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Posted by on Aug 30, 2012 in Beauty, Interviews | 0 comments

Do real men get Mani/Pedis?

Does this look like a girly man to you?

Former model and Wisconsin local favorite Alan David Charles shares his spa experiences with Solessence readers

Male manicures are becoming a hot service trend, but you’ve been ahead of that trend for years. Think back to your first – how did that happen?

I was lucky to have a wonderful friend through middle and high school named Bianca. Her mother owned a spa in Green Bay which she still runs (Body 360). Bianca invited me to the spa one day in high school and her mother waxed my out of control brows and gave me a paraffin treatment for my hands.  After that I was hooked. Manicures, pedicures, facials, steam bath treatments… Who doesn’t like getting pampered right?

Has your routine stayed the same (what steps do you have performed)?
Now that I am no longer modeling and that my schedule has become a little more hectic I go to the spa a little less often. I still go in for the occasional athletic massage, pedicure and manicure. However, after getting my last manicure a month ago, I told myself I should really make it a bi-weekly thing… especially since I ruin my hands so much working out and restoring furniture as a hobby.

Please hammer, don’t hurt him

Do you only reserve manicures for special occasions or is it part of a normal, maintenance routine?
Manicures are more of a touch-up maintenance thing for me. I don’t do it as much as I should or would like to, but it really doesn’t correlate with a special occasion. I could see where that may apply for the those people who are looking to have clear coat or color applied.

Do you have a favorite part of the service? Do you venture into paraffin, or other hand treatments?

My favorite part of a manicure really comes down to the specific spa. There is a place in Florida I go to with my sister and they include a paraffin dip and hot rock massage along with the manicure/pedicure. Did I mention they sit you down with a glass of wine as well?

I once had a back facial as well. It was incredible. To put it plainly, they essentially clean your back and give you a rockstar massage to boot.

Do your friends and family (of the male persuasion) ever join you, or go on their own?
I haven’t ventured out with any of the male figures in my own family. I have been to the spa or to a friend’s place with spa items with other male friends. Once you’re out of high school typically the teasing and metro jokes stop. Well, might be good to extend that to some of the college years. But that’s life, people prod at what they haven’t yet experienced or don’t understand.

Are you a lefty or a righty?
I’m a righty if we’re talking about dominant hands. However, you may not know that I worked 6 years at the State Capitol as a Legislative Aide, so I had to stop for a moment and guess if that was a political question.

Are you a fan of the pedicure?
Pedicures are incredible. You’ve taken something that you HAVE to do (i.e cut your toe nails) and turned it into a relaxing experience instead of something you HAVE to do. Instead someone else gets to do it, and I get a massage along with it. I’m all for that.

Would you ever try color? What color?
I have no need for colors. I am of the personal belief that men do not need colors or gloss. To each their own, but I like a good, leveled, cleaned and buffed natural nail. I once had protective gloss put on when I was younger and it just looked odd to me.

Alan is owner of Alan D. Charles Photography and looks mighty fine in a manicure.  You can follow his fanpage on Facebook.

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Posted by on Jun 29, 2010 in Celeb-essence, Fashion, Interviews | 11 comments

Interview: David Zyla, Head Costume Designer, All My Children

David Zyla, five time Emmy-nominated head costume designer at All My Children dishes on his career, the color of style, and the future of soap operas as we know them. Oh yeah, and what he’s going to wear to the 37th Daytime Emmys!

UPDATE: Congratulations to David for taking home an Emmy in 2010 for Outstanding Achievement in Costume Design.


Congratlations on your Emmy nomination.

Thank you, perhaps 5 is the charm!

Could be!  Maybe Susan Lucci is rubbing off on you?

(laughs) I adore Susan but I don’t want what she went through.

Understandably.  Well, we have a few things to cover, but let’s just start: How did you get started and established in fashion so quickly?

I started costume design at NYU.  When I got out of school I started designing a lot of shows,  and through a weird set of circumstances I ended up creating a very small line of my own, and it was picked up at Bergdorf Goodman and Macy*s and several other stores.  I dressed Hillary Clinton when she went to China and Japan and, I was in fashion!  Being in fashion led to daytime television, because the designers from the TV shows would buy my line to use on the characters on the shows. When one of the designers was leaving his position, he suggested me to the producers, and they already knew my work.  I’ve been in daytime television for 10 years now.  I started with Port Charles for two years, then General Hospital for a year, and now currently I’m with All My Children.

So this wasn’t even on the horizon when you first started out.

No, no.  Although I do remember as a child, my grandmother watching her “stories”, speaking of characters on the show as if they were people who lived next door to her.  So perhaps it was inevitable it would happen at some point, that it became a reality.

Do you find it quite a good place to be?  Fashion is a place where there is a lot of turmoil, and you’ve been able to build quite a niche for yourself.

Yes, it’s wonderful.  We have characters that are trendsetters, and we have professional people that have a lot of money, so we’re able to show a lot of cutting edge designs on the show as a result.

What are some of the challenges you come up against working in television, working with characters?

Well it’s just the volume; it’s what we do in a day.  We are taping sometimes 50 something scenes in a day.  It’s the changes, the continuity I would say, are the challenges.  Obviously styling 20 something people everyday is a feat on it’s own but beyond that it’s keeping track of everything and making sure that we’re telling the story through clothes as well.

What do you think has contributed to your success in this field?

I think it’s really paying attention, obviously to fashion, paying attention to characters, learning how to work with people.  In my job I intersect with a few dozen people every single day, and my job is to make them look and feel fantastic with the clothes.  I think it’s very simple, that’s the secret.

Speaking of secrets, you have gone beyond characters and come out with a great book called “The Color of Style”.   It has a very unique formula you work with.  First you work with stars, but how does this translate for the everyday person?  Is it recommended for men as well?

colorofstyleYes. First of all, this book is really for every woman, but men can use it as well.  When you get to the archetypes, you may want to translate a little.  I don’t know if there are any men that want to be a “Playful Princess” (laughs).  But who knows?  I’m open-minded.  The book really is about looking at your coloring in a very honest and real way and pulling the colors out that already exist in you.  By wearing them and surrounding yourself in them you are showing the world who you really are.

What are ways that people commonly misinterpret their style?

