“When I used to be 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 a whole lot of issues, however in the event you confirmed me a photograph of somebody’s hair, I might replicate it. I practiced on my lovely mother, after which I acquired a job at Gene Juarez, which was the most popular salon in Seattle, principally as a maid. I served tea, swept up, and did laundry. It was probably the most superior job ever.
I’m the primary particular person in my household to by no means have gone to varsity. That was a giant deal. I knew I needed to be a hairdresser, however I didn’t go into it immediately as a result of I feel I had a notion that the ladies who have been going to be hairdressers have been really ladies that simply didn’t know what they needed to do. Because I did know what I needed 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 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?
When I acquired to LA I acquired a job as a receptionist at PMK, which was the most important 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 consumer of Pat’s, was searching for a nanny for her daughter, and I instructed myself that it might 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. Obviously, Robert couldn’t be at Bette’s home all the time, so someday I supplied 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 called Ramos Carreon]. I cherished salon life. Bette inspired me to go to magnificence faculty, however I didn’t qualify for monetary assist and couldn’t simply stop my job. So she supplied to pay for it. Bette actually took care of me. She stated I might go to any faculty I needed to, however I selected the most cost effective one, Marinello’s, as a result of the blokes at Estilo stated you be taught just about the whole lot after faculty anyway. The faculty 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 way of Bette and her daughter. Once 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 Art Luna salon, and I known as the up straight away. It’s straightforward to assume, ‘Oh, they have already got assistants. I shouldn’t apply there, they’ll solely snicker at me.’ But I say apply. If you need one thing, go after it. A variety of the time, the individuals who get employed are the individuals who present up. And so, he employed me.
Being an assistant is actually exhausting work. It’s not glamorous. But I used to be really doing hair, blowing folks dry, watching how Art would do folks’s highlights and apply bases, and the way they formulated… It was good. Like coaching for the Olympics, you realize? And ultimately, Art 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 excellent blowout is all about understanding the way in which the hair lies, and how one can maintain your brush. I’d watch stylists reduce actually nice bangs, however then not be capable of blow them dry—I get that blowouts will be difficult, however they actually by no means have been for me.
Around that point Allure listed me of their magnificence listing as ‘Best Blow Out’. Eventually I left Art Luna and went to Sally Hershberger at John Frieda. Before I even had an interview with them, they requested me for an inventory 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 style 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 executed the duvet of Vogue Mexico they usually made her hair darker. I assumed that was actually unusual—I instructed her, ‘A younger lady can’t have a base colour.’ Lily needed to go blonde, however what we did was spotlight it after which root it. Now, had I seen this colour earlier than? Of course! I’d seen it on so many blonde ladies with their colour grown out, and it all the time appeared so fairly. Everybody 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 pink. I toned the center with a degree 8 or 9, after which I simply left the underside space uncooked. It was improbable since you’d see these lighter items, so she felt lighter in every single place, however she nonetheless had darkish hair. Plus, she might go six months and not using a contact up. Most of the world, I need to say 60 to 70 p.c, is brunette. When Lily went on the market with that colour, it gave everyone a chance to go gentle however nonetheless be darkish.
I’ve by no means executed that factor the place I simply whisk in and do one movie star consumer, 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… probably the most I’ve ever executed 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 colour on one particular person an assistant would take over and I’d transfer on to another person. It’s this complete dance, you realize? From one chair to a different chair, simply transferring everyone round. I additionally know how one can work a room. I’d say to my consumer, ‘Oh my gosh, Carol! Do you realize Joyce? Joyce works at Paramount. She does advertising for them. Carol does advertising 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 loads, doing styling and press junkets for Renée Zellweger and Reese Witherspoon, picture shoots with different younger ladies… I actually can’t say no. Being within the service enterprise, you must be good at leaving your holidays or your buddy’s child bathe as a result of you must work. I actually gave up the whole lot 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 is disposable, so I actually bent over backwards to make issues occur. But 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 a degree the place it made sense to open my very own salon. I did it with Neil Weisberg, who I had labored with at Art Luna and his salon, Neil George. Mèche is like Studio 54—the very best get together. Or like ‘Cheers,’ the place everyone is aware of your title. It’s additionally all ages. The different day I had certainly one of my favourite shoppers are available—she simply turned 82. Meanwhile, the stylist who sits subsequent to me was engaged on a girl, Sue, who’s practically 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 understanding thrice every week down in Venice at Gold’s Gym however it’s closed.’ I inform my consumer 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!’ When I used to be 40 I nonetheless thought I used to be 20, and once you’re 20, you don’t notice that. You write folks off—she’s previous, she’s a grandma, she’s this or that. But 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 should model their hair fantastically, such as you would for a youthful consumer. We’re within the feel-good enterprise. Gotta make ‘em really feel good.
My guide, True Color, got here out on May 4. I’m actually enthusiastic about it as a result of there’s a whole lot of info inside. It’s a colour handbook, however it’s actually for anyone who has hair, not only for individuals who do hair. A variety of it focuses on how folks ought to deliver their child footage into the salon so I can see their true colour. I’ve been speaking about this for a very long time earlier than anybody gave me a guide deal. [Laughs] There are so many issues I can do with my eyes closed, however there are additionally issues which are simply actually tough. For instance, I’m nonetheless up all evening typically after I know I’ve some massive colour correction to do the following day—like, say any individual is blonde they usually 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! When you’ve labored because you’re 15 like I’ve, you must 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 executed each week.”
—as instructed to ITG
Tracey Cunningham photographed by Dana Boulos on June 4, 2021 in Los Angeles, California.