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BravoTV's Better Half - Judge Mark Garrison


Mark Garrison Celebrity Hair Judge BravoTV's Better Half October 2007 All Rights Reserved.

BravoTV's Better Half Reality Show pits the spouses/mates of two trained professionals--such as hairdressers--against each other. The professional part of the spouse/mate combo have just two days to coach their novice partner to take on their jobs and beat the opposing "better half" in a final challenge for a $20,000 cash prize.

On October 30th (8:00ET/7:00CST pm) the Better Half segment will air dealing with two professional hairdressers who coach their spouses/partners to take on their hairstyling jobs. Bravo selected three famous hairdressing superstars to sit as judges of this segment.

Note: To visit the Better Half website go to: Half/index.php

One of the judges is celebrated hair stylist Mark Garrison, owner of his eponymous Madison Avenue salon, whose name is synonymous throughout the country with hair and beauty expertise.

Note: To visit Mark or his talented staff at the Mark Garrison Salon call 212-400-8000 for an appointment. The Mark Garrison Salon is located at 108 East 60th Street, New York, New York, 10022. Or you can email: [email protected].

Thanks to the great folks at Bravo, I had the tremendous honor of interviewing Mark about his judging duties on Better Half. The actual show was already taped so Mark was able to provide lots of great insights into his judging duties on the show.

Of course, Mark, who is very charming in person, didn't reveal the winner - you have to watch the show for that scoop - but he did provide lots of other insights.

Karen Shelton: Have you ever worked as a judge on a reality TV show before? Or worked as a judge in a similar capacity?

Mark Garrison: This was my first experience as a reality television show judge but I really enjoyed it. Along similar lines, I often receive images of celebrities from different magazines (e.g. Vogue, InStyle, Harpers Bazaar, Marie Claire, Life & Style Weekly, Ladies Home Journal, to name a few) where I am asked to critique the hairstyles. Commenting on celebrity hairstyles requires walking a fine line due to the fact they (the magazines) don't usually tell me which hairdresser actually created the styles I am judging.

In a similar judging opportunity I also had the recent opportunity to work with Tim Gunn from the hit TV show, Project Runway, as the hair stylist where I provided feedback on the hairstyles for a makeover show. When I was working with Tim Gunn I provided feedback on how the hair played into the over makeover.

Karen Shelton: Would you like to be a judge again on Better Half or a similar type of show?

Mark Garrison: Yes, Better Half was a wonderful experience. I look forward to doing this again in the future and would love to do it again with Bravo or with other similar types of shows. I would love any other opportunity that I might be offered to do judging again. The show was a brilliant idea and executed so well.

Karen Shelton: As a judge on Better Half, were you given a set of judging criteria to follow by Bravo or did you develop your own criteria?

Mark Garrison: Both. Bravo gave the judges a set of criteria to follow, which I did, but I also used my own criteria for judging. I used my own intuition on how to judge based on my many years in the salon working with clients as well as training people. I also judged how the newly trained Better Half hairstylists handled their clients and how they interacted with each other.

There was also set criteria for judging the events including overall hair care product knowledge, overall execution of each hair task, skill at performing a men's cut, a women's cut and color.

Karen Shelton: Did each individual judge stand on their own with their ratings or was their joint judging to come up with the final scores?

Mark Garrison: It was a combination of both. The other judges - Rita (Hazan), Ted (Gibson) and I talked together jointly but we also worked from an individual approach of how we wanted to rate and evaluate the different contestants.

Karen Shelton: If you were comparing yourself to the judges on American Idol would you say you were more like Simon Crowell, Paula Abdul or Randy Jackson?

Mark Garrison: I would say that my judging styles was most like Simon Crowell.

Karen Shelton: Would you classify yourself as a mean judge like Simon Crowell is often viewed by fans and contestants on American Idol?