Whenever you hear someone say, “I should be more…” what they think on some level is who they are is not to be expressed.  They are going to buy things and wear things that are not authentically them.  If you are in a store or you pass a window (display) and say “That dress is so Susan!” or “That necklace is so Monique!” those people are clearly being themselves and have a style that is clearly identifiable and you notice it.  Whereas the person who is always shifting and changing day to day, or only following trends, is not really honoring themselves. And they are hiding from themselves, I would say.

You have a unique system of Artist, Flower, Shape and Texture.  How did you develop that system?

mondrianI developed that system after working with people for 20+ years now.  I noticed archetypes of women, and I found relationships with this type of woman wore this type of scent, and this type of woman’s coloring and contrast were consistent with a certain artist.  When I put this book together, I compiled all of this information together.  The way you can use it is if, for example, someone’s palette is like a Mondrian painting with big blocks of very contrasting color, that’s a clue to how she wears color from head to toe and she always needs a contrast.  If your artist is Monet, and you think about the water lilies, there is more of a soft, melded look from head to toe without any hard color differentiation.  I think that’s a great way to think about a silhouette from head to toe.

I think that paints a very easy picture. Do you think it is bad for someone to try different artists, straddle different genres?  Or best to stick with one.

You know what, there may be other artists that connect to your personal palette, absolutely.  I just give what I feel is the strongest example and are popular and known.

It obviously works, clearly with the Emmy nominations.  What else is coming up in the future?  What will you be wearing to the Emmys?

First of all, the hardcover book The Color of Style (Dutton) came out February 4th, and this coming February we’ll be releasing the paperback (Plume).  I’m very excited about that.  My next book I’ve started writing and it’s about home and working your colors into your environment. I touch on in it a little in this book and I’ve been asked to dive into it in a fuller way, so we’re going to be working on that.  We’re also in the midst of creating a reality show based on upon this book, and I’ll have something to report very soon, so great things are happening on that.  I’m doing a lot of speaking, and will be teaching at The Learning Annex on July 19th in New York.  I’m doing a lot of guest lecturing around the country.  It’s just extraordinary how people have embraced this book and philosophy and I couldn’t be happier.  As for the Emmys this weekend, I’ll be wearing an Ivory Damask dinner jacket with a pink lapel.

We’ll be looking out for that!  So, can you tell me what’s up for the citizens of Pine Valley, in terms of style?

susanlucci_emmys2010No one wants to think about it since we’re not even in the middle of summer, but we’re going to start shooting for the fall season in three or four weeks now, which means fall fashions.  We’ll definitely be keeping our fashion forward feeling. You’re going to definitely see a little more edge with our character Erica Kane, played by Susan Lucci.  Greenlee (Smythe – Actress Rebecca Budig), we’ve got her living on the edge with her storyline, and her clothing is going to be showing that as well.

How closely does hair, makeup, nails work with wardrobe?

Everything we do here is such collaboration.  I always say it sounds like one person is responsible, but it takes a team of people to bring a look together, and I have a fantastic team around me.  There is also a whole hair department and  makeup department*, and we collaborate asking, “This dress, is it possible to wear her hair up?” and they come back with styles to review and we get a dialog going.  Which is important because we have to work as a unit so that you get a look that is fantastic.

You’re now out in LA – how do you like that compared to filming in New York?

It’s so funny.  When I first joined All My Children, about 7 years ago now, I was at General Hospital and was asked to make the switch.  I was very happy about getting back to New York where I had been for many years. I flew back and hit the ground running with the incredible cast and great group of people.  Who would ever think that after 40 years that the show would move to Los Angeles!  At first it was a bit shocking, but having lived here before, and worked here before, I have a great appreciation for it.  I had great connections here, so it didn’t really impair us in our department at all.  I am going back and forth to New York quite often, and I’m loving having the best of both worlds.

I have a viewer question for you.  Sara from Washington asks, “What do you see in the future for soap operas in general?”

davidzyla_withemmy2010_allmychildrenYou know what, we’re seeing a change in the way people watch television. I think to many people, reality television, like the Housewives of New York and Atlanta and Every Other City, in many ways has definitely tapped into the soap opera market, and really taken advantage of the idea of a soap opera, and updated it a bit.  I do think, though, there are always going to be viewers that enjoy the classic form. Soap operas in this day and age need to stay current and not ignore the fact that people are tuning into Housewives. Why is that?  Maybe their issues are relatable; maybe the issues on daytime dramas need to be more relatable and closely connected with the viewers.  As opposed to the ‘80s when it was all about excess.  Not only daytime soaps, but nighttime soaps like Dynasty and Dallas, where everyone had so much money, and everyone was having an affair, and no one cared! (laughs)  It was just all about excess and fantasy escapism.  Now, I think, to stay relevant they need to stay current.

So you think people are looking for answers in their lives through these shows?

I think so.  To see someone that lives two towns over you talk about her marriage breaking up is much more relatable than a character who has already been married several times in the last year.  Is that relatable?  If it’s written well and the character is compelling, I think so.  I think it’s all about how it is done.

New ways of relating ties into the new media/social media trend.  I noticed you’re on Twitter and Facebook.  Do you think the lives of the characters and actors should become intertwined?

I think for a lot of people this happens automatically.  People feel very strongly about their characters, and I think the lines could definitely be blurred.  I think any sort of promotion like having characters have Facebook and Twitter pages, is a fantastic idea and I will definitely pass that along here!

David Zyla’s “The Color of Style” is available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

*All My Children’s Makeup Department was also awarded an Emmy

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Posted by on Nov 11, 2009 in Interviews | 4 comments

Executive Chef Mark Peel talks Top Chef Masters, Cookbooks and New Cocktail Lounges


I’d much rather produce the book that is going to be grease-stained and dog-eared and broken-spined, sitting around on the kitchen counter. I think this book will be that. ~Mark Peel

Hi @toutie!

mark_peelMark Peel, executive chef of Campanile, opens up about the legacy he is building that started the fateful day he landed his first gig as a chef at age 20.  With Wolfgang Puck. Smart and self-assured, he also has a gentleness and sense of humor that pops up when least expected.  Read more on how this Top Chef Master competitor wraps up 2009 with a new family friendly cookbook, cafe and cocktail lounge.

