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Debra Messing: Luscious Curl Secrets


Many people might be surprised to discover that those perfect bouncy curls and waves that Debra Messing (a true Leo born August 15, 1968 in Brooklyn, New York) tosses around on the Red Carpet or in her TV role as Grace Adler on Will And Grace do not come naturally.

(Image of Debra Messing Will & Grace 2002 - NBC - Universal Photos - Chris Haston - all rights reserved).

Yes, it's true that the actress has naturally curly tresses, but it takes one famous celebrity hairdresser, a couple of hot irons and the proper styling products to achieve those luscious ringlets that she has become famous for.

The truth of the matter is that most people with naturally curly hair like Debra's are not blessed with perfect curl patterns. The part where you tumble out of bed and your natural curls are laying in perfectly formed ringlets just doesn't exist in real life. Yet people blessed with natural curls or waves don't realize how much effort goes into "adjusting" celebrity curls.

Debra's Celebrity Hairdresser

Debra's famous hairdresser both on and off the screen for the past 8+ years, Luke O'Connor, is part of a super celebrity hairstyling team. Luke and his hair colorist wife Rona, owns the famous Lukaro Salon in Beverly Hills.

(Image of Debra Messing and Ed Burns - Will & Grace - 2005 - NBC - Universal Photos - Chris Haston - all rights reserved)

Luke not only comes from a long line of hairdressers (his grand-father and uncles were barbers) he paid his dues in the 70s by studying with Vidal Sasson and Trevor Sorbie.

In fact, it was at the Lukaro Salon that Rona and Luke first worked with Debra spending over six hours making over the natural medium/dark ash brunette with actress into a stunning redhead with spectacular curls. Rona transformed Debra's natural brunette tresses with a carefully designed range of six different shades of complimentary red hues.

The fabulous talented colorist also cops to painting strategically placed vertical streaks of contrasting color ribbons in hues of copper, golden copper and auburn to show off Debra's curls. She positions the array of red hues so that they literally cascade down the length of the curls picking up the curl's definition.

Rona goes with lighter shades around Debra's face to open it up and show off her beautiful eyes, but is careful to back up the lighter colors with darker ones for leverage. Rona has reported that she uses threads of color that are about one inch apart in a vertical pattern.

So how did Debra find her way to the fabulous Luke and Rona team? Before she was signed to do Will And Grace but after Ned And Stacy (with Thomas Hayden Church) she was working on a short lived series for ABC.

(Image of Debra Messing - Will & Grace - 12/01/04 - NBC - Universal Photos - James White - all rights reserved)

The ABC set hairdresser discovered that Debra wanted a makeover for her unruly, misbehaving brunette (yes, they were originally a medium brown) curls. The stylist hooked Debra up with Rona and Luke and the rest, as they say, is hair history.

Does Debra love or hate being a curly girl? Debra was quoted in People Magazine as saying that when she was working on her master's in fine arts in acting at New York University she "didn't to deal with the upkeep" or her curls. So she "cut it all off a la Sinead O'Connor". So what did the beloved curly haired actress learn from that haircut? She learned "to think twice before doing something like that again".

If you were to ask Debra now how she feels about her copper curls, she would tell you that she loves them and how much versatility she has to style her hair in a wide range of looks that range from stick straight to wild and full of ringlets.

Debra's Curls - Props For Grace

It has been reported by Luke that Debra considers her hair color and style to be an essential part of her Grace Adler character which has been likened to a modern version of Lucille Ball. As a result, during the show's lifespan, with the help of Luke and Rona, Debra's hair has gone from very curly, perfectly formed ringlets to softer wavy tresses.

(Image of Eric McCormack as Will, Debra Messing as Grace - NBC Photo: Chris Haston - all rights reserved).

Luke constantly works with Debra to create different looks for every Will And Grace show, and when possible, even for different scenes within a show. Luke and Debra agree that it is important to show the evolution of the Grace Adler character through her hairstyles. Luke is also a big fan of using hair accessories such as mock tortoise clips that blend nicely into Debra's strands for a subtle but effective change. He also will utilize higher end sparkly hair gems to dress up Debra's look.

Sometimes the styling goal for the Grace show is to present the impression that Debra's hair automatically falls into a series of naturally constructed cascading curls. During her pregnancy in 2004, her look combined carefully planned straighter strands with lots of body and volume.

(Image of Eric McCormack as Will, Debra Messing as Grace - NBC Photo: Chris Haston - all rights reserved).

