“After I was youthful I actually solely had one curiosity; it’s all the time been hair. I used to be like an idiot-savant. I could not do lots of issues, however should you confirmed me a photograph of somebody’s hair, I might replicate it. I practiced on my lovely mother, after which I bought a job at Gene Juarez, which was the most well liked salon in Seattle, mainly as a maid. I served tea, swept up, and did laundry. It was essentially the most superior job ever.
I’m the primary individual in my household to by no means have gone to school. That was an enormous deal. I knew I wished to be a hairdresser, however I didn’t go into it right away as a result of I believe I had a notion that the ladies who had been going to be hairdressers had been truly women that simply didn’t know what they wished to do. As a result of I did know what I wished to do, I didn’t wish to be lumped in with them. [Laughs] I’m a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants sort of woman, so what I ended up doing was shifting right down to La Jolla with my buddy Alison, and getting a job as a receptionist at Merrill Lynch’s actual property workplace. And at a sure level after that, I made a decision to maneuver to LA. I’m actually not a planner—are you getting this?
After I bought to LA I bought a job as a receptionist at PMK, which was the most important PR agency again then, working for Pat Kingsley, who was probably the most highly effective ladies in Hollywood. I used to be so depressed there, answering telephones, and I knew I didn’t wish to do this for the remainder of my life. Bette Midler, who was a consumer of Pat’s, was in search of a nanny for her daughter, and I instructed myself that it will be nice for me to do this for a yr. I actually like doing family issues. Bette’s hairstylist was a man named Robert Ramos, and he would come over and do Bette’s hair. Clearly, Robert couldn’t be at Bette’s home on a regular basis, so sooner or later I provided to blow out her hair. It turned our morning ritual: I’d make her breakfast and low, after which I’d come upstairs and do her hair. And on the weekends I’d go hang around at Robert’s salon, Estilo [now known as Ramos Carreon]. I beloved salon life. Bette inspired me to go to magnificence faculty, however I didn’t qualify for monetary help and couldn’t simply give up my job. So she provided to pay for it. Bette actually took care of me. She mentioned I might go to any faculty I wished to, however I selected the most cost effective one, Marinello’s, as a result of the fellows at Estilo mentioned you be taught just about every part after faculty anyway. The varsity was horrible, however I used to be simply there to get my 1600 hours.
I knew Laura Lyons, who’s Lily Aldridge’s mother, via Bette and her daughter. As soon as after I was at her home she was displaying me a difficulty of W her son had simply shot the duvet for, with the coverline ‘Hollywood’s Hippest Hairdresser’ on the entrance. Inside, there was an article about Artwork Luna salon, and I known as the up instantly. It is easy to suppose, ‘Oh, they have already got assistants. I shouldn’t apply there, they’ll solely chuckle at me.’ However I say apply. If you need one thing, go after it. A whole lot of the time, the individuals who get employed are the individuals who present up. And so, he employed me.
Being an assistant is basically exhausting work. It’s not glamorous. However I used to be truly doing hair, blowing folks dry, watching how Artwork would do folks’s highlights and apply bases, and the way they formulated… It was good. Like coaching for the Olympics, ? And ultimately, Artwork Luna put me on the ground doing shade. I’d do the colour after which blow dried their hair to complete. Then folks began to ask for blowouts on a regular basis. An important blowout is all about understanding the way in which the hair lies, and learn how to maintain your brush. I’d watch stylists lower actually nice bangs, however then not have the ability to blow them dry—I get that blowouts will be difficult, however they truthfully by no means had been for me.
Round that point Attract listed me of their magnificence listing as ‘Finest Blow Out’. Finally I left Artwork Luna and went to Sally Hershberger at John Frieda. Earlier than I even had an interview with them, they requested me for a listing of all my celeb and influential shoppers. I had a very good handful of starlets and Hollywood movers and shakers, like brokers, producers, and managers, and I additionally had style designers. After Sally I went to Neil George, which is when Lily mania occurred.
Lily Aldridge, who I had recognized since she was just a little woman, had simply finished the duvet of Vogue Mexico and so they made her hair darker. I assumed that was actually unusual—I instructed her, ‘A younger woman can’t have a base shade.’ Lily wished to go blonde, however what we did was spotlight it after which root it. Now, had I seen this shade earlier than? After all! I’d seen it on so many blonde women with their shade grown out, and it all the time appeared so fairly. All people thought that I simply tipped it out, however I truly lightened up the entire head after which put darkish ammonia-free hair shade on the roots, so her personal shade by no means went purple. I toned the center with a stage eight or 9, after which I simply left the underside space uncooked. It was incredible since you’d see these lighter items, so she felt lighter all over the place, however she nonetheless had darkish hair. Plus, she might go six months with no contact up. A lot of the world, I wish to say 60 to 70 p.c, is brunette. When Lily went on the market with that shade, it gave all people a possibility to go gentle however nonetheless be darkish.