You’ve had this very successful, incredibly long run in the restaurant/food industry. Way back when this started, how did you envision things working out?

MP: Well when you start out cooking you’re working, you have your head down. You’re just trying to accomplish and learn things you need to learn. After a while, you start to pick your head up and look around, try to figure out where the industry is heading and where you want to be in the long term. After just a few years of cooking – I started out with Wolfgang Puck at Ma Maison in the 70’s – I decided I did really want to be one of the best chefs in the country.  I know, that maybe that might sound a little arrogant, but look – if you’re going to do something, you might as well do the best you possibly can.

I started looking around for people I could work for, people that could mentor me. Jonathan Waxman. Alice Waters. Wolfgang Puck. Trying to learn and absorb everything. It was an ultimate goal of mine to have my own restaurant, which we finally achieved in 1982.   I’m sorry, 1989.  1982 was when Spago opened.  1989 was the opening of Campanile, and it was patterned after people that were my mentors (Chez Panisse, Spago, etc).  Borrowing on European techniques, French and Italian, but with it’s own distinctly American feel.  We’ve been doing it ever since, for 20 years.

Your mentors aren’t everyday chefs; they are pretty heavy hitters. Obviously they saw something in you. How did you happen to get in that circle?

MP: It was just a fluke. I was 20 years old and I moved to Los Angeles to go to Hotel & Restaurant school at Cal Poly Pomona, and as it happened, my mother was working as a Vision Therapist for an Optometrist.  One of her patients was a man named Henry Dwan, his wife was Lois Dwan who was the LA Times Restaurant critic. Through that introduction, that backwards introduction, I was able to kindof get a foot in the door. She was able to give me a list of restaurants that she thought were the best in Los Angeles, and I called all of them. And I got a job over the phone at Ma Maison, which I didn’t know from anybody. It was like “Oh, here is this guy, this baby-faced chef, Wolfgang Puck.” So I started off my career working alongside Wolfgang, on the line.

It was a perfect time for the industry too, because things were starting to rev up for food.

MP: Absolutely.

Things have changed so much. Food has really come into fashion; it is very “sexy”. At any point along the way did you have to explain to people why you wanted to be a chef?

MP: My father was opposed to it. My father was a child of the Depression. He was definitely in favor of financial security and didn’t think that (being a chef) would provide it. When you make decisions, sometimes you aren’t necessarily making lifelong decisions. If it hadn’t worked out I would have done something else. What, I don’t know.

This was definitely your calling.

MP: Yes.

All of your experiences with top restaurants led you to Top Chef Masters. How was that combining food and television?

MP: It was great. It was very high pressure. Well, short periods of high pressure punctuated with long periods of boredom.  That’s TV.  Cooking for television, there are long periods of waiting for them to set up cameras, redo the lighting, do some pickup shots of lines that were dropped, that sort of thing.   It was exciting as well. I say high pressure because I was on there with people I have a lot of respect for.   John Besh and Doug Rodriguez I’ve known for years. Anita Lo, I did not know her, but in a few days I gained a lot of respect for her.  She’s a very creative, hard working chef.  I didn’t want to embarrass myself in front of them! I think I managed not to do that, but I didn’t win.  That’s the nature of competition. Only one person can win.

You have been invited to Top Chef as a judge – how is it coming from that side?

MP: The differences are very interesting between Top Chef Masters and Top Chef.  In some ways I think there is greater pressure for chefs in the regular Top Chef because they are really trying to break out.  Become noticed. It is far more important, I think, for them to win than for us.  I think that the chefs on Top Chef are taking it very, very seriously. I will say this: This season probably has the best set of chefs/cooks over any other season. It is going to be very tough, because you have people who are very experienced, at the top of their game.  They are not newbies, they are not wet behind the ears.  They are, well, professionals.

Along with the many things you have going on, you also filmed something for the movie Julie & Julia.

MP: Right. A great movie. I was honored to be asked to do a little promotional bit for it. I did scrambled eggs for my wife, just talking about the beauty and simplicity of doing the small things. Even small things can be absolutely delicious and wonderful.

I thought it was very courageous of them to open a film like that in the middle of summer. No aliens. No car crashes. No explosions. No blood. Just a hint of sex. (laughs)

The movie has done very well, and we did try the Scrambled Eggs for Daphne –

MP: You did?

Yes, and it went over equally well!

MP: Oh good, good.

You talk about the small things.  I know you have a lot of children.  Were any of your recipes geared toward them? When you created the recipes were you thinking of family?

MP: Oh absolutely.  I have a new book coming out in October that is about family dinners. Simple things that you can cook at home.  I appreciate, I admire, those coffee table books, but that’s not me.  I’d much rather produce the book that is going to be grease-stained and dog-eared and broken-spined, sitting around on the kitchen counter.  I think this book will be that.

[At this time, Mark Peel’s “New Classic Family Dinners” has been listed in the bestselling Top 10 books for 2009 by Amazon. Congratulations, Mark!]


Above: Chef Mark Peel with Catering Director Caroline at book signing; below (l) Daughter Vivien Peel enjoying dishes from the cookbook at signing; below (r) Wife Daphne Brogdon and son Rex Peel

vivienpeel_booksigningdaphnebrogdon_markpeelbooksigningPhoto Source: Peel Family

MP: There are also all kinds of simple things that we’ll be doing in a new restaurant I’m opening around the same time the book hits [The Tar Pit]. It’s built around the cocktail lounge, because the same thing that has been happening to food and wine in the last 20 years or so is happening to spirits. People are drinking less, but they are drinking better. This is the best time that’s ever been for all the bourbons, gins, scotches, even the Canadian whiskeys. And there are great Japanese whiskeys coming out. Very delicate, very nuanced. Bartenders are really ramping up their skills.

Is this a tasting room or is food combined?

MP: Now, I don’t like to restrict people. We are going to have great cocktails. The whole restaurant is centered around the cocktail lounge. We are going to have smaller plates of food. I don’t like to use the word tapas because it has been overused. But smaller plates of food geared to go with cocktails. Not specific cocktails, but cocktails in general.

Can you tell us a little about the dishes you are going to have?

MP: Well, I don’t want to reveal the whole menu,


MP: Mostly because I haven’t completed the whole menu.


