By now, anyone who is anyone in the hair care industry knows about Aura Friedman‘s magical knack for multicolored manes. Hailing out of Sally Hershberger Salon in New York (and sometimes in LA), Aura creates the iconic hair colors for some of today’s biggest models. Right on her toes is Paul Perez, another Sally Hershberger stylist with a rising talent. Whether he’s working on Martha Stewart, cutting a pixie in the salon, or on location for a fabulous wedding, his hairstyles are classic and elegant. Though these two hail from opposite coasts and work in the same salon, they haven’t had a chance to really get to know each other. So we sat the two down for a little hair talk…
PAUL: Hi! How’s it going?
AURA: Great, how are you?
PAUL: Things are good! Should we jump right in?
AURA: Yes! So how did you start doing hair? Or what made you want to do hair? What’s your story?
PAUL: I was actually a flight and needed a change in my life. It’s kind of funny because I always loved doing my own hair, and I thought, well what a great way to share something that I like to do with other people! So I went to school and got my license. I originally thought I’d start doing hair on the airplane for fellow flight attendants, but I ultimately I had to dedicate myself to a high-end salon so I quit being a flight attendant!
AURA: Wow, that’s really cool! From flight attendant to hair! It actually makes sense because both professions are very social and they’re service industry-related.
PAUL: Totally! The whole idea was that I wanted to cut the flight attendant’s hair on my layovers, but unfortunately 9/11 happened and then we couldn’t bring our shears onboard.
AURA: That’s crazy! I accidentally got into doing hair when I moved to northern Virginia in the middle of the summer when I was fifteen. My mom suggested that I go get a summer job because I had nothing to do. And you know a fifteen year old with a lot of time on their hands is probably a bad thing! So basically I applied at every place in the strip mall, and I really wanted to get the job at the pet store, but I got the job at the hair salon. I worked there all through high school and as I did it I realized, not only did I like it, but I also really enjoyed these intimate relationships that you have with people. I wanted to study psychology and it actually felt really similar to being a therapist, only you get instant gratification rather than years and years of treating someone! So I realized it was a good field for me to be in.
PAUL: That’s pretty amazing. So crazy at fifteen!
AURA: Yeah! It was actually the best job to have in high school, because I would always have wads of cash!
PAUL: And you probably had so much fun blowing it all on clothes!
AURA: Oh I know! And one of the salons I worked at was in a mall so I could go straight to Contempo right after.
PAUL: That’s a word I haven’t heard in a long time!
AURA: Yeah that’s pretty funny. So what is your favorite hair era? What inspires you the most from the past about doing hair?
PAUL: I think I love 70’s hair the most.
PAUL: In the 70’s and the 80’s, the hair was just big and voluminous and sexy.
AURA: Yeah! I love the 70’s.
PAUL: It’s kind of rare when you get to do that now on girls because everyone’s into texture now; which I think is cool because you can make it sexy, but ultimately the 70’s was about setting the hair, a little bit of teasing and a lot of hairspray!
AURA: Yeah, I love that! So for color, I definitely love the 70’s, but I’m also obsessed with the 60’s because there was something really interesting happening where hair color wasn’t quite so advanced. They were still doing a lot of bleach and tones on everybody, so for redheads, there’d be these pinky-toned reds that looked really matte and a lot less shiny than they would now, just because we’re so much more advanced. The colors looked so powdery and soft. And actually, I take all my inspiration for that hair color from vintage Playboys! Which has really good hairstyles in it too!
PAUL: Oh my god that’s so cool! Yeah, I’m sure they do!
AURA: Is there a film from the 70’s that you would say is your absolute favorite? Or is there an actress from that time that you look to for inspiration?
PAUL: I think of Jerry Hall for sure.
PAUL: I definitely reference her a lot when I look at pictures for volume and texture. I think we’re dipping into the 60’s with Brigitte Bardot but it kind of peeks into the 70’s. I LOVE some Brigitte Bardot hair!
AURA: Yeah, she’s one of my favorites too.
PAUL: I wish I would’ve seen more 70’s movies, but, I keep thinking of 80’s movies because I’m such an Olivia Newton John fan.
AURA: Well, then there’s also Farrah Fawcett. She’s definitely from the 70’s and pretty iconic!
PAUL: Yeah and Linda Carter is kind of 70’s too.
AURA: Oh yeah! I love Linda Carter.
PAUL: As you can see, I love that big hair!
AURA: Yeah! I also love that idea from the 50’s and 60’s that everyone set their hair. Till the day she passed away, my grandmother set her hair every week. She put rollers in her hair and styled it and took so much pride in getting all put together.
PAUL: I know, we need to bring that back somehow!
AURA: I know! I feel like our generation actually kind of ruined it with the 90’s grunge.
PAUL: Totally! We made everything faster and lazier about doing hair these days.
AURA: Exactly! I’m still in the roll-out-of-bed hairstyle…
PAUL: I keep mine short so I really don’t have to do too much to it, which is good. I’m lucky!
AURA: Yeah, men definitely have it pretty easy.
PAUL: I know… Did you have a big break in your career?
AURA: I would say when I got the Wella contract that was a pretty big break. It definitely changed a lot of things. I had gone to meet with my agent Bryanne, whose still my agent now, and I wanted to show her my book because I felt like it was ready to be shown and I had done Lady Gaga and M.I.A. already. So I brought it to her and she really liked it and liked me, and then a week or two later she gave me a call and said Wella had been looking for me and they happened to call The Wall Group to see if I worked with them. My agent said she had just met with me, and it happened from there, so I got a contract and an agent all at the same time!
PAUL: That’s really cool!
AURA: So I guess that was my big break! How ‘bout yourself?
PAUL: I guess when my career started. Working at John Frieda when Sally Hershberger was there, at that time as an assistant I felt like I could go in any direction, and I decided to go with Sally Hershberger because I had been given this opportunity and it definitely led me to where I am now.
AURA: Did you assist Sally?
PAUL: Yeah for a number of years.
AURA: Oh wow! That’s amazing!
PAUL: Yeah, as well as Mark Townsend and it really helped polish up my skills.
AURA: Right, I love Mark. He’s so sweet!
PAUL: Yeah and they’re both such amazing forces that it really taught me how to be a great stylist.
AURA: Yeah they really are. It’s actually really amazing to see Sally’s archive of work and all the different things she’s done. Like Herb Ritts and all these really iconic photographs.
PAUL: Totally! And first she was with Annie Leibovitz, which is pretty amazing.
AURA: Yeah, Annie’s amazing. The whole situation is amazing!
PAUL: Yeah, it’s almost like a part of history, it’s so weird.
AURA: It really is, it’s so interesting. (to sally) Sally, Paul and I are talking about you on our Hair Talk! On how iconic you are!…She said thank you!
PAUL: That’s amazing! So I want to know, what is your signature technique? And do you have a secret color tip?
AURA: I wouldn’t call one technique or another my signature technique, I don’t think I’ve really developed specific techniques, but what I feel like I have come up with is how to work on developing specific looks or trends that suit the client. Something like finding the right look for the right person…
PAUL: So knowing what kind of look suits them…
AURA: Exactly! Understanding suitability and what’s going to work, but also pushing the envelope. For instance, I did Soo Joo Park’s platinum blonde originally, when she went platinum. And now she’s a huge, mega supermodel because of her platