A chubby girl who's a fan of big hairstyles and The Corny Collins Show. She also loves to dance. Played by Ricki Lake in the 1988 movie, Marissa Jaret Winokur in the 2002 Broadway musical, Nikki Blonsky in the 2007 movie, and Maddie Baillio in the 2016 telecast.
- Acrofatic: She knows every step, she knows every song. She even mentions in the 1988 movie to Seaweed that she's "Just practicing, oh and watching Negro Day on Corny Collins!", which adds to the trope on how well she dances.
- Adorkable: A friendly, kind of spacy young woman.
- Alliterative Name
- Beehive Hairdo: Actually, a flip hairdo with a big bump, which pre-dates Ann Marie.
- Beware the Nice Ones: In the march, she doesn't take kindly to one of the police officer's rudeness towards her and assaults him with her sign.
- In the original movie she does have a streak of this in some scenes, like when a woman hurt Link during the riot.
- Big Beautiful Woman: This is her appeal to the other characters and some fans.
- Big Fun: Tracy is a rare female example. Shes energetic and optimistic, which gets her to be a popular dancer in the Corny Collins Show.
- Book Dumb: Somewhat. Sleeps in class and doesn't really pay attention.
- Brilliant, but Lazy: Book Dumb she may be, but if she were to put more effort in her studies as much as she did in dancing, then it may say otherwise.
- Cloud Cuckoolander: Just listen to her daydreaming in "I Can Hear The Bells".
- Damsel out of Distress: In NBC's version, Tracy manages to break open her jail cell herself. She explains to Link that the police didn't have enough money for new bars, and that she crossed her fingers when she promised not to try and remove the aging ones. However, she still depends on Link to accompany her to Motormouth.
- Fangirl: Of the Corny Collins show.
- Fat and Skinny: The Fat to Penny's skinny.
- Graceful Loser: In the 2007 film, she has no problem with Inez winning the pageant over her since their friends.
- Little Miss Snarker: In the 1988 film. This does however get her in trouble at school though.
- Nice Girl: In the musical / 2007 film adaptation when she's friendly and sweet to everybody.
- Pint-Sized Powerhouse: "Pint-sized" isn't quite the right word, but take a look at Beware the Nice Ones and remember that she's usually played by shorter actresses (Ricki Lake is 5'4", Marissa Jaret Winokur is 4'11", and Nikki Blonsky is 4'10".)
- Skunk Stripe: After she joins The Corney Collins Show, her hair gets several blonde streaks going through it.
- Took a Level in Kindness: Is much nicer in the musical and 2007 movie. In the original, she's a very deliberate nonconformist to the point of viciousness.
- Wide-Eyed Idealist: Sometimes Tracy can be oblivious to the blatant racism existing in the 60s. Such examples are: saying that she would make everyday Negro Day on live TV and declaring that the black dancers should dance with the whites when Velma cancelled Negro Day. Even Maybelle lamp-shaded this.
Tracy's overweight mother, who can be a bit emotional at times. Played by Divine in 1988, Harvey Fierstein in 2002, John Travolta in the 2007 movie, and Fierstein again in the 2016 telecast.
- Acrofatic: It has been stated that they wanted Edna to be very light on her feet, which is one reason why John Travolta was cast in the latest movie.
- Clingy Jealous Girl: While not clingy, she does get very emotional when she saw Wilbur being seduced by Velma in the 2007 movie. This was justified though, as she thought that Wilbur was having an affair.
- Crosscast Role: It is a tradition that Edna is always played by a man.
- Hidden Depths: When Tracy gets her first endorsement gig from Mr. Pinky's Hefty Hideaway, she asks Edna to be her agent. In the 2007 film, Edna not only agrees, but shows a surprising amount of business savvy—she alters the contract for Tracy's benefit, speaking knowingly about legal proceeds ("I want a non-exclusive contract! Extensions by mutual option."), and even manages to get herself a free bustier.
- In the original movie, she also has an eye for a good bargain, and she herself do act as her manager as well on her own terms. Like in the '07 movie, she manages to, as Mr. Pinky said, "(You) drive a hard bargain, and rightfully so!"