MP: Definitely leaning on charcuterie, which is the art of making pates and cured meats, salamis, proscuittos, coppa and all of those things. Individual potted macaroni and cheese. The good kind baked in an oven that gets a good, crisp crust.
Update: Audrey Saunders of NYC’s Pegu is joining Peel in The Tar Pit.  The final incarnation is moving toward 40’s supper cluband may push opening out to December 2009. 
The Tar Pit opens November 2009

The Tar Pit
609 North La Brea Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90036

Meanwhile, you can nosh at Peel’s newly opened café in October 2009 in Culver City, CA emphasizing Take Out & Delivery

The Point
8522 National Blvd
Culver City, CA 90232

This interview originally aired on Solessence Radio. This interview is dedicated to my husband who, despite having acceptance papers, could not convince his mother that The Culinary Institute of America was not a fly-by-night education for short-order cooks.

Website Bonus Question

Chef Peel answered a personal preference question for the foodies/chowhounds out there!

What is one spice you can’t do without?

MP: Fresh Thyme.  It is versatile and enriches.  An herbal umami.

Wikipedia: Umami (旨味?) is a loanword from Japanese .  Popularly referred to as savoriness

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Posted by on Sep 20, 2009 in Interviews | 4 comments

Jason Backe – Hair color expert, CEO Ted Gibson Salon

An incredibly fun person, colorist Jason Backe.   Catch Ted Gibson live on E! today for the Grammys!

“The industry sometimes gets a bum rap of being superficial or being fake or being fluffy. But its really, from my perspective, incredibly powerful to boost your self confidence, to change the way you feel about yourself (through color) “

Jason Backe is color expert, CEO and half of the team that is Ted Gibson Salon, both at home and at the office. As co-owner of the salon with the most expensive haircut in the US, how do they deliver? Massclusivity is the key.


You have a pretty exciting career right now, several successful salons, and this all started in Minnesota, right?

JB: It did. I grew up in Northern Minnesota, by Duluth, in a town call Cloquet. I lived in Minneapolis for six years before I moved to New York. I went to the Aveda Institute back when it was called Horst Education Center, and I worked at the John English Salon for two years before I moved to New York. My life partner, business partner, best friend – all of that together – was one of my teachers in beauty school, Ted Gibson. Aveda wanted Ted to move to New York and that’s kind of how I ended up coming. I always envisioned my big move was going to be from Cloquet to Minneapolis. I never really thought I’d ever move to New York, he just asked and asked and asked and asked and finally I was “Ok, I’ll move to New York. But only for a year.” That was 12 years ago.

Initially was there a stumbling block?

Growing up I never thought I wanted to be in the beauty industry. I always thought I wanted to do PR or Communications or something like that. I went to college, different schools, for four years, changing my major all of the time. I never felt successful in that learning style, wasn’t good at taking the books home and studying. So I took a couple of years off and I traveled with a non-profit company, spent time in Europe and the US. When I settled down in Minneapolis again, I decided that I wanted to try something that was a little more hands-on learning. I either wanted to be a chef, or, I had a friend named Adam who was a hair dresser and he seemed to have a really fabulous life. I thought I could be a good hair dresser.

To be a chef, to go to a good school, I would have had to move and I had just settled in Minneapolis. So I decided, the best beauty school in the country was Aveda, and I decided to go to beauty school. The day that I walked in through the front doors I thought “This is where I want to be, this is amazing,” I fell in love with it right away.

It’s funny because my sister, a couple of years ago, made me a photo album. She’s a huge scrapbooker and she made me a whole photo album of my life. In it are these pictures of me, dressing her hair for prom, or her girlfriend’s hair for prom, or family friends for weddings. Even of me as a little kid, perming her hair. I was probably 9 years old, in our mom and dad’s kitchen. Looking back retrospectively, I’ve been involved my whole life, but I never thought of it as a career until I went to beauty school.

How did the salons come about?

Ted and I started talking about a salon when we were in Minneapolis. We’d looked at locations, picked out a name. When we came to New York, it was still a conversation we were always having. Ted ended up working for Aveda for 6 years at the store on Broadway. I did testing for them, education. I did as much as I could do without getting into management or getting into some kind of leadership, other than being a trainer for them. I reached a point where I was ready to leave the company and I was having a conversation with Ted. Either I would go to another company or we would branch out on our own.

Ted Gibson is the new stylist on TLC’s What Not To Wear

Ted had just started working with Angelina Jolie. She was his first really big celebrity client. She had just taken the blood off of around her neck (laughs), so she was still that “weird” girl nobody understood. She wasn’t the Angie we know today. It was a great time for him to meet up with her and it changed his career in that it became the perfect time to open up a salon. His name was already well known in the fashion & beauty industry in New York. It all made sense; perfect timing for my career, great timing for his career.

That’s how we opened our first salon. And at first we wanted a live/work space where we could say it was our apartment but really it was a salon, and people would feel like they were coming over to our house. Then we thought, “If we’re really trying to do this, let’s try to make an impact in New York City and compete with the big guns.” We were really inspired by the W Hotels. They had just started and were still sort of boutique-y feeling. There was a big trend toward boutique hotels that was happening all over. In New York at the time, all of the famous salons had, like, 50 chairs. Frederic Fekkai was in the Chanel building and had three floors in the Chanel building. The big, higher end salons were huge hair factories, and we were inspired by the boutique movement.

We found a space that was really open, and lofty, and decided to do twelve chairs in a really open space. Just make it really chic and comfortable and high end – but you know, I’m from Minnesota. I didn’t want it to be pretentious; I didn’t want it to be stuffy. When the girls came in, I wanted them to feel comfortable and pretty. That was the way we started the whole project.  Oh, I have a guest whose color is processing, I’ve gotta look at her highlights. (muffled, looks great, have Jen check to see if it needs a gloss and then give her an amazing blow out)

I love it, right in the middle of all of the action. What color are we doing?

That is Janet, she is a single process, level 8 blond with highlights on top so she looks really beachy and fabulous.

So you open this really new concept in New York. And it takes off…immediately?


We really got great press off the bat. We’re an interesting combination, being husbands, and work partners, and Ted’s celebrity career was really taking off. We got a lot of press right away and we had this little group of people opening up at the same time, and we all kind of got the same press together. It’s been fun to grow up together.

