Characters abound on “Chicagolicious” docu-series

Style salon owner AJ Johnson does a style makeover

“Chicagolicious,” a new Style Network docu-series being filmed here, hosted a launch event offering makeovers to anyone who got in line early enough.

In the spirit of journalistic excellence, this intrepid reporter made herself physically and emotionally available to be made over.  

“Chicagolicious” is a spin-off of the top-rated “Jerseylicious” and follows stylist A.J. Johnson and his quirky staff-to-the-stars, at Ajes Salon.  

The 10 hour-long episodes were produced by Endemol USA, which also produces “Jerseylicious,” Style Network’s number one hit series.  It will premiere June 11 at 8 p.m.

Johnson’s clients include actresses like Jennifer Hudson, Iman, and Angela Basset.  Style Network is betting the Jerseylicious audience sticks around to check out how another, contrasting salon delivers its version of chic.  

Producer Carey Lundin before… and after Style makeover Make-up artist Katrell spelled out the chief difference: “Jersey style you can see from a mile away — big hair, smoky eyes and leopard prints.” Here in low-key and proud-of-it Chicago, anyone with that Jersey look would a bit nutty. Is there a smack-down battle in the future? 

The free makeover sessions where held at Scoop, a high-end couture clothing shop on Rush Street. A.J. and his hair and makeup wizards worked in the windows, so we were on display to a line of candidates, of every age and ethnicity. I got a thumbs-up from my audience when AJ styled my hair. But it didn’t stop there.

Scoop stylists dressed me in new, step-out-of-my-comfort-zone rags.  I came in wearing a gray jacket and black jeans and emerged wearing pink pants, wedge heels and an off-the-shoulder cream blouse.  

Stylist Macray shouted “Owww!” maybe that was just salon talk, but I sure looked made over – and I thought my hotness quotient bumped up a notch!

Stylists are the main characters

The show’s main storyline follows A.J. and his stylists as they create “amazing looks for red carpet and fashion runway events.”

Katrell, Macray and AustinLocally-based executive producer Nick Senter, who recently moved back from L.A., described the cast as “eight tremendous characters, each with strong opinions and strong wills.” Senter managed the 10 weeks of shooting here, which  employed up to 30 people – 70% of them local — including four camera crews, two lighting directors and two assistant cameramen.  The series is being edited in L.A.   

I wanted to see if these characters — described as people who “love to create drama from the looks they give their clients to the manner in which they deal with each other” — really act this way in real life. 

Here’s a quick take on each one, with their description from the press materials.

A.J. JOHNSON: “Entrepreneur, launching a new product system, styles for star-studded events, will not stop until he is the go-to style and beauty expert in the country.” 

CL:  A.J. was so intently focused on the day’s events that the only thing he did for me was a quick style of my hair as he outlined his grand ambitions. A driven man, it took him less than a year to get this show on the air.

NIKI: AJ’s best friend and roommate, keeps AJ grounded, she sometimes clashes with Q who is motivated by money.” 

CL: Niki was the most calming force on hand, living-up to her description. She did conflict a bit with Q, but kind Niki was the one who kept everything moving.

Q: “AJ’s cousin, marketing director, her primary focus is money. She must decide between her personal and professional lives when her husband accuses her of putting job above family.”  

CL: My take on Q was that she was the person who had gotten this show off the ground, and — if I were AJ — there’s a temptation to abuse her drive and ambition.

MACRAY, “Small town boy living in Chicago, seeks recognition as the best stylist in the salon.” 

CL: He enthusiastically shouted “Oowwwwww!” when he liked something. The “Macray way” seemed fun and sweet. Macray is my pick for audience favorite.

KATRELL, “former model is a new make-up artist, struggling to fit into AJs salon, she competes with Valencia.”

CL: Katrell seemed straightforward, somewhat buttoned-down. She did a great job on my make-up.  

HOWARD, “Head barber who worries that AJ isn’t putting enough time into marketing the barber business, frustrated, his philandering gets him into trouble.”

CL: Howard’s world was rocked a decade ago when he was pulled out of obscurity by AJ, who now has him working with high rollers. Howard is helping Macray lose weight. He admitted his flirting has gotten him into trouble, in front of me he called Katrell “Mrs. Godfried,” as in Mrs. Howard Godfried, her response was “In your dreams!”

VALENCIA, “With AJ longer than any other stylist, believes she deserves special treatment. A diva who was once the darling, she now competes with Katrell.”

CL: I didn’t get a chance to talk to Valencia, but everyone can relate to someone who was once the darling and now needs to reclaim the spotlight.

Ajes Salon is located at 648 W. Randolph.

Carey Lundin produces and directs reality shows, documentaries and commercials.