HAIR TALK: Sarah Conner and Priscilla Valles
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Without hair-y godmothers Sarah Conner and Priscilla Valles, the words “hair game strong” might be meaningless in the 90210. Shortly after these celebrity extension experts—whose clients include Kylie Jenner, Chrissy Teigen, Selena Gomez, Sophia Amoruso, to name a few— wrapped their Mane University class on all things extensions in Chicago, they hopped on the phone for some hair talk, from which we learned what they dig most about their careers, the deets on their shared love for one particular McDonald’s item and how unbelievably close they become with their clients at times. Here, a must-read convo between the hair-hustling hotties.
PRISCILLA: Hi Sarah!
SARAH: Hi! It’s so funny, because we were just together.
PRISCILLA: Do you miss me?
SARAH: I do miss you, I miss you already. I love that we live parallel lives because our work is so different, being in the salon and you’re all freelance. Over spending the last few days together, we’ve discovered that we’re pretty much the same person.
PRISCILLA: Exactly, I couldn’t get over how you love to take two bubble baths a day. Hahaha, and no showers, like I don’t even have a shower curtain. I love that.
SARAH: I know, I know! Right down to our love for the McDonald’s filet of fish.
PRISCILLA: There aren’t a lot of us that like it, but the more time I spend with you, the more I really start to feel like we’re the same person.
SARAH: I know, the parallel lives, I love it! We both also discovered that we can’t take a selfie for shit. Haha.
PRISCILLA: I know, especially together—forget it! How’s Florida? I couldn’t believe you went from Chicago to Florida.
SARAH: Well, I’m still here. I have three hours to kill before I have to leave for my flight and my client miraculously put me up in her extra house so I finally got my bath last night and I’m currently laying by her pool, haha. I feel like I’m on vacation, so I’ve got three hours of vacation time in today.
PRISCILLA: Hah, that’s awesome! The perks of our life.
SARAH: Yeah, we were doing her hair color and hair extensions until 2 in the morning last night and so I’ve pretty much slept in until it was time to make this call, which was amazing. How was the rest of your time in Chicago?
PRISCILLA: The rest of the time was good. I actually stayed, I didn’t have a client to come back to for one whole day so I decided to just stay so we just had a great time. It’s good to be back, I’ve got a client at 12:30 today.
SARAH: It’s such a cool city and I love seeing all the feedback after we do the Mane University class, everyone’s comments. I’ve already gotten direct messages on Instagram with questions, it’s cool to see everyone’s responses. PRISCILLA: Yeah totally, because in the middle of class, everyone’s just so quiet and it’s hard to read into that quietness, like are they enjoying it? What’s going on? But they’re really just focusing and paying attention. Every single one of the students reached out afterwards saying how much they liked it and enjoyed it. So that’s a good feeling.
SARAH: Yeah, and especially with extensions, I feel like it’s a thing nobody really talks about. To really understand extensions and to do it well, I think we’re both lucky to assist under people that were really passionate about. Most companies you just get a one time class and you’re certified but I feel like you don’t really get the certification from a brand, it’s from seeing it and seeing the different scenarios. So I think when we’re in the class, we have so many stories and examples to share, the right way and the wrong way, that really helps them and they’re all feverishly taking notes.
PRISCILLA: Yeah, I think it’s great that we’ve got so many years of experiences. Talking to them and telling them, you know, here are the mistakes we’ve made. Everything you and I have gotten to this point is because of so many years of practice, passion, hard work and learning. When I first started, I didn’t really have that, because extensions weren’t talked about as much, so I think it’s great that we can share that with the students to work with. And it’s nice to look over and see you doing extensions, because I’m always freelancing doing house calls, and I never really get to see anyone else doing extensions. You have such a different style and method, and I’m such huge fan of your work and your color. So I love to look over and see you, because at the same time I feel like I’m being educated on your way of doing extensions.
SARAH: Haha, good, well I’m glad this is working out! I know, it’s education for us both because I don’t do full heads ever anymore.
PRISCILLA: And that’s my life! Haha.
SARAH: Yeah, that’s your life. And it’s so cool—your application is so precise. Not everyone takes the time and has the passionate OCD level for it that you do so it makes me comfortable to know that if a client truly needs that that I can send them your way and they’re in good hands and not with someone who’s putting too heavy bonds in or if they’re not using quality hair. It’s nice we have each other to even share clients with. PRISCILLA: Yeah, absolutely. In fact, will you do my extensions this weekend? Just kidding, haha.
SARAH: Haha, for sure!
SARAH: Come on into the salon!
PRISCILLA: We’re basically the same person, so come on.