After all this time, how is it going back home, so to speak, to Minnesota?

I love it. My mom and my dad, sister and my grandma all still live in Cloquet. My sister and her husband have three kids and they live five houses down from my mom and dad. I like to go there 4, 5, 6 times a year so that I can hang out with the kids, see the family. It’s a great respite from NYC. They don’t care what jeans I have on. It’s great for my ego too because I go to Northern Minnesota and I feel like the greatest, fittest 40 year old in the world. I come back to New York and it’s O yeah, I’m just regular. But it’s a great balance for me to be with my family and hang out. Not have anything to do with fashion. Beauty. Work. Of course I still have my laptop and Blackberry, so I can stay in touch, but I love to go back. And I love to be able to do local media stuff when I’m in Minneapolis, or stop by John English Salon to visit the owners (although they’re never there when I’m there, I’ve run into them a couple of times). You know, it is just fun to go home and hang out.

Speaking about local media, you recently did a piece on going red.

I did.

It was fabulous! These women were completely transformed by what you did.

Thank you.

It wasn’t that they just got pretty, they looked like completely different people.

Thank you! I think that’s one of the things that I love about this industry. The industry I think, overall, sometimes gets a bum rap of being superficial or being fake or being fluffy. But its really, from my perspective, incredibly powerful to boost your self confidence, to change the way you feel about yourself, to celebrate a promotion or get through a breakup. You know, dump that man, change your haircolor. It’s really amazing how something as simple as changing your haircolor really transforms someone in ways that are unexpected.

Did you intend to go into color?

Growing up in Minnesota, everyone does everything (in my experience). In the salon I worked at, everyone did cut and color. Rarely were people specialized. I don’t know how it is now, but then, 15 years ago, everyone did everything. When I went to New York and worked at Aveda, they didn’t specialize, so I did everything. I was an educator for Haircutting and I did a lot of haircolor. A chunk of my professional profile was about haircutting and hairdressing.

When Ted and I went into business together, he doesn’t do any type of color and had already become known as the “hairdresser” so it made sense, if our salon was going to specialize, that I did color. It’s interesting because I always thought of it as not rocket science, not that complicated, all the same – you know, you’re working with hair depending on what you’re doing – and I felt I did a great job at both. Until I really started to focus on one thing, not being divided. That’s when my career really took off. Really when I focused all of my creativity and all of my energy into one end of the craft is when I really started to understand color in a new one.

I was Color Director at Clairol until last week. It was a highlight of my career, so great to work with that brand. The things I learned were things that I kind of knew – the power of hair color, and what it can do. But I was really snotty about being a salon hairdresser and expressing the belief that you should only color your hair at the salon and not at home. My relationship with Clairol really opened up my eyes to what amazing home products there are, and what amazing results you can get.

The makeovers that you were talking about that I did for Twin Cities Live were all with at home hair color. Every single step. So the truth is, you can get amazing results with product at home, or you can get amazing results with product at the salon. I really had a fantastic time at Clairol and cherish what I got to do, but ultimately it got really complicated for me to be exclusive to one brand with all of the opportunities that come with being part of Ted Gibson. It was amazing and I loved it and I’m ready for the next thing around the corner.

It’s a really fun time for me professionally, for Ted professionally, for the Ted Gibson brand. We’re experiencing what Ted and I call “Tremendous Velocity” where we’re just being as open as we can to as many opportunities as we can to share as much information as we can. To build this brand, we want to be able to take beauty and bring it to the women at home. Take that celebrity cache and bring it to the women at home. Bring it to my mom and my sister in Northern Minnesota, so that they can make the connection to the excitement of what we’re doing. Which is part of the reason we launched the Ted Gibson brand at the Target stores.


Let’s talk about that, because that’s a very accessible road to go down (for a high end line).

We’ll you know I’m from Minnesota and I love Target stores. When we wanted to launch the product, we knew we wanted to launch prestige and work our way to mass. So we started at Henri Bendel. Then we went to Saks. Then we went to Sephora. And then we went to Target. Target, I think, is really our customer. Our girls that come to the salon and spend $1500, hop in their Maserati or their Range Rover or whatever it is they’re driving, and stop at Target on the way home. The woman that colors her hair at home, the woman who spends a million dollars at the salon, the woman that never thinks about coloring her hair: All of these women love Target. For us it’s like the ideal place to bring Ted Gibson to the people.

I agree! Tell me about the products you’ll be carrying there. Tell me your favorites.

At Target we have 8 SKUs. We have about 25 in the line, but 8 at Target. My favorite is the Clarity Color Shampoo and Conditioner. Those are amazing for color treated hair. They have a color-protecting complex that actually helps the cuticle stay closed so you keep the color longer. It’s got a UV absorber that helps to protect your hair color from fading in the sun, and in addition to all of the magic it does, it just smells good. (laughs)

I also love the Beautiful Hold hairspray. It’s a new approach to hairspray because it doesn’t leave your hair crunchy or stiff. It just gives it really fabulous memory, so you can still run your fingers through your hair and it bounces back into the curl that was there or the smoothness that was there. It’s awesome.

In terms of trends, what do you see happening right now?

If you’re talking about a hairstyle, the thing we’re seeing most now is the grown out bob.
Sorry one second.. mixed with 873..87.

We’re getting all of your secrets here.

You’re getting all of my secrets! Do you know the blogger/web goddess extraordinaire Julia Allison?


Ok, she’s here right now and we’re coloring her hair.

Tell her hi – we were all talking about her hair before I got online with you. What is she doing?

Have you seen her since she’s been a redhead?

Yes, is she just touching up?

We’re just touching up the new growth and tinting her brows. She is so amazing. She is someone that sits in my chair and we can talk for hours.

She does have the gift of gab!

OMG, yes. Ok, so for trends – longish, it’s not really a bob, it’s not really longish either, it’s sort of clavicle length. I think that’s really chic and really modern right now. I think if you’re wearing your hair past, you know, even touching your bra strap, it’s way too long for right now. Long hair should be below your shoulders but above your bust line so it sort of falls in the middle, is where trend is at right now. I think if I see people with those super long extensions, I think it almost looks dated and old. It doesn’t look fresh to me. Bangs are still really hot, whether they are side swept or crescent shaped around your brows. Either one of those can be really modern right now.

Hair color, we’re seeing not a lot of gold. Staying away from the gold and seeing more neutral, more sand, that kind of stuff. And there’s never been a better time to be a red head, which is why it was so exciting to do those reds for the media in Minneapolis. Since red carpet season last winter, we’ve never seen more redheads on red carpets, on fashion campaigns. I’m sure we’ll see a lot of red for Fashion Week. So if you’re thinking of making a statement with your hair, red is the way to go.

We had some discussions about going red, and it is the hardest color to pick from. You can really get it wrong easily.

Sure. There are a couple of generalizations that help. The lighter your complexion, the more copper you can handle, more orange. The darker your eyes, the more you want to stay away from copper and go towards auburn and ruby shades. If you can follow that, you’re good.

What should people do with their eyebrows when coloring hair at home?

Wait until you are done, when it is shampooed out and blow-dried to see how the whole thing works. If you need to tweak them a little bit, you take a little bit of the color that you just put on your hair and you put it on your brows for two minutes and you take it off. But you only leave it on for a couple of minutes because you don’t want it to be matchy-matchy. You just want to take that edge off so that everything is believable. 2-3 minutes. You can always reapply if you want it to be more vibrant or brighter.

A haircut experience with Ted Gibson runs almost $1000,  (although you can book with other talented stylists) but he’s also the new celebrity hairstylist for  TLC’s What Not To Wear?   Check him out on the show, or feel inspired and see him in the salon yourself.

You can also book time for a great color with Jason Backe at one of three Ted Gibson Salons, contact:

New York City: 212.633.6333
Washington DC: 9/10/09 every month (two weeks)
Florida, Ft Lauderdale (inside W Hotel):

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Posted by on Jul 14, 2009 in Interviews | 5 comments

Interview: Syd Curry – celebrity hair stylist

I am not about a blow dry ~ Syd Curry

He’s coiffed an incredible client list, from supermodels to award winning actors to the President of the United States. Now he’s opened a new salon in…Aberdeen, Mississippi? Find out who inspires Syd Curry and his take on stylists trying to make it into the business today.

This article is dedicated to Syd Curry’s mother, who passed away on March 7, 2009.

This is a combination of transcript from his interview on Solessence Radio and subsequent phone calls and emails.

Hi Syd. Today we’ve got you down in Aberdeen, Mississippi. First, I was wondering if you would give everyone a little bit of background on how you started. Of course, you are a celebrity hair stylist; you had a big break with Mariah Carey.

SC: I did have a big break with Mariah Carey, but I started my career years before her. I started beauty school when I was 16, got my license at 18, and moved to Hollywood from Simi Valley, this small little town in Ventura, California. I got my break from Chantal Cloutier, who owns the Cloutier Agency, and my first editorial was with Matthew Rolston [photographer], who was just starting at the time. I started my career with Paul Starr, who sadly just passed away a few months ago, and we started doing catalog. There really was no fashion work to speak of at all in LA, but there was a lot of catalog, which taught me everything I know. I was fortunate I got to work with girls like Gia, and Jerry Hall, and the young, pre-surgery Janice Dickenson – who is probably the best model I’ve ever watched work, by the way.

Those girls taught me what to do for a camera. I did that for years and years, and I went to Las Vegas to do one of my first videos for Buster Pointdexter, who is David Johanson, lead singer of the New York Dolls, and met my business partner and best friend, [celebrity makeup artist] Billy b. Twenty something years ago. Way longer than we care to talk about. And we became best friends. I found out he was from Mississippi, my whole family is from Mississippi, and we started testing together. I used to go and I’d sleep on his kitchen floor in New York and he’d come to LA and we’d do jobs for free, and years later, he started working with Mariah. They came to LA and he introduced us, and then we spent about the next four years traveling all over the world with Mariah, which was my really huge break.

Did you intend to break into music and fashion?

SC: Yes, absolutely. I like to cut hair, and I like to do color. But styling is always what I love. It’s what I’ve always been best at, and it lets you be creative. It’s what I always wanted. Right about the same time I met Mariah I met Sally Hershberger, who is a very famous hairdresser, who couldn’t do a job and recommended me to Cindy Crawford. At the time Cindy was hosting House of Style for MTV, and that really took my career to another level. She was at the height of the 90’s supermodel.

That was one of my favorite looks – I loved her hair.

SC: It was an amazing time. The 90’s were good to me. Many years before, like I said, there wasn’t a whole lot to do in LA, and I was never interested in living in New York, I don’t know why. And then everything changed.

What do you mean by that?

SC: Well, everything changed for LA. They started shooting fashion there. Then all of the magazines started putting celebrities on the cover. So LA became the place to be. The celebrity thing is a whole other story. It’s a lot of babysitting. It’s very fun, I love it, but you know, it’s a lot of babysitting to be perfectly honest.

You started beauty school at a very young age – 16. Were your parents supportive?

SC: My parents were very supportive of me going to beauty school. I didn’t do well in school and they were smart enough to know that my talents lay elsewhere and let me go to continuation school. At 16 I went to high school half day and beauty school half day. My ma passed away March 7 and she was my biggest fan. She NEVER got tired of telling people that I did President Clinton’s hair, even though she didn’t vote for him.

Did you have any professional challenges you had to overcome?

SC:Yeah. Well, it’s well documented, my drug addiction. I’ve been clean, in April; knock on wood, three years. I had a little drug problem that lasted 30 years. You know, it took its toll. And when I talk about this in the context of work, I don’t want anyone to think I’m glamorizing it or anything. But I was able to work. I was on heroin for 30 years. I was also on methadone for 20 of those years. And the methadone allowed me to not be sick at work, so nobody really knew. It had nothing to do with the business – I didn’t do it with anybody I worked with – it was my thing. A lot of people, when they talk to me about it they say, “Well it was the time, there was drugs on set.” I never did drugs on set. With anyone. Ever.

