One moment of discovery can be a life-changing event. Scientists have their "eurekas," Oprah has her "lightbulbs," and haircolorists have their "ahas." We asked four top tinters to share turning points that changed the way they look at color.
"Hair is Fiber" or "The Bald Blonde"
Jo Blackwell, owner Dop Dop, New York, NY
Blackwell was thrilled and flattered when in 1993 she was recruited by JOHN DELLARIA SALON in New York from her job at VISIBLE CHANGES SALON in Houston. "Not that I didn't love where I was, but this was a chance to run an entire color department and continue building a reputation as a specialist in corrective color," says Blackwell. Not long after she hit the Big Apple, she had just applied bleach to a platinum blonde with hair halfway down her back, when her new boss invited her to do a consultation with Lauren Hutton. Excited to be face-to-face with the screen goddess, Blackwell bounded upstairs where the star was waiting, and the two began to chat.
Fifteen minutes passed, and Blackwell glanced over the railing to her station to check on her assistant's progress. To her horror, she saw that nothing had changed - the cap was still on her client's head (the assistant had gone to lunch). Panicked, Blackwell leapt into action and hurried the woman to the shampoo bowl. "But when I tried to rinse her, all her hair fell out. She sat up and looked like a downy chick," says Blackwell. The colorist began sobbing convulsively, and apologizing. Luckily, the client - who was a friend - began to laugh. She'd just been offered a role in a film - but had turned it down because it required her to shave her head. Now she could take the part.
"It was so humbling for me," says Blackwell. "Here I had been recruited because of my color expertise, and I had melted someone's hair off. I had seen hair split, but never melt. It was so clear that hair is fiber and it will tear if it is abused." And the bald blonde? She's still Blackwell's client today - and she has platinum hair that hangs halfway down her back.
"Go With Your Gut" or "The Actress Who Almost Killed Me."
Justine Beech, colorist, Umberto, Beverly Hills, CA
Being fairly new to the salon floor doesn't mean you don't have any experience. Back in the early Nineties, when Justine Beech first got her own station at Umberto in Beverly Hills, she'd already been through beauty school, and worked as an assistant to one of the town's top celebrity colorists. She definitely knew her stuff. So when "Hue Hollywood," her mentor, began spending one week out of every month working in New York, he handed over some of his famous regulars to her.
One day, a certain actress who went on to appear in numerous films and a long-running HBO series, showed up for a retouch. As she would with any client, Beech pulled the color card and began mixing up the formula. "It was a red, and I kept looking at it and thinking - something's weird here, there's no neutral in this at all," says Beech, who was concerned the mix would turn pink on the client's hair if she had any gray. "But I ignored that inner voice." She applied the color, and the roots came out - guess what? - hot pink. "She was in a rage," says Beech, "Because the same thing had happened a month before. It was corrected then, but no one fixed the card." Beech knew she could repair the actress's hair by adding some N, but the woman stormed out and never returned to the salon.
"I learned that you really have to go with your gut," says Beech. "You have to go with what you know. Don't over-think things."