SARAH: I know. I’m impressed that you can do it to yourself and cut your own hair with them. That’s when you know you’re a true control freak. I won’t let anyone cut my hair, I’m like nope I got it—I gave myself my bangs.
PRISCILLA: Same! Totally. I feel like hairstylists, especially extensionists, they’re such perfectionists and usually perfectionists are control freaks, so we get it.
SARAH: Right! We talked about this when we were in Chicago—the struggles, the balance of my life. How are we gonna find balance? Do we want balance? Maybe we don’t really want balance in life.
PRISCILLA: We kinda discovered that we’re so passionate about what we do so we feel very fulfilled. I don’t really feel like I have an imbalanced life. I feel like if I want to say no to a client or a job, I can no and so can you and we say yes, because it is so fulfilling in so many different ways—creatively, socially. Like, you’re in Florida right now laying out at your client’s house and technically on the clock working. No two days are ever the same and it’s fulfilling, for us.
SARAH: I think it’s more concerning to my clients that I’m still single than it is to me. Maybe I should be more concerned. It seems like it bothers them more that I’m single than it bothers me, which is funny because clients want to be part of your life and they want to know. They’re like, “Are you dating anyone? Are you dating anyone yet?!” and I’m like, “No, I’m working and I love it, it’ll come.”
PRISCILLA: Yeah, that’s what I say, I’m married to my clients.
SARAH: Haha, and our job is so social, it’s like your clients do become your friends on a certain level. Especially doing extensions, you spend hours with them and a relationship is always formed there.
PRISCILLA: It’s an intimate service and I feel like clients can be vulnerable with us and that’s kind of like a gift to be able to comfort them. SARAH: I don’t know if it’s the same for you with freelance, but there’s something about being in the salon as the client sits in the salon chair, they spill everything, you take on the role of therapist. I’ve sat there with clients before and made pros and cons lists about them moving to different states or given them suggestions about what career moves they should make and so forth. Do you feel like that happens in the house call world too?
PRISCILLA: Oh, for sure, for sure. I really feel like with my clients and being in their homes. A lot of them have been on a 4-6 week schedule for the past ten years. I have some clients I’ve been working on for 15 years so every 2-3 weeks I see them. I feel like family. Just recently, one of my clients asked me to be the Godmother of her daughter.
SARAH: Omg that’s amazing!
PRISCILLA: Aw, thanks. I always felt like we had that connection and I love her like a sister, but you don’t ever really know how mutual it is because these women are so powerful and they have so many people in and out of their lives, they’ve got amazing people around them. And the fact that she had asked me that, it made me feel like “Wow my love for her is mutual.” She loves me back just as much.
SARAH: That’s amazing.
PRISCILLA: Thanks. And it felt so good. Thre’s a lot of love there and you feel like family. And you see them go through ups and downs and vice versa. Don’t you feel like you have so many friends, like everyday you’re hanging out with a new girlfriend?
SARAH: Yeah, for sure. There are so many clients that start as salon clients and they become house call clients and next thing you know, they want you to cut their kids’ hair. I have some families, their kids were in second grade and now they’re in high school. You grow up with their families. We don’t even necessarily have to have kids because we can just stick around with our clients long enough and become god parents. Haha.
PRISCILLA: Hahah, exactly. Just give us a bubble bath and a McDonald’s filet of fish and we’re happy.
SARAH: And we’re yours! Hahah. PRISCILLA: One of my favorite things about you is that you were a teacher, because you do have this nurturing quality—you’re so good at explaining and educating. When we did our first Mane University extensions class, I was like, “Omg, I need to step up by game, she’s so good at educating.” Like, a lot of people don’t really know that about you.
SARAH: It’s kind of funny that it’s come full circle now that we’re teaching these classes because I always wanted to do hair for as long as I could remember. Growing up in Iowa, hair wasn’t the field that it is in Beverly Hills so there you’re either to become a nurse, a teacher, a policeman, or you know, all the regular jobs you thought of as a kid. So I went to college and was so far in and thought “Well, I worked this hard, I might as well become a teacher.” I always wanted to do hair so when I first resigned from teaching to go to beauty school, I was kicking myself “Why didn’t I do this 10 years ago?” That’s why I’ve worked so hard to get to where I am now, because I did get in the field late in the game and I wanted to be successful, as if I’d been doing hair for 20 years. It’s actually neat now to teach these classes and you see everything happens for a reason. Now my years of being a 6th grade teacher have come in handy for teaching hair extensions. I did love being a teacher so it reinvigorates that feeling of liking to educate people and share knowledge. It’s all kind of come in handy. PRISCILLA: I know, it’s like everything’s really just fallen into place for you. It was so nice to see you when we went to dinner in Chicago and when you were talking about your upcoming schedule and how hard we both work, and how parallel our lives are and I was admiring you because I can feel your passion about what you do, you exude it. It’s nice to share that feeling with someone.