It all came crashing down at the end of ’99. It’s going to catch up with you sooner or later, and it caught up with me. I walked away from my career and didn’t work from 2000 until 2005. It was a very dark time. I thought my career was over for sure. Fortunately, I had a great agent then who realized there was a problem and stopped sending me out before I ruined my reputation. Billy b. thought I was dead. Nobody knew where I was, and Billy finally tracked me down. When I finally went into rehab I had my mom call him and he was just really supportive and there for me.

It was a long process, and when I got out, Billy introduced me to Patricia Field. My first job out of rehab was doing Pat’s hair for her Academy Award nomination for The Devil Wears Prada. What a way to comeback, right? You know, there’s a whole lot that goes into that story. It was a very dark time, and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy, but the business I’m in is very forgiving. People have been amazing, and welcomed me back with open arms, because it’s about me being clean and sober now, and doing a good job with what they hire me for.

And you are still very definitely in demand. Just last year you did the Oscars.

SC: Yes, I did Daniel Day Lewis for his Oscar win. Long story short, this past year Pat’s been my main client. I bought a house in Mississippi in Billy’s hometown and my whole family was from here. We opened this business, but my mother was also very sick and passed away this past March, just a couple of months ago, so I really focused on being back here with her. Sunday, in two days, I go back to LA to do some fun stuff. It’s an exciting time for me.
Let’s touch on that.

SC: We launched in January. This is Billy’s hometown, Aberdeen, Mississippi, and he’d been trying to get me back for years. I hadn’t been back to see my family since ’86. I’m the only one in my family not born and raised back here, and me and my mom moved back to be with her family. So I came back to Billy’s hometown and found a 102-year-old Arts & Crafts home and restored it and fell in love with it. Billy has a big old Victorian house and one day we were having dinner or something and we said “Why don’t we turn this into a salon?” Just kind of joking around – but we did it. You can see the gallery pictures on It’s just great, very steel magnolias. It is a beautiful old Victorian house that we put our spin on. Well, Billy did, I don’t have the decorating gene. Billy’s the kind of person that walks in and says Tear that Wall down, put that up and I just go “ok.”

You’ve collaborated for years

SC: Yeah, close to 25 years

I was just thinking about this. I met him with Arianne Phillips, Madonna’s stylist, and I’m going to work with Ari who I haven’t worked with in, gosh, I can’t remember the last time I worked with Ari and Billy, all three of us. I’m going to do a fragrance campaign for Christian Audigier. The beautiful Guinevere Van Neesus for Numero with photographer Jeff Burton. I’m doing Numero with Ari, and I think Billy, or my friend Katy Young. And then I’m shooting Kathy Rodriquez, LA designer, and three models. She owns Resurrection Vintage stores, amazing stores. I’ve been doing her shows and campaigns and we’re shooting her for Vanity Fair.

With the traveling, how much time do you spend at your new shop? If people want to call up and book, what kind of schedule should they expect?

SC: Originally I was going to spend a week a month, but my house is done, I’ve got a new dog, and I’m getting to know family for the first time. So I’m really kind of here, and kind of loving it. I think this is going to be my base. I say that for now. I will always consider LA home. I was born in Santa Monica, my best and dearest friends are there, but I’m kinda loving Mississippi.

New experiences are good.

SC:I may be 500 pounds when I get out of here (laughs)

All of that southern comfort food

SC:Yes, all of that comfort food, fried which is my favorite. Fry it I’ll eat it.

Do you have a new favorite?

SC:Fried pickles.

Fried pickles?

SC:Yeah yeah , I love friend pickles. My dad always made them, and my mom, my mom moved to California and became my California beach girl and made everything out of a box. My dad fried everything. And down in Jackson, by Aunt Gertie’s house, is a great catfish place I’m in love with.

Do you actually fish yourself or just eat it?

SC:You know, I haven’t fished while I’ve been here,but I grew up fishing, I love fishing. We could walk to the lake. Kind of amazing, everybody should come to Mississippi and check it out. It’s not what everybody thinks. We get a bad rap here. And there’s some very stylish people. And the cool thing is, where we are, we’re about an hour and a half from Memphis. I’ve been getting people from Memphis, from Atlanta, from Nashville, from all over have been coming. Billy is very well known here and I’m kind of guilty by association.

Atlanta’s becoming the next hot beauty hub so I can understand the big traffic draw from there. What kinds of products are you using?

SC:I’m using everything that I love. I keep my backroom stocked with everything I like over the years. I keep (L’Oreal) Elnett Hairspray, I love Moroccan Oil, but we’re in this really small town and there’s not a lot of people who are going to want to spend money on Moroccan Oil, so business wise? It’s not a smart thing.

I love Paul Mitchell Super Skinny line, I love the serum, but you know, you can get it at the drugstore. So I’m not so focused on the product thing, I’m focused on what I use to achieve the look on women and then I tell them what to get. You know, you can get Elnett at Target! Aren’t you the one that told me? You did tell me that! I almost fell over, I was so excited.

Yes, you’re right (that was from a conversation in 2008. He’s got an good memory)

SC: I know who we didn’t talk about that I worked with this year – Tina Turner! That might have been the biggest highlight of my career. Little back-story: I never wanted to work with Ann-Margaret, Tina Turner or David Bowie because they are my favorite (celebrities). Tina Turner, I used to hitchhike to go see, by myself. Her music meant so much to me, and I didn’t want that rock star fantasy in my head to be blown. If they were jerks, I didn’t want to know it. Fast forward from age 15 when I used to hitch hike to, well, I just turned 55 this year. That’s a lot of years later. And I get a call to do her hair, and I’m like sure, why not. She was everything I wanted her to be. She had the (Rolling) Stones playing the whole time,

Were you nervous?

SC:No! Which is the cool thing about it. I’m old, you know? I’ve worked with the President of the United States. I’ve done Madonna’s hair. I’ve done a lot of work with nasty people, I’ve worked with amazing people, and when I was a mess, and younger, I would make myself sick being nervous. Things are so different now. You know what? I can do hair. And I go in and do my job.

I was nervous driving over but as soon as I met her she said “What do you think I need?” I told her and she said “You’ve done your homework” and I’m like, “Honey, I know every hairdo you’ve ever had” (laughs). She invited me to come sit on the couch, and I told her about all those times I went to see her as a kid, and what her music meant to me. It couldn’t have been more perfect.

