“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 quite a lot of issues, however if you happen to confirmed me a photograph of somebody’s hair, I may replicate it. I practiced on my lovely mother, after which I received a job at Gene Juarez, which was the most popular 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 particular person in my household to by no means have gone to school. That was a giant deal. I knew I wished to be a hairdresser, however I didn’t go into it immediately as a result of I believe I had a notion that the women who have been going to be hairdressers have been really 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 need to be lumped in with them. [Laughs] I’m a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants form of lady, so what I ended up doing was transferring right down to La Jolla with my pal 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 received to LA I received a job as a receptionist at PMK, which was the largest PR agency again then, working for Pat Kingsley, who was some of the highly effective girls in Hollywood. I used to be so depressed there, answering telephones, and I knew I didn’t need to do this for the remainder of my life. Bette Midler, who was a shopper of Pat’s, was on the lookout for a nanny for her daughter, and I instructed myself that it might be nice for me to try 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 all the time, so at some point I supplied to blow out her hair. It grew to become our morning ritual: I’d make her breakfast and occasional, 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 called Ramos Carreon]. I liked salon life. Bette inspired me to go to magnificence college, however I didn’t qualify for monetary support and couldn’t simply give up my job. So she supplied to pay for it. Bette actually took care of me. She stated I may go to any college I wished to, however I selected the most affordable one, Marinello’s, as a result of the fellows at Estilo stated you be taught just about all the pieces after college 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, by Bette and her daughter. As soon as once I was at her home she was exhibiting me a problem 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 referred to as the up straight away. It is simple to suppose, ‘Oh, they have already got assistants. I shouldn’t apply there, they’ll solely giggle at me.’ However I say apply. If you need one thing, go after it. Loads of the time, the individuals who get employed are the individuals who present up. And so, he employed me.
Being an assistant is actually onerous work. It’s not glamorous. However I used to be really 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, you realize? And finally, Artwork Luna put me on the ground doing colour. 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 awesome blowout is all about understanding the way in which the hair lies, and find out 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 might be difficult, however they truthfully by no means have been for me.
Round that point Attract listed me of their magnificence listing as ‘Finest Blow Out’. Ultimately 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 movie star and influential shoppers. I had handful of starlets and Hollywood movers and shakers, like brokers, producers, and managers, and I additionally had vogue designers. After Sally I went to Neil George, which is when Lily mania occurred.
Lily Aldridge, who I had identified since she was slightly lady, had simply achieved the duvet of Vogue Mexico and so they made her hair darker. I assumed that was actually unusual—I instructed her, ‘A younger lady can’t have a base colour.’ Lily wished to go blonde, however what we did was spotlight it after which root it. Now, had I seen this colour earlier than? After all! I’d seen it on so many blonde women with their colour grown out, and it all the time regarded so fairly. Everyone thought that I simply tipped it out, however I really lightened up the entire head after which put darkish ammonia-free hair colour on the roots, so her personal colour by no means went crimson. I toned the center with a degree eight or 9, after which I simply left the underside space uncooked. It was unbelievable since you’d see these lighter items, so she felt lighter all over the place, however she nonetheless had darkish hair. Plus, she may go six months with no contact up. Many of the world, I need to say 60 to 70 %, is brunette. When Lily went on the market with that colour, it gave everyone a possibility to go gentle however nonetheless be darkish.
I’ve by no means achieved that factor the place I simply whisk in and do one movie star shopper, or go to 1 movie star’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 might do 30, 40 shoppers… essentially the most I’ve ever achieved in a day is 55. I often have 5 assistants. I do all of my very own bases and highlights, and once I’d end making use of colour on one particular person an assistant would take over and I’d transfer on to another person. It’s this entire dance, you realize? From one chair to a different chair, simply transferring everyone round. I additionally know find out how to work a room. I’d say to my shopper, ‘Oh my gosh, Carol! Are you aware 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 particular person at a time, however we’re all having enjoyable. I used to be additionally touring rather a lot, doing styling and press junkets for Renée Zellweger and Reese Witherspoon, picture shoots with different younger women… I actually can not say no. Being within the service enterprise, it’s important to be good at leaving your holidays or your pal’s child bathe as a result of it’s important to work. I actually gave up all the pieces for my job as a result of, on the time, I felt like I needed to. I did say no a number of occasions, and I misplaced shoppers. By the way in which, it wasn’t like I simply stated 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 get together. Or like ‘Cheers,’ the place everyone is aware of your title. It is also all ages. The opposite day I had considered one of my favourite shoppers are available in—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 often understanding 3 times every week down in Venice at Gold’s Health club however it’s closed.’ I inform my shopper her age, and he or she’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 while you’re 20, you don’t notice that. You write folks off—she’s previous, she’s a grandma, she’s this or that. However folks come to a salon like Mèche not simply because they’re grey and wish their hair coloured. They’re right here for youth—to look the way in which they really feel! You need to type their hair fantastically, such as you would for a youthful shopper. We’re within the feel-good enterprise. Gotta make ‘em really feel good.
My e book, True Color, got here out on Could 4. I’m actually enthusiastic about it as a result of there’s quite a lot of data inside. It’s a colour guide, however it’s actually for anyone who has hair, not only for individuals who do hair. Loads of it focuses on how folks ought to carry their child footage into the salon so I can see their true colour. I have been speaking about this for a very long time earlier than anybody gave me a e book deal. [Laughs] There are such a lot of issues I can do with my eyes closed, however there are additionally issues which can be simply actually tough. For instance, I’m nonetheless up all evening generally once I know I’ve some massive colour correction to do the following day—like, say anyone is blonde and so they went black for a film, and desires to return to blonde. I’m not God, you realize? I’m only a hair colorist with Olaplex and bleach! If you’ve labored because you’re 15 like I’ve, it’s important to make an effort to not work. I don’t need to do 40 to 50 folks a day anymore. I need to begin having fun with my life, like our fabulous shoppers that waltz in and waltz out and get their hair achieved each week.”
—as instructed to ITG
Tracey Cunningham photographed by Dana Boulos on June 4, 2021 in Los Angeles, California.