New Hair host Katherine Ryan: 'I was bullied for my sense of humour in Canada!'

All manner of outrageous hairstyles, from iconic bridges to beautifully crafted butterflies, will be on show as 10 amateur crimpers battle it out in Hair, the Bake-off style competition that's now moved from BBC3 to BBC2. Although stylist-to-the-stars Alain Pichon and royal hairdresser Denise McAdam remain as judges, the series has a new host, Canadian-born comedian Katherine Ryan, who tells What's On TV all about it…

So how is Hair different now it's moved to BBC2?

"With the show coming over to BBC2 they decided to take it in a funny direction, so I get to make my comic observations. There's plenty to comment on, because as well being in the salon, this time we have the contestants out in the world doing up the hair of real people."

Are you a big Hair fan?

"I was a big fan of Hair when it was on BBC3. It was a different format then. I just love doing hair. My Instagram is full of photos of the intricate ways that I do my daughter's hair for the school run and I love doing hair unapologetically."

There's a freestyle round in each episode with different wacky themes – such as Architecture, Fantasy, Nature, History of The World, Horror Hair and Catwalk Hair - plus a tense Eliminator round with tasks such as pony tails having to be done perfectly. What were your highlights?

“My favourite is the freestyle round, where the hairdressers let loose with their imaginations. We all want to see the big hair and if it's going to fall over! One male model was filmed walking home with hair that had been made into a colourful butterfly! It was hilarious to watch!?"

The contestants are all keen amateur hairdressers – what were they like?

"We have a really great range of contestants this time. Our youngest is  21-year-old Meggan from Newcastle who had big hair and was obsessed with Disney princesses. Our eldest, Lesley who's 58, is amazing because she'd had 100 careers in her life and when she retired at 53 she decided to embark on her dream of becoming a hairstylist. She took a few classes and ended up in our competition. She's so happy all the time, and just takes everything on the chin!"

How stressed out did the contestants get?

"We had some tears, and a lot of sweating. One girl Maria wore really high heels every day. I was like, What are you doing? It was strategic though, because she was small and she wanted to get a good angle on the hair. So there were a lot of sacrifices made. Some of them would cry when they were eliminated but they'd also cry when they remained in the competition. I really dreaded the eliminations because I had to deliver the news every time. My style was giving them a moment to comfort one another and then I'd go in."

What's the worst haircut you've seen or ever had?

"I see in Britain now a kind of epidemic of badly done extensions which is a real tragedy. I've had a lot of mistakes. My hair used to be white, with a Christina Aguilera vibe. Then I cut my hair really short like boy-short when I was 15 because I'd seen it in a magazine. I didn't consider that I really had a manly facial shape. It was a tough time. The best hair is natural hair. Going as close to nature as you can with some small enhancements.”

Do your family in Canada follow your career in Britain?

"No they're not fans of mine. I don't know if they can access this show over there. But my friends and family probably just think I died. They don't know where I am or why I don't call back. But I'm excited that there’s something my daughter can watch because she's at the age where she can’t watch my stand-up anymore. When she was a baby she could come along but not now because she'll pick up too much. It'll be my British family and friends watching Hair."

Do you feel settled here?

"Absolutely. I'm very proud to be from Canada but I wouldn't live there again. I was ruthlessly bullied in Canada for the way my sense of humour is. It was certainly not embraced. I don’t blame Canada for that. I kind of blame my small backwards town. But I love the UK comedy circuit and the pub culture of British people coming out to support live comedy or music or theatre, they’re just such a nation of people who love comedy and that’s why a lot of American and Canadian comedians move here and never look back. I love Britain and I love being a British mum. I'm not an outsider."

Did you grow up on British comedy?

"Yes, things like Only Fools and Horses and Ab Fab. I was lucky because my dad's Irish and only moved to Canada when he was 30 so he was really connected with his Irish family and we’d go back there every year so I grew up on Mrs Brown’s Boys, Father Ted and the tabloid culture… My nan had all these tabloids and it’s amazing that in this country there are more daily newspapers than in America and Canada combined. This culture has always been part of my life. My nan was obsessed with the royal family. Every little girl in Canada got woken up when Princess Diana tragically died with our mothers crying. But I've always felt British in a way. I'm never leaving, my daughter would be horrified - she hates my accent! So I'm glad that my accent has softened a bit plus I don't talk as loud as I used to."

* Hair kicks off on BBC2 on Monday 13 July at 10pm.

Nicholas Cannon
TV Content Director on TV Times, What's On TV and TV & Satellite Week

I'm a huge fan of television so I really have found the perfect job, as I've been writing about TV shows, films and interviewing major television, film and sports stars for over 25 years. I'm currently TV Content Director on What's On TV, TV Times, TV and Satellite Week magazines plus I previously worked on Woman and Woman's Own in the 1990s. Outside of work I swim every morning, support Charlton Athletic football club and get nostalgic about TV shows Cagney & Lacey, I Claudius, Dallas and Tenko. I'm totally on top of everything good coming up too.