I was talking about Paul Starr, and I hadn’t seen Paul for seven or eight years. He did her makeup, and so I got to spend two days with Paul. He passed away a couple of months later. It was a special memory, that whole job. Paul and I both loved her, and we both used to crack up and sing her songs, you know, lip sync with the little headphone sets. It was a full circle kind of thing.

You mentioned your resume, the names you can drop, yet you are so down to earth.

SC: It’s one of those things like at work, people are, “Well you’re really nice.” Well, why wouldn’t I be? I’m just a hairdresser. You know? It’s like most people think celebrities are going to be nightmares, but in fact, most are just regular people who happen to be famous.
Syd created the raven bob for George Michael’s video Father Figure

Now don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of them that aren’t. But on the whole, there’s a handful of people who I won’t name, that I would never set foot in a room with again. But 85% of the people I’ve had the pleasure of working with. They‘ve been great and decent and really fun. You know, even the drugs, all that stuff, I wouldn’t change a minute of anything. Because it’s all made possible what is happening today, which is living my life, enjoying success and a million things to be thankful for.

For people trying to become stylists today, what are the challenges?

SC: I think everyone wants to become hair and makeup artists now. First of all, we have to go to the times we are in. It’s hard out there for everybody now. To put it into
numbers, without saying what the numbers were, in the 90’s they threw money at us. Stupid money. It was great to get, but crazy. You know, now they pay you for your job. It’s not excessive. It’s a very different time and I think what’s happening, not so much in big fashion, but, if you want to make a living doing catalog , there is always someone coming up that is willing to do it for a little bit less, and that is what I think people are doing. I think it’s a hard time in this industry. I know it’s a hard time for people in the film business, I know that for a fact.

I never was in the union, but I know people in the union and they are losing their benefits because they can’t get jobs to work enough hours to keep them. It’s not a good time anywhere, but I just think there’s a million people that want to do hair and makeup, freelance, celebrity stuff. And again, I don’t mean this the wrong way at all, but I think a lot more need to pay their dues. Let’s put it this way: people who I idolized before I had any kind of a name were Oribe and Garren and Danilo, who are still very famous, and there is a reason for it. Because they all do quality work. They are famous, they make top money, but they don’t slack on anything. They are new and they’re inventive.

You see a lot of people who are new and come on and they latch on – that’s the wrong term – but who get attached to one celebrity, but it makes their career big. But it’s just one look. Do you know what I mean? And I don’t mean that mean spirited at all. I just appreciate someone who’s worked hard and can do more than one thing. Which all of those people I named have proven over and over and over again. And there are a lot of others. Chris McMillan I think is very talented. There is a different person for every job. Sally Herschberger is incredibly talented. Sally’s great at one thing, Chris is great at another, Oribe is great at another thing, you know what I mean? I don’t know, it’s a weird time in the business. I’m just happy to still be a part of it.

What has been your favorite look?

SC: I’ve had a few. My favorite thing right now is in my salon. It’s huge, it’s almost wall sized. It’ – is the story I did for Prestige, the Queen Mary story – the Asian girl with the big white wig I made. Kathy Young did the makeup, my friend Paris Libby, who is now living in Hong Kong and is one of the editors of Prestige, was “Ok, we’re going to put a ballcap on her, and you’re going to need you to make a wig. It was one of those things where I didn’t have time to think about it and I just did it and did it and went “Oh my God, did I do that?” (laughs). And it’s absolutely my favorite thing from the past few years. I love the Pat Field Destination campaign. Tthere are a million other things but, I love stupid little things. Like giving Mariah (Carey) pigtails for the Dream Lover video. It completely changed her look without changing it. I love all my stuff that has a retro feel to it, you know that looks done without being done. I’m not about a blowdry. Even if I’m on the beach. The stuff I did with Chante and Cindy is great, but that hair is work. My first and only Vogue cover was with Chante, with Stephanie Seymour. It was my first job with Chante, we shot for British Vogue and that will always be a huge huge, well, you know, I had no idea it was for a cover. My agency called and said “The Vogue’s out, go pick it up” and it was the cover. It’s one of those moments. So I have some favorites. But right now it’s the Chinese girl. And it’s kind of hysterical in Mississippi. People come in and they go (in a southern accent) “I don’t wanna look like that!” (peals of laughter) I love it.

Thanks so much Syd.

SC:Thanks so much, it was fun and say hi to Billy, well, I’ll see Billy before you will I’ll see him Sunday.

Syd returns back to Los Angeles this week for a shoot with German Vogue.

Directors Cut: Bonus questions answered

1. Billy is such an important person in your life. Have you ever been involved on a personal level?

a. No no no never have been, never will be. He is my best friend.

2. There are always tough customers, the types of jobs you mentioned requiring babysitting. What is the best way to handle this type of customer?

The way I handle it is:
i. Smile
ii. Do your job
iii. Get your check
iv. Don’t look back

3. You are placing an open call here for Los Angeles based assistants. An incredible opportunity. What are you looking for?

SC: I need to find new assistants based in LA. Anybody listening in based in LA? I have been away, or when I work with Pat, I often work by myself. My friend Johnny Stumps works with me all of the time, but he’s a hairdresser in his own right, not an assistant.

I’m looking for somebody who knows what hot rollers are. Somebody that knows how to do something besides blow dry and flatiron, and I’m not being nasty at all. I just feel like a lot of schools don’t teach the old school things you need to know. Like I said, I learned so much from all of those women that taught me when I was very young coming up. Like Jerry Hall, she made me set her hair wet, and had a portable dryer. It’s all of that old school stuff, like everything I learned in beauty school – pin curls and finger waves. It is all stuff I use everyday.

I always love to meet a kid who’s hungry. I love new talent and ideas, which is how I learn, and is also exciting for me. If you show me something new – hey. I love that. That’s one thing that has been good working in a salon for a change. I have some people around me where I go “Hey, I’ve never seen that before.” Because usually when you are on a set, it’s you. You don’t get to watch other people work. When I did Pat (Field) for fashion week, her show, I think I had 18 assistants and it was so much fun watching everyone work. That’s what I want. I just want somebody that’s hungry, that maybe I can learn from too.

To contact Syd Curry about an opportunity to assist, or to book him for a shoot, please use one of the following contacts:


~ Hillary Fry / solessence

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