“Once I was youthful I actually solely had one curiosity; it’s at all times been hair. I used to be like an idiot-savant. I could not do lots of issues, however for those who confirmed me a photograph of somebody’s hair, I might replicate it. I practiced on my lovely mother, after which I obtained 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 individual 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 right away as a result of I believe I had a notion that the women who have been going to be hairdressers have been really ladies 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 lady, so what I ended up doing was shifting 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?
Once I obtained to LA I obtained 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 girls 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 shopper 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 12 months. 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 in the future 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 help and couldn’t simply stop my job. So she supplied to pay for it. Bette actually took care of me. She mentioned I might go to any college 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 all the pieces after college anyway. The college 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 means of 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 immediately. It is simple to assume, ‘Oh, they have already got assistants. I shouldn’t apply there, they’ll solely giggle at me.’ However I say apply. If you’d like one thing, go after it. Plenty of the time, the individuals who get employed are the individuals who present up. And so, he employed me.
Being an assistant is admittedly exhausting work. It’s not glamorous. However I used to be really doing hair, blowing individuals dry, watching how Artwork would do individuals’s highlights and apply bases, and the way they formulated… It was good. Like coaching for the Olympics, you recognize? And finally, Artwork Luna put me on the ground doing shade. I’d do the colour after which blow dried their hair to complete. Then individuals began to ask for blowouts on a regular basis. A fantastic blowout is all about understanding the way in which the hair lies, and how one can maintain your brush. I’d watch stylists minimize 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.
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 a superb 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 a little bit lady, had simply completed the duvet of Vogue Mexico they usually made her hair darker. I believed that was actually unusual—I instructed her, ‘A younger lady 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 ladies with their shade grown out, and it at all times 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 shade on the roots, so her personal shade by no means went crimson. I toned the center with a degree 8 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 in all places, however she nonetheless had darkish hair. Plus, she might go six months with out a contact up. A lot of the world, I wish to say 60 to 70 %, is brunette. When Lily went on the market with that shade, it gave everyone a chance to go mild however nonetheless be darkish.
I’ve by no means completed that factor the place I simply whisk in and do one movie star shopper, or go to at least one 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 completed 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, you recognize? From one chair to a different chair, simply shifting everyone round. I additionally know how one can work a room. I’d say to my shopper, ‘Oh my gosh, Carol! Have you learnt 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 individual 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, photograph shoots with different younger ladies… I actually can’t say no. Being within the service enterprise, you need to be good at leaving your holidays or your pal’s child bathe as a result of you need 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 just a few occasions, 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—one of the best occasion. Or like ‘Cheers,’ the place everyone is aware of your title. It is also all ages. The opposite day I had one in all my favourite shoppers are available in—she simply turned 82. In the meantime, the stylist who sits subsequent to me was engaged on a lady, 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 Gymnasium nevertheless 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!’ Once I was 40 I nonetheless thought I used to be 20, and if you’re 20, you don’t understand that. You write individuals off—she’s previous, she’s a grandma, she’s this or that. However individuals 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 type their hair superbly, 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 Might 4. I’m actually enthusiastic about it as a result of there’s lots of info inside. It’s a shade guide, nevertheless it’s actually for anyone who has hair, not only for individuals who do hair. Plenty of it focuses on how individuals 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 e-book 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 generally after I know I’ve some massive shade correction to do the subsequent day—like, say any individual is blonde they usually went black for a film, and needs to return to blonde. I’m not God, you recognize? I’m only a hair colorist with Olaplex and bleach! Once 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 individuals 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 completed each week.”
—as instructed to ITG
Tracey Cunningham photographed by Dana Boulos on June 4, 2021 in Los Angeles, California.