Mark Garrison: No. I wouldn't say I was a mean judge. I would say that I was a fair judge. I have high standards and had a strong sense of what to look for in judging the contestants. I weighed a variety of factors but definitely was concerned with the overall knowledge of the hair business the two hair stylists had. I also judged the contestant's personal attributes and whether they were humble or cocky. I definitely was concerned about being as fair as possible to all of the contestants.

Karen Shelton: So you would classify yourself as a very fair judge?

Mark Garrison: Yes I was fair. But I was not going to soft pedal the results. I was like Simon on American Idol because I did go right to the point. I may have come off a little hard nosed but I was very direct and called a spade a spade. It wasn't personal.

Karen Shelton: Well I know just from the time I spent in hairdressing school and worked with hair that if I had been on the show and would have been criticized for my work I am sure that I would have cried or even been sobbing. It would have felt personal to me.

Mark Garrison: I know that as creative types hairdressers do tend to take criticism about their work with hair very personal but it wasn't that way at all. Hairdressers need to learn not to get caught up in personalizing constructive feedback. Don't ever make it about you. It really isn't.

This show was ultimately a contest and as such, it was my responsibility to be a good judge and weigh everything completely. If the delivery of my feedback ever seemed brutal it was only because the four contestants were competing against each other.

Also, brutal honesty is where the hairdressers were going to get the most benefit. They were competing to win and by being totally honest with my feedback it had the potential to help them improve their performances in the competition. When I was brutally honest I was able to help them learn the most from the experience.

I was able to ask them, why did you do it that way? Explain to me how to do it better?

Karen Shelton: Yes, I can see where giving absolute honesty would help them learn and why it was not personal.

Mark Garrison: There is a fine line when judging between being brutal and providing truthful feedback. I was also careful on the show to give credit where credit was due. I do this when I am training my own hairdressers. Ultimately I want to make them better and stronger as stylists.

The same was true of Better Half. I called the work as I saw it. If it was good, I said it was good, if it was bad, I said that it was bad and if it was WOW I said that as well. It was all constructive criticism and bottom line, I was about tough love.

I have tremendous respect for hairdressers and the profession and respect what it takes to be a good hairstylist. Everyone on the show did a superior job when you weigh all the factors involved in pulling this show off. It was a tremendous effort and a great success.

Karen Shelton: You have an industry reputation as being very hands on with your stylists at your salon and being an exceptional trainer. How did this translate to your role as a celebrity hair judge on Better Half.

Mark Garrison: I had a natural affinity to the professional stylists who were training their Better Half partners because of my own background in training. I am teaching all the time, I teach every day. I know how challenging it is to teach. At my salon (Mark Garrison Salon) in New York all the stylists start out as an assistant and they work their way from the bottom up. All of my stylists grow up in the salon and are trained extensively, none of them just walk in off the street and become full blown stylists. They grow up with me and I train them to be the very best.

What the Better Half contestants in this episode had to learn and do in 24 hours can easily take 2-3 years for a stylist to learn. I had the greatest amount of respect for the professional hairdressers and their better halves. I know from personal experience how hard it is to do what they did and how well they executed.

Karen Shelton: How did the personality of the two hair stylists and their better halves factor into your judging?

Mark Garrison: The show was interesting by the fact that there were two very different personalities displayed within the teams. As a result the dynamics of the show were of extreme polarity. There was the element of lots of cockiness and on the opposite end of the scale there was humbleness. It was very entertaining and definitely played into the end results for the judges. It was very interesting and it really makes the show fascinating to watch.

Karen Shelton: Which brings me to ask, how much value did the entertainment value of each of the two teams play into your judging?

Mark Garrison: Of course entertainment was very important because we want to entertain the viewers and it is a reality show. So yes, the entertainment value each couple brought to the table had a bearing on our judging. The vastly different personality styles definitely brought a lot of entertainment to the show and viewers will be drawn to watch the teams which could be described as cocky versus insecure.

Karen Shelton: How long did you spend on the set filming your part of the episode?