- Mama Bear: Despite her timid and insecure nature, Edna will not tolerate any crap given to her daughter or anyone else she cares about! For instance she barricades a police officer from chasing her daughter, despite the fact that she was dragged into a protest she didn't really want to be in. In a deleted scene she also unflinchingly demands that the same police officer apologize to the van full of peaceful protesters. You almost forget this is the same woman who hadn't left her house in eleven years.
- The Makeover: Gets two in "Welcome to the 60's" and "You Can't Stop the Beat".
- Revenge: In the 2007 film, when Velma Von Tussle tries to trick her into believing she was seducing her husband, she ends up exposing her on TV, getting her fired.
- Took a Level in Kindness: Even moreso that Tracy, it's startling to see what a Jerkass Edna can be in the original movie when she's such a sweetheart in the musical.
Tracy's father. A prank shop owner. Played by Jerry Stiller in 1988, Dick Latessa in 2002, Christopher Walken in 2007, and Martin Short in 2016.
- Good Parents: He encourages Tracy's dreams and has full faith in her ability to succeed.
- Nosebleed: Has one when his wife, Edna, shakes her butt while dancing at the end in the 2007 movie.
- Nice Guy: There isn't a moment in the story where he isn't a good natured, humble, polite man to everyone he meets. He doesn't seem to hold any ill will against Velma for trying to seduce him in the 2007 film.
- Not Distracted by the Sexy: He's completely oblivious to Velma's seductive attempts to show her legs off to him.
- Oblivious to Love: When Velma tries to pretend to fall in love with him, he has no idea of her plan in the 2007 movie. Also, see quote above.
- Wide-Eyed Idealist: Even more so than his daughter. He sees the best in people, doesn't suspect Velma's motives and believes people will give Tracy a chance.
Little Inez: (about the Von Tussles) Are all white people like that?Wilbur: No. Just most of 'em!
- Played with in the offbeat song "It Doesn't Get Better Than This" from disc 2 of the collector's edition soundtrack for the 2007 musical, in which Wilbur recounts to Tracy the way in which his parents and uncle passed on words of inspiration from unlikely circumstances.
- Although he has a slightly more cynical side to him in the Broadway musical and the 2016 TV musical.
- Cloud Cuckoolander: Prone to spacing out and saying flaky things.
- The Cutie: A consistent trait of her's since the 1988 movie, complete with how she talks. Even with her hair straightened up, she still looks adorable as ever.
- Deadpan SnarkerMotormouth Maybelle: So you two better brace yourselves for a whole lotta ugly comin' at you from a neverending parade of stupid.Penny: So you met my mom?
- Dumb Blonde: Subverted in the end. She may be a Cloud Cuckoolander, but she's no dummy.
- Fat and Skinny: The skinny to Tracy's fat.
- The Glasses Gotta Go: She wears glasses for most of NBC's version, but removes them prior to crashing the Miss Hairspray pageant.
- Girlish Pigtails: Her usual hairstyle. She lets it down for the final number.
Amber's boyfriend (And later Tracy's) and the lead male dancer on The Corny Collins Show, Tracy's love interest. Played by Michael St. Gerard in 1988, Matthew Morrison in 2002, Zac Efron in 2007, and Garrett Clayton in 2016.
- Henpecked Boyfriend: In his relationship with Amber, who has him as an accessory rather than a true boyfriend. in the 2016 TV musical, he even confesses to Tracy (When he saw her in jail) that he was a tool to further Amber and Velma's gains.
- Love at First Sight: In the 1988 version, after Tracy got hit hard with a dodgeball, he checks on her if she's alright and asks her if she wants to go steady with him.
- Nice Guy: Especially when compared to his original girlfriend, Amber, and the rest of the Corny Collins Show council. In the 1988 movie, he even joins Tracy, Penny, Seaweed and Lil' Inez in their protest on live TV.
- Savvy Guy, Energetic Girl: The Savvy Guy to Tracy's Energetic Girl.
- Token Good Teammate: The only nice, non-prejudiced person on the Corny Collins Show council prior to their HeelFace Turn at the end.
Amber Von Tussle
An arrogant, snobbish dancer. She is also the daughter of Velma Von Tussle (And in the original, also to Franklin Von Tussle) and the lead female dancer on The Corny Collins Show. Played by Colleen Fitzpatrick in 1988, Laura Bell Bundy in 2002, Brittany Snow in 2007, and Dove Cameron in 2016.
- Alpha Bitch: Spoiled, obnoxious, self-centered, she's got this trope covered.
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: While she's openly antagonistic in previous versions, the 2007 film has her acting nice and treating Tracy like a friend, "defending" her from nasty rumors that she pretty blatantly came up with in the first place.
- Butt-Monkey: Has several unfortunate things happen to her either by coincidence or by the intent of several people she offends. Within her first appearance/song she is pushed aside by Shelley and Brad, dropped by Link, and smacked in the face by Corny.
- Defeat Means Friendship: In the stage musical, and potentially in the 2007 film.
- Driven by Envy: Most of Ambers actions towards Tracy is driven by the formers envy towards Tracy.
- Dumb Blonde: Subverted as Amber is not completely stupid, but she is pretty vapid.
- Graceful Loser: After some prodding in the musical, instantly in the 2007 film.
- Green-Eyed Monster: Mostly in the 2007 film. Amber is antagonistic towards Tracy mostly because she envies Tracys dancing skills & Tracy is a threat to Amber winning Ms. teenage Hairspray.
- HeelFace Turn: In the musical and 2007 film (made more explicit in a deleted scene showing Velma's arrest.)
- Hidden Depths: "I lost, Mom. Let's just deal with it!" Considering how awful and self-centered Amber was before, this was surprisingly mature of her.
- Humiliation Conga: Goes through this at the end of all versions.
- Icy Blue Eyes: Her blue eyes represent her bitchy & antagonistic nature towards Tracy.
- It's All About Me: She literally pushes away anyone who attempts to steal the limelight.
- Jerkass: Consistently, at least early on.
- Jerkass to One: Amber is unpleasant to everyone, but shes much more mean to Tracy due to her jealousy of Tracys dance skills.
- Lovable Alpha Bitch: After her HeelFace Turn in the musical, the 2007 film and the 2016 TV musical.
- Ms. Fanservice: Many fans find her attractive, in-show and out of it.
- Not Evil, Just Misunderstood: As described by Brittany Snow. It's implied in all versions that she only acts as mean as she does because her mother expects it from her and at the end of the 2007 film, she finally gets sick of it and makes a switch for the better.
- Spoiled Brat: Velma absolutely spoils her rotten in every version and it really shows when it comes to how she reacts to not getting something she wants.
- The Rival: Becomes this to Tracy in the climax of the movie when the latter gets on the Corny Collins show.
- Took a Level in Kindness: At the end of the musical, the 2007 film and the 2016 TV musical.
Velma Von Tussle
The racist manager of the WYZT station in the 2007 version and the 2016 TV musical. The mother of Amber Von Tussle and wife of Franklin Von Tussle in the 1988 version. Her goal is the keep the Corny Collins show segregated. Played by Debbie Harry in 1988, Linda Hart in 2002, Michelle Pfeiffer in 2007, and Kristen Chenoweth in 2016.
- Big Bad: She's the antagonist who causes every problem in the story, and the few she doesn't she fights to exacerbate. In the 1988 movie, she shares this with her husband Franklin and the station's boss Arvin Hodgepile.
- Defeat Means Friendship: Only in the stage musical.
- Establishing Character Moment: In the 2007 film. When she is introduced, shes being rude to the camera man, showing that shes not only a jerk as to blacks, but to other white people as well.
- HeelFace Turn: In the musical and the 2016 telecast alongside her daughter, though not in the 2007 film adaptation.
- Humiliation Conga: Suffers this along with her daughter in all versions.
- Jerkass: Especially in the 1988 and 2007 film versions.
- Kick the Dog: Just about all of the things she does are callous and mean-spirited.
- Lean and Mean: Thin, blonde and beautiful, as praised in the song.
- Manipulative Bitch: Nothing is beneath her, including tricking children, meddling in her daughter's dating life and seducing married men.
- Politically Incorrect Villain: Champion for on screen segregation. She's openly racist against black people, and a few lines in "Miss Baltimore Crabs" implies that she's an anti-Semite as well. She also can't stand fat people as well, as she openly dislikes Tracy and her mother Edna.
- Sore Loser: Not her exactly, but she has this reaction in the 2007 film when Inez wins over her daughter.
- Stage Mom: To Amber in all versions, micromanaging her life and career.
- Took a Level in Jerkass: She was already a jerkass, but the 2007 film takes it Up to Eleven.
- Took a Level in Kindness: At the end of the stage musical, although part of this is because her new job depends on it.
- Victoria's Secret Compartment: Hides the real votes here when rigging the pageant.
- Deadpan Snarker: He has his moments, such as his quote above.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: He's a snarky, egotistical person, but he's actually a Nice Guy underneath it all.
- His Nice Guy side is played up in the 2007 film where he's shown to be politically progressive, openly proposing integrating the Corny Collins Show and being frustrated with both Velma's bigotry in the 2007 version and with his boss Arvin Hodgepile in the 1988 version.
- Rules Lawyer: Is one when Velma tries to argue that Inez's victory is invalid in the 2007 movie.Corny: "Well, anyone who dances for it is eligible, rule 30, paragraph 5, asterisk down at the bottom."
- Small Name, Big Ego: Subverted. He's the show's host, so he has a big name to back up his big ego.
Penny's overbearing, strict, and racist mother, who is also highly religious. Played by Joanne Havrilla in 1988, Jackie Hoffman in 2002, Allyson Janney in 2007, and Andrea Martin in 2016.
- Freak Out!: Towards the end of the 2007 film, she loses it when Penny kisses Seaweed. It may have also been a response to her daughter somehow getting out of her room.
- In the 1988 film, she gets a big, funny one when she ends up on Baltimore's black community, and when Seaweed saves Penny from her house.
- The Fundamentalist: A rather extreme example, at least by the films' standpoints. She tries raising her daughter in a "Christian" lifestyle, but her methods are forced and she seems more controlling and abusive (as noted before) and less loving and understanding.
- Large Ham: Especially since she's played by Allison Janney. The 1988 movie is no slouch in the ham either as Joanne Havrilla's acting (See Freak Out above) takes it up a notch.
- My Beloved Smother: She actually ties her daughter to her bed with jump rope (on knots that rival the navy's) and sprinkles her with holy water. The original one even takes it Up to Eleven regarding towards blacks.
- Took a Level in Kindness: In the stage musical, but not in either of the film versions.
- Big Beautiful Woman: And proud. She goes as far as sing a song about it.
- Dark-Skinned Blonde: and she pulls it off royally.
- Nice Girl: Motormouth is loud and energized but she can be quiet and motherly when needed to be. She is kind-hearted, mature, loving, motherly, and thoughtful.
- Sassy Black Woman: Duh, it's Queen Latifah. Ruth Brown's take on the character has traces of it too.
Seaweed J. Stubbs
Motormouth Maybelle's son and Penny's love interest. A skilled dancer and singer on Negro Day. Played by Clayton Prince in 1988, Corey Reynolds in 2002, Elijah Kelley in 2007, and Ephraim Sykes in 2016.
- Nice Guy: A charming, pleasant, friendly, and just all around nice guy. Far more inclusive then the rest of the detention crew, and helps Tracy get into the show.
- Tall, Dark, and Handsome: In the original movie, he's basketball-player tall and very attractive.
Seaweed's little sister who is a skilled dancer for her age. Played by Cyrkle Milbourne in 1988, Danielle Eugenia Wilson in 2002, Taylor Parks in 2007, and Shahidi Wright Joseph in 2016.
- The Baby of the Bunch: Inez is one of the youngest characters and dancers of the show.
- Dark Horse Victory: Little Inez, a supporting character, ends up winning the pageant in the 2007 movie, despite Velma rigging the tallies to ensure Amber wins.
- Little Miss Snarker: She knows what she's worth and she won't apologize for it. Take this exchange from the Broadway musical.Inez: Hand over the crown, honey.Amber: You'll have to pry it from my cold, dead hands!Inez: That'll do.