In the infinitely vast multiverse of the Daniels’ “Everything Everywhere All At Once,” anything is possible: Fingers become hot dogs, raccoons become chefs and rocks can even talk to one another. So, when the time came for hair department head Anissa Salazar to design the cast’s hairstyles — from a traditional Chinese opera headdress to a bagel sculpted from braids — her options were endless.
The A24 film stars Michelle Yeoh as Evelyn Wang, an exhausted mother and wife whose laundromat is being audited by the IRS. While she’s sitting with her husband Waymond (Ke Huy Quan) across from inspector Deirdre Beaubeirdra (Jamie Lee Curtis), she’s suddenly transported into a parallel dimension. There, an alternate version of Waymond explains that the future of the multiverse is being threatened by “verse-jumper” Jobu Tupaki (Stephanie Hsu) — who also happens to be Evelyn’s daughter, Joy — whom they must work to defeat.
It’s a lot to take in, but the film gloriously illustrates the endless versions of the Wang family (and Deirdre) through visual snippets that are at turns whimsical, apocalyptic, terrifying, heartfelt and hilarious. Salazar recognized her limitless opportunities to design the film’s hairstyles, but said she was anchored by the characters’ inner essence, which stays constant even as the world changes around them.
“One of the most important things was I wanted to make sure that they were consistent throughout,” Salazar said. “So, even though Michelle had over 40-plus hair changes, she still had that individuality with all the rest of the characters.”
The Evelyn from the main universe, whom Salazar referred to as the “hero,” has ratty hair with streaks of gray. In other timelines, she’s a movie star based on Yeoh herself, an opera singer, or a martial arts master with an extremely strong pinky. All told, the film was “a love letter to Michelle Yeoh’s career,” Salazar said, as she pulled some of her inspiration from Yeoh’s own filmography.
But Salazar said her biggest challenge wasn’t crafting the looks — it was executing them on a tight schedule, which sometimes included 10 changes in one day.
“I started in the horror indie world, and I feel like that kind of set me up for success with quick changes and turnaround times and building looks as you go, especially throughout your days when they’re very long,” Salazar said. “So that was really fun.”
Compared to Yeoh’s looks in the film, which Salazar said were made from a mixture of wigs and hairpieces, Hsu’s character is even more eclectic in her hairstyling. Jobu has mastered the powers of the multiverse, which means her character can jump between timelines and consciousnesses with ease, and she embodies every aesthetic imaginable as she wreaks havoc.
Salazar said all of the looks in the film were a collaboration between her, makeup department head Michelle Chung and costume designer Shirley Kurata. Nowhere is their teamwork more evident than in Hsu’s varied ensembles. Salazar pointed to one K-pop-inspired look, which features a rainbow teddy bear Jeremy Scott jacket and bangs styled to spell her name, as a favorite to design.
“[That look] was definitely inspired by Korean pop stars and anime characters, and we gave her this kind of e-girl inspo,” Salazar said. “So all the hair accessories I used on her, I had just purchased from my Christmas trip in Tokyo, so that was fun. And of course, the ‘Jobu’ on her forehead was just so much fun to do because it was one of those things where I’m like, ‘I don’t know if people are really going to pay attention to this, but I think it looks awesome.’”
But the clear pièce de résistance of the film is the “Bagel Jobu Temple Universe Look,” as Salazar referred to it. A feat of hairstyling and gravity, the design is meant to look like an everything bagel, a reference to the bagel-shaped black hole that Jobu creates to swallow herself and everything in the multiverse.
“We wanted her to have this ethereal kind of celestial goddess vibe, and I wanted to create something complex,” Salazar said. “The pattern I came up with represents the depth of this character’s interior where it felt futuristic yet unique, yet a little chaotic… I added different layers of beads, there were foam cutouts, there was wire used, and I used multiple varieties of braids, from fishtail braids to bamboo braids, even normal braids. And then we added a 22-inch extension ponytail for that dramatic length.”
Since the characters in the film don’t stick to one location or cultural practice, Salazar said she was mindful of the communities she was representing, from salsa dancers to Chinese opera singers. For example, in the latter, Salazar learned that the bangs were traditionally styled with tree sap, which led her to explore products that could mimic that texture.
“I think it’s always important to pull from that community to make sure that you’re representing them the most you can,” Salazar said.
Every hairstyle in the film is distinct, but there is one look that appears on multiple characters: Deirdre’s short-banged bob that is worn by her and Evelyn when they live out their love story in the hot-dogs-for-hands universe. That hairstyle, Salazar said, was chosen by Curtis herself from a stock photo of a stressed-out IRS tax agent on one of the reference boards. Salazar then recreated the hairstyle for Curtis, which she said would sometimes “look like Lord Farquaad from ‘Shrek,’’ so we had to stay away from that.”
“There’s a really tricky part to do lived-in natural hair, it takes so much more work than you actually think,” Salazar said, adding that it was chosen for Yeoh as well, in order to mimic “couples that dressed the same.”
Overall, Salazar stressed her gratitude to the Daniels, her longtime collaborators who she said “trust me with an idea I want to bring to the table, which is, as an artist, just so relieving.”
“That’s the nice thing of working with the Daniels and being around that same crew and family — everybody is very passionate about what they do,” Salazar said. “Otherwise you wouldn’t be spending 18 hours a day on set. People are just putting in all their effort to get it done. It’s a really nice environment to work in, where it doesn’t necessarily feel like a chore.”