Off the set Debra reportedly loves to wear her curls up in a random pony or messy bun. She also favors mixing up her styles by adopting sleek and straight looks for Red Carpet appearances. When Luke designs even a simple pony for Debra he insists on creating a fabulous finished tail that is worn either very high or very low against the nape of the neck. Luke likes to dress up the ponies at the base or even along the length of the tail.

Luke takes Debra from curly to straight by blowing her strands straight with a boar's head brush and then fine tuning with a series of flat irons. He favors Conair straightening irons. Depending on her gown, Debra may opt instead for a romantic updo or twist that may utilize an array of curls.

(Image above of Eric McCormas as Will Truman and Debra Messing as Grace Adler - Will & Grace - 12/01/04 - NBC - Universal Photos - Chris Haston - all rights reserved)

Curls: Out Of Control To Polished

Luke works hard on the NBC set to transform Debra's wild curls into a more polished, well behaved look for her natural curls. When they first started working together in the pre-Grace Adler days, Debra wanted to transition towards sleek strands. Luke admits that Debra has "messy curls" with a mix of straight, wavy and curl textures that all basically do their own thing without hairdresser intervention.

What is his secret for fabulous curls and waves? The right hair care products coupled with a series of curling irons. While most people with natural curls might be surprised that curling irons would be used on naturally curly hair, it is part of Luke's secret for Debra's fabulous ringlets. Luke has reported that the advantage of using a curling iron is that he can easily crank up or smooth out the curls. It gives him tons of styling flexibility.

For her role on Grace Luke first preps Debra's long, layered dry curls with a good leave-in conditioner or styling cream. Using a variety of different sized curling irons (Luke has been known to use irons that range from 1" to 1 1/2" in diameter), he separates all of her strands into smaller 1-2" sections. He completely curls her entire head of curls wrapping each section around the barrel of the irons into a spiral shape.

Besides his array of curling irons, Luke also likes to play with a professional three prong waving iron when working with Debra's strands. The waving iron is a mixture of a waving and curling iron. Luke loves to use it on Debra's hair because he finds that it gives him a lot of artistic freedom to create awesome chic looks that he can constantly adjust, change and play with.

Although it sounds like a lot of work and time intensive, Luke has confided in the past that he and Debra have worked out a system that gets her in and out of his chair, perfectly coiffed, in less than one hour.

Not only has Luke become very comfortable with Debra's hair type and texture, he has learned lots of little shortcuts and tricks that streamline the process.

(Image of Debra Messing on Will & Grace - NBC - Photo by Lorenzo Aquis - all rights reserved).

Because her naturally curly hair tends to be dry, Luke varies the styling products he uses. To replace lost moisture from constant styling, Luke deep conditions Debra's hair at least once a week. He also uses hair care and styling products that are specifically designed to work with curly hair and with heat styling tools.

To avoid heat damage, Luke recommends holding the curling iron in place for a short amount of time. He points out that you don't have to hold the iron in place very long to get the curl to form. .

He releases the newly formed spiral curl and then carefully stretches it while it is cooling to give it a softer wavier look. Luke has commented that when he modifies the tension of his fingers while pulling on the warm curls, he can achieve different patterns of curls.

Bottom line, the more he stretches, the wavier Debra's hair becomes. When Luke wants a tighter curl that is akin to perfectly formed ringlets, he does very little, if any pulling on the newly formed curls.

Dealing With Frizzies & Fly-A-Way Strands

One constant challenge is keeping control of any flyaways or frizzies.

(Image (L-R)Debra Messing as Grace, Blythe Danner as Marilyn - Eric McCormack as Will on Will & Grace - NBC Photo: Chris Haston).

Not only do pesky fly-a-ways show up in the backlighting onscreen, they give Debra's curls a messier, less finished look.

To make sure that her style remains polished during the long hours of television shooting, he uses hairspray to finish her style. Luke has noted that when the studio is air-conditioned, it can suck the moisture right out of the air setting the stage for static electricity and advancing frizzies.

The hot studio lights also take their toll and may cause Debra's strands to droop or the curls to drop. If necessary, Luke will race in between scenes and touch up Debra's hair with the appropriate irons and styling products to counter the effects of the lights. Luke has found that using curling irons work to help keep the curls tight and the right styling products help to lock in the moisture.


Ultimately the secret to Debra Messing's fabulous color and curls is the brilliant hairstyling and hair color work of Rona and Luke O'Connor or Lukaro Salon along with Debra's own love of her glamorous curly girl status. Debra's fabulous array of curls and waves also springs from the use of the right hair care products coupled with a series of irons and styling products along with the willingness to experiment.

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