What really happened when PEOPLE Music Editor Janine Rubenstein tried on Oprah's real hairstyles courtesy of the superstar's hair pro, Nicole Mangrum
What It Is: Everyone, including me, knows there’s only one Oprah Winfrey. From her legendary TV and film career, to the billionaire empire she presides over with incredible ease and zen, the woman (and future politician?) is unparalleled. But when I got the opportunity to step into her shoes — or rather, her actual hair — and try on the actual wigs that she’s worn, I jumped at the chance to see if looking like O could help me feel as amazing as O, too (watch the video above for the results!).
Who Tried It: Janine Rubenstein, PEOPLE Music Editor
Why We Tried It: I was inspired by the February issue of O, The Oprah Magazine, for which its perennial cover girl rocks three famous hairstyles, such as her iconic talk show bob and Diana Ross’s billowing mane. So, I called upon the woman who actually brought those looks to life, hairstylist pro Nicole Mangrum, to help me get the two of the three looks she did for the cover. Mangrum did one better: She not only told me all about the one-of-kind wigs she’s hand-crafted for the icon, she then placed those very same Oprah-worn wigs on my head. (Here’s hoping a bit of O magic seeped into my follicles!)
Level of Difficulty: 5/10. Popping on one of Mangrum’s beautiful wigs is so incredibly easy, especially when Mangrum herself is there to help. Becoming Oprah for a photo shoot and settling your nerves knowing you’re wearing something she actually wore, not so much.
How It Works: After getting a full makeup session, I sat down with Mangrum to get my hair prepped and find out just what it’s like styling Oprah. “My first time meeting her I was terrified and excited at the same time,” Mangrum told me as she pressed my edges before combing my hair in a perfect spiral and pinning it down. “I got invited to do Oprah for a Super Soul Sunday show and she walked in the room and I was just like [gasp] ‘She’s here!’ I remember my hands were shaking as I curled her hair, it was uncontrollable, but it was amazing!”
The next step was to do the first look and have Mangrum affix her iconic Oprah bob wig to my head. I was excited to learn Oprah and I have the same size head! The wig was surprisingly secure, beautifully layered and instantly transformative. But while it’s quick to put on, “It’s so time-consuming,” Mangrum said of making the wigs by hand. “Some can take two to three weeks with stitching, coloring it, cutting it and the fitting process.” As for where the works of art go after they’ve been worn, “I have a wig closet at home so I just set them right back on the shelf,” Mangrum said.
Soon it was time for my fake O, The Oprah Magazine shoot (above). I tried hard to channel Oprah’s big personality and positive energy while imitating her signature open-mouth smile as the cameras flashed. “Oprah has the biggest sense of humor,” said Mangrum of what the star’s like on set. “And she loves dancing to songs like Bruno Mars’s 24K Magic.” Before taking the wig off I got the chance to pop into a meeting and do my best Oprah impression for my colleagues. The wig definitely gave me Oprah-level confidence.
For the over-the-top Diana Ross-inspired look, Mangrum curled pieces at the front of my hair that would be exposed and left the rest wrapped and pinned. I’d expected the second wig to be a lot heavier given how long and full it was, but it was surprisingly light. Mangrum teased the wig and merged the front of my hair into the wig’s tendrils. Again, I felt like a new woman. “We have to have a fan, we have to play “I’m Coming Out” by Diana Ross,” said Mangrum of getting me into diva spirit for my second shoot. It worked! As the ’80s hits played and Mangrum herself took to fanning me, I felt every bit the icon.
The Verdict: Wigs are everything! I’d always thought they’d be itchy or heavy or just wouldn’t look right (or real) on me, but boy did Nicole Mangrum prove me wrong. Wearing Oprah’s wigs made me feel beautiful and powerful and they couldn’t have been easier to pop on and off. Sure, sitting for a cover shoot isn’t as effortless as it looks, and when you’re trying to beam like Oprah, your cheeks will definitely start to ache. But it was all so worth it. I’m now in the market for my first wig and I feel so much closer to Oprah. Win-win!