist on the film Candyman. Working in my hometown on this film was a moment that I’m grateful for and can’t see myself stopping anytime soon.
Jessi Dean is currently working on Power Book IV and the upcoming series, The Shining Girls. Find her on social networks @HairbyJessiDean
Candyman, directed by Nia DaCosta and produced by Jordan Peele, is currently in theaters. On her opening weekend, Candyman grossed over $ 20 million, making Nia DaCosta the first black female director to top the box office charts. The remake of the cult classic from 1992 picks up where the first film left off in a now gentrified Cabrini Green. The film stars Yahya Abdul-Mateen, Teyonah Paris, Colman Domingo and Vanessa E. Williams
Danielle Sanders is a journalist and writer living in Chicago. Find her on social networks @Danie Sanders20 and @DanieSandersOfficial.