SARAH: Well, likewise. We’re soul sisters. I’m like somebody’s in it just like I am. I’m usually the first one in the salon and one of the last ones to leave. Sometimes I’m like, “Why do I do this? Why am I not working a normal 9-5?” Sometimes I get frustrated, not everyone works the way that we work and some people approach it in a different way and I think we just truly have a passion for it. I’ll work until the job is done, no matter what time it is. It’s nice to have somebody who gets that. My friends call me a workaholic, but are you a workaholic if you love what you’re doing? I always say there’s a fine line of being tired and being burned out and I’m happy to be tired, but I don’t ever want to be burned out on what it is that I’m doing.
PRISCILLA: Right! It’s like give us some hair and a client and we’ll do our thing and get in our zone. It’s our happy place.
SARAH: Exactly. I can’t think of anything else I’d rather be doing.
PRISCILLA: I love that in the past 15 years, extensions have evolved so much, but at the same time the source of hair hasn’t evolved. It’s so great to learn things from each other, and there are new products coming out. Like the tape method is so new. I’m sure we could’ve gotten things done custom-made but now there are actually companies you can get tape-ins from. It’s amazing how extensions have taken off. I’m excited for the future. I feel like every girl has them now, it’s just like getting your color done now. SARAH: Exactly. And we talked about how it’s always such a hush hush thing, like clients saying, “Don’t tell anyone I’m doing this,” or wanting to have their hair done in a private room. I always tell the story of my client whose best friend was in the salon at the same time and she didn’t know her friend had extensions. So, my client literally made me move her to different stations so that her friend wouldn’t find out she has extensions. I’m not even kidding, we have an outdoor station where we do Brazilian blowouts, and we ended up out there. She said to me, “I don’t know why I’m being like this, she saw me give birth!”
PRISCILLA: Omg, haha!
SARAH: I was like, “Omg, she can see you give birth, but she can’t see you have extensions in?” That was probably three or four years ago. And it’s now becoming much more of a common thing and celebs are talking about it now. Your client, Chrissy [Teigen], is so good about posting pictures of them and there’s no shame.
PRISCILLA: Some of them!
SARAH: Yeah, some of them. Some of them are definitely still secretive about it.
PRISCILLA: And I know you struggle with that.
SARAH: Yeah, most of my clients do like to be top-secret about it when they’re in the spotlight, but I do feel like it’s shifting and Jen [Atkin] has been great about being vocal about it too. I think there’s a definite shift happening. PRISCILLA: It’s such a good thing. I remember daily having to sign confidentiality agreements with clients. Like, that’s heavy—having to sign a confidentiality agreement to not talk about your extensions?
SARAH: Yeah, for sure.
PRISCILLA: That was happening for so long and now clients are like, “Oh, I have extensions, who does yours? What method do you have?” It’s exciting and it’s only gonna go up from here.
SARAH: It’s an interesting time too, with all of social media and filters. There’s an element of everyone trying to present themselves perfectly, as if no one has any flaws. Then there’s the other side of it where people are just trying to embrace who they are and say, “Yeah, this is me, I have lashes on, extensions put in, or whatever done.” There are so many things people do to enhance themselves these days—some of it is out of vanity, some of it is really just a self-esteem boost.
PRISCILLA: Yeah, I feel like the pressure of perfection has been difficult.
SARAH: Somehow it works for our careers. Haha. Yeah, that’s a lot of pressure. I feel like we also need to embrace who we are with it.
PRISCILLA: Yeah, and at the end of the day, I think it makes everyone feel good. Whatever it is that makes you feel good. It’s great that we do have these services. If you have naturally thin hair, you can have a long, thick head of hair in three hours that you don’t have to take on and put back on every night. Personally, I always have extensions in, I always do. If I take them out, it’s for two hours to get a treatment and I’m like, “Okay, let’s get them back in” They make me feel so good and confident. Even without makeup, as long as I have my extensions in, I feel prettier.
SARAH: Well, for sure. That’s what we love most about it, is the transformation of it. We’re giving something to someone that generally they can never get on their own. And there are some people, who, when they have a full head of extensions in, they change into a different person. It can be life-changing for people. If you go through my feed, it’s all hair, hair, hair. I mostly follow other hairstylists and people who inspire me in the field, like Jen Atkin, of course. Tracey Cunningham’s feed is entertaining, even though I work beside her all day long. I like to follow my clients too, because once you do their hair, you wanna see what it looks like in their world. But alright, Priscilla I’ll be home tomorrow, I’ll call you then.
PRISCILLA: Okay, have a safe flight!
SARAH: Okay, I’ll see you soon!