I’ve by no means finished that factor the place I simply whisk in and do one celeb consumer, or go to 1 celeb’s home in a day after which do pilates for the remainder of it. I used to be spending 5 days within the salon, and I’d do 30, 40 shoppers… essentially the most I’ve ever finished in a day is 55. I normally have 5 assistants. I do all of my very own bases and highlights, and after I’d end making use of shade on one individual an assistant would take over and I’d transfer on to another person. It’s this entire dance, ? From one chair to a different chair, simply shifting all people round. I additionally know learn how to work a room. I’d say to my consumer, ‘Oh my gosh, Carol! Have you learnt Joyce? Joyce works at Paramount. She does advertising and marketing for them. Carol does advertising and marketing for Sony.’ Or, ‘Oh my gosh, her son goes to Brentwood, and I do know your daughter simply graduated from Brentwood!’ I’m doing one individual at a time, however we’re all having enjoyable. I used to be additionally touring lots, doing styling and press junkets for Renée Zellweger and Reese Witherspoon, photograph shoots with different younger women… I actually can’t say no. Being within the service enterprise, you need to be good at leaving your holidays or your buddy’s child bathe as a result of you need to work. I actually gave up every part for my job as a result of, on the time, I felt like I needed to. I did say no just a few instances, and I misplaced shoppers. By the way in which, it wasn’t like I simply mentioned no, it was like, ‘No, I’m in England.’ Everyone seems to be disposable, so I actually bent over backwards to make issues occur. However at a sure level my son began getting actually anxious as a result of I used to be leaving him on a regular basis, and I needed to cease touring a lot.
I reached some extent the place it made sense to open my very own salon. I did it with Neil Weisberg, who I had labored with at Artwork Luna and his salon, Neil George. Mèche is like Studio 54—the perfect social gathering. Or like ‘Cheers,’ the place all people is aware of your title. It is also all ages. The opposite day I had certainly one of my favourite shoppers are available—she simply turned 82. In the meantime, the stylist who sits subsequent to me was engaged on a girl, Sue, who’s almost 90. She’s had like 5 husbands. Sue sits down and is like, ‘How are you doing? I simply broke up with my boyfriend, I’m normally figuring out thrice every week down in Venice at Gold’s Health club but it surely’s closed.’ I inform my consumer her age, and she or he’s whispering to me, ‘She’s not! She’s actually 88?’ And Sue goes, ‘I’m 87, I flip 88 in two months!’ After I was 40 I nonetheless thought I used to be 20, and if you’re 20, you don’t notice that. You write folks off—she’s outdated, she’s a grandma, she’s this or that. However folks come to a salon like Mèche not simply because they’re grey and want their hair coloured. They’re right here for youth—to look the way in which they really feel! You need to fashion their hair superbly, such as you would for a youthful consumer. We’re within the feel-good enterprise. Gotta make ‘em really feel good.
My ebook, True Coloration, got here out on Might 4. I’m actually enthusiastic about it as a result of there’s lots of data inside. It’s a shade handbook, but it surely’s actually for anyone who has hair, not only for individuals who do hair. A whole lot of it focuses on how folks ought to carry their child footage into the salon so I can see their true shade. I have been speaking about this for a very long time earlier than anybody gave me a ebook deal. [Laughs] There are such a lot of issues I can do with my eyes closed, however there are additionally issues which might be simply actually troublesome. For instance, I’m nonetheless up all night time typically after I know I’ve some massive shade correction to do the subsequent day—like, say any individual is blonde and so they went black for a film, and needs to return to blonde. I’m not God, ? I’m only a hair colorist with Olaplex and bleach! While you’ve labored because you’re 15 like I’ve, you need to make an effort to not work. I don’t wish to do 40 to 50 folks a day anymore. I wish to begin having fun with my life, like our fabulous shoppers that waltz in and waltz out and get their hair finished each week.”
—as instructed to ITG
Tracey Cunningham photographed by Dana Boulos on June 4, 2021 in Los Angeles, California.