Her years of teaching classes, producing hair shows, consulting in salon marketing and management has earned the respect of designers and stylists of any practice. Gwendolyn is incredibly upbeat and a positive force in the industry. Always approachable, Gwendolyn readily agreed to do this interview to bring you her experience and insight into being a much sought-after hair stylist on the global market.
How old were you when you became obsessed with hair?
W Magazine used to look like a newspaper. I would cut out all of the fashion ads and wallpaper my bedroom with them. Obsessed with the clothing, hair, makeup, and the world of Super Models. Stephanie Seymour (who graduated from my high school), Cindy Crawford, Christy Turlington, Linda Evangelista, Naomi Campbell, Kate Moss, would be the faces I would see on my wall. My younger sister has the most amazing thick, long hair and became my hair model. I would use her for home-made photoshoots and videos. Mysteriously, I couldn’t find a single photo and the VHS tapes are missing. Hmmmm…..
When did you decide “okay, this is it, I’m going to be a professional hair stylist?” Who were some of your mentors or inspirations when you got started?
Vidal Sassoon and Jose Eber were all over the TV when I was younger. If you never heard of these men, I recommend googling them. They were the first hairstylist names I knew and admired and signed up for beauty school my senior year. When I eventually became a hairstylist, Jeanne Braa was a huge mentor of mine. She once told me that titles are not what you put on a business card, but rather the foot that you lead with in the industry.
What were the early days of your career like? Did you have to test a lot in the beginning to build your book?
My early days were like many young hairstylists….HUNGRY for EVERYTHING! I had a few photos I did with a friend and use them for my portfolio. I took my portfolio to a photographer and quickly learned that being sensitive was not an option. My book was picked apart and I was told you are only as good as your worse picture. With that said, we did many publications together and I continued to build my book with tests and create relationships.
Looking back, is there anything you would do differently in your journey as a hair stylist? Any decisions you made when you were younger you would not make today, knowing what you have learned so far?
My journey always takes me to where I want to be. This industry definitely changes constantly and learning to be flexible is strength. You might find it easy to say, “If I only knew then what I know now”. Truth is, I have enjoyed the journey just the way it has gone.
How do you communicate with the photographer you’re working with on a shoot to achieve his or her goals?
Every shoot is different and photographers each have their own style. I will ask what they are expecting of me. Some photographers really want you to be ‘on set’ fixing fly aways or some really want to be in the moment of shooting. Communication is key.
What skills did you learn early on that you still use today?
Never think that you don’t need to add to your portfolio. Testing isn’t just for the beginning, it’s a great way to build relationships and try new styling methods. I am constantly working on being more efficient and honing my craft.
Tell us what a dream job is for you?
My dream job? This is a hard one for me to answer. I have done many hair and body painting events at the playboy mansion, internationally published, styled hair on amazing models, and worked on advertising campaigns. Let’s just say, I wouldn’t say no to Gwen Stefani’s next shoot!
What are the three tools in your hair styling kit that you can never, ever be without?
*Sharing one of my secrets* Pipe cleaners! Spray a little hairspray on one and use it to calm down flyaway hair. Chopsticks, I love these for parting hair and controlling my sections. Kevin Murphy Shimmer Shine Spray, gives amazing shine and great for all hair types.
What advice for young hairstylists who are just starting out and want to be where you are, at the top of the industry?
Assist hairstylists in photoshoots. Photoshoot hair is not salon or bridal hair. There is a methodology to prepping hair, styling hair, and what type of products & tools you will use. Also play with your own style and create relationships. I don’t believe in making mistakes, but that you make discoveries!
What is your favorite quote?
The only place where success comes before work is in the dictionary –Vidal Sassoon