Zen Exclusive Salon artist Cicely Wagner is your new unicorn hair sensei.
Her vivid and innovative approach to hair color has earned her a One Shot award nomination from Behind the Chair and you may have seen her work all over the ‘gram for its captivating, photogenic ability. We had the opportunity to chat with Cicely about her journey into hair artistry, biggest hair transformation and tips for DIY color. Read on below for what she had to share.
MA: Tell us about your start in the hair industry.
Cicely Wagner: After studying journalism in college, I realized I didn’t love it. Even after being published and securing regular article work, I just wasn’t passionate about it at all. One day, I was getting a treatment at a salon/spa and I thought “this is awesome, I want to do this.” The next day, I registered at a cosmetology school. That being said, this profession wasn’t new to me. My grandmother actually owned a salon and it’s how she sent her five children to college! I just didn’t realize that it was such an artistic career until I got into it. Doing hair color feeds my artistic soul so it never feels like a job to me.
MA: Explain a little bit about your journey into hair art. What originally inspired you to create your fabulous unicorn looks?
CW: I started out as a platinum artist. I became known as someone who could take you from box dye black to platinum in three sessions with no damage. Then it hit me, I spend all day creating the perfect blank canvas for color, but I lived in a small town where, at the time, vivid color was not popular or even acceptable. So I bought my first wig and colored it with every warm color in my salon. I posted it to my Instagram and people loved it. When they saw what I could do with color they were all for it. Suddenly, I had a few more color clients, but I continued to use wigs for my more wild colors. The more I colored, the more intricate my ideas became.
MA: Can you tell us a little bit about your process for creating such vibrant hues?
CW: Although I can’t divulge all my techniques, I can say that I often tone the hair to a pastel pink or yellow if I’m doing warm colors and an icy silver or lavender if I’m doing cool color. I usually like to incorporate some sort of pastel next to the vibrant colors to make them seem that much more dynamic.
MA: Who or what are some of your hair art inspirations?
CW: I’m mostly inspired by nature, abstract art and graphic novels. The koi fish hair color I recently did was inspired by a beautiful koi fish pond I saw while at Disney World. Many of my neon designs have been inspired by cyber punk art. Hair color artists like Alix Maya, Shannon Romano, Rebecca Taylor and Stephany Smith have been some of my long time inspirations. And more recently @hstylze on Instagram.
MA: How does your process differ when creating such dynamic color looks for curls as opposed to straight hair?
CW: When coloring curly hair, my techniques differ depending on the curl pattern and hair porosity. I know that if a client has very curly or coiled hair, I’m going to work with large sections of color, altering dark and light or pastel and vibrant to create more color dimensions and light reflection. If a client always wears their hair curly, then I can do things that I wouldn’t do with color if they were to wear it straight. The coil pattern itself creates a flowing design with constant direction change because of its naturally round shape. People are intimidated by coloring curly hair, but really the coils create color art by themselves…it’s a 3D canvas.
MA: What do you think are some great ways we can support stylists and colorists of color right now?
CW: The best way to support POC colorists is to simply support them the way you do with every other type of colorist or stylist. Engage with them on their social media, inquire about their techniques and share their work in the same manner so that one day it isn’t a question of how to better incorporate us. We’ve been here for a while now, we’ve just been visually underrepresented. When it comes to brightly colored natural hair, vivid ombré wigs and rainbow weaves, that’s something we’ve been doing since the ‘80s. Dare I say, those things were seen at “ratchet” ,”ghetto” and “outlandish” until it was popularized by our non-POC counterparts. The fact that we are gradually being included in a pop culture style type that has been predominantly worn by us for decades is a bit ironic, but that’s a whole other topic!
MA: What are your current favorite styling and coloring products to use on your own hair and others?
CW: When it comes to styling products, I’m drawn to anything that helps the hair retain moisture without being too heavy and products that don’t contain harsh chemicals. I’ve always had a great experience with Schwarzkopf BlondeMe lightener. It never damages my clients’ hair or the wigs I work with. I myself, can’t live without my Pravana hair spray.
MA: What has been your own biggest hair transformation?
CW: For a long time, I relaxed my hair. One day, I just got tired of the feeling that I had to have long straight hair to be pretty so I went to a salon to have it all cut off. The stylist refused to shave my head as I had asked, claiming that I would regret cutting all my long, pretty hair. So I settled for a pixie cut with bangs, but I still had to relax it in order to maintain the style. I wore that style for about three months, but then one morning, I just took my husband’s clippers and shaved my head. It was so invigorating not having to straighten my hair any more.
MA: Many of us are experimenting with DIY color right now, do you have any tips for longevity and color saturation if attempting at home?
CW: My best tip for DIY hair color is, don’t. But if you absolutely have to, I would suggest using semi-permanent colors with a good reputation for easy removal. That way, if you mess up, it’s easier to fix. It also helps the stylist to transition you back to your salon color you had before. As for saturation and longevity, those are the issues that are immensely determined by proper after care. I would also greatly advise against home bleaching. It’s always best to consult with a stylist and have that kind of service done in a professional setting.