Mark Garrison: My part required that I be on the set and film for one day. Ted (Gibson) was required to spent a little more time because he was involved helping to create part of the show, but as a judge, I was only required to be available for one day.

Karen Shelton: You have achieved so much acclaim and success with your career (20+ years) and now you have added TV judge to your resume. What is next on your agenda? What additional goals are you working towards achieving?

Mark Garrison: I have several things I am working on including coming out with my own hair care line - I've started the development of several products. Developing my own product line was a natural evolution from my years in the hair industry. I also have a scissor line in development which will tie in with extensive education that I have developed for hairdressers. In addition, I am working on a series of step-by-step videos that will help my hairdressers as well as any hairdressers in the industry learn how to cut hair and work with hair. I want to get my videos in the hands of hairdressers to help them learn.

Karen Shelton: WOW. Videos are always so great. Who shoots these for you?

Mark Garrison: I do all the photography for all the salon's photo shoots and I also shoot the videos. I also do all the photo imaging

Karen Shelton: And of course you have your gorgeous salon (7,000 square feet, 5 floors, 46 stations) that won Best Salon of New York, is that correct?

Mark Garrison: Thank you, yes the salon was named Best of New York. I don't know if you know, but I actually bought the building the salon is in. I became a landlord which was quite a commitment, a big stretch. I now own the building that my salon is in as opposed to leasing a place. So now, not only am I a business owner, but, I’m a landlord as well, owning my own 5 story townhouse, that will have the salon. Buying the building was really taking on a lot of new responsibility.

I am also working on the salon's website and we are getting ready to launch a brand new site which will have a completely new design.

Karen Shelton: A few times when I have been in New York I have walked by your salon and I have to tell you that your building is gorgeous. It is in such a great neighborhood and the area is just lovely. The salon looks so impressive.

Mark Garrison: Thank you, where are you located?

Karen Shelton: In Dallas, Texas. But I come to New York often.

Karen Shelton: I know that in the past you have worked with a big list of celebrities (e.g. Ashley Judd, Sandra Bullock, Matthew McConaughey, to name just a few in a long list). Do you still work with celebrities? Have you done any new celebrity heads lately?

Mark Garrison: Yes, as a matter of fact, I just did Miss Piggy. I developed four wigs for her new role in a new Disney movie. I was very excited to be able to work with Miss Piggy and I would have to say Miss Piggy is the biggest celebrity to date I have had the pleasure of working with.

In fact, that is another thing I am working with. I have been doing a lot of work with wigs and am looking to launch a line in the future.

Karen Shelton: I know you are very busy, busy, busy so I will wrap this up but I am curious to know if you still sell your famous CandyWrapper hair curlers?

Mark Garrison: Laughing...yes, we still sell them through the salon and the salon's website. It's funny, those CandyWrapper curlers are still selling eleven years after they were first introduced. The CandyWrappers were initially introduced as a PR thing which happened to get picked up by the magazines and started selling like crazy. The curlers are made by hand by an employee's mother in Michigan. They are not mass produced overseas but made in the USA. From time to time they will be featured again and orders pour in. They are still very popular, which is sort of amazing after all this time.

Karen Shelton: Thank you so much for your time to chat about Bravo's Better Half. It was a great honor. I look forward to watching the Better Half show.

Mark Garrison: You're welcome. Thank you.


After spending time talking with the very charming Mark about his role as a judge on Bravo's Better Half I can't wait to see the actual show.

Don't miss this excellent reality show which is set to air on Tuesday, October 30th at 8:00 ET/7:00CT pm. Set your TIVOs, alarm clocks, video recorders or whatever to make sure you don't miss this exciting episode where professional hairdressers turn their better halves into hairstylists.

Note: To visit Mark or his talented staff at the Mark Garrison Salon call 212-400-8000 for an appointment. The Mark Garrison Salon is located at 108 East 60th Street, New York, New York, 10022. Or you can email: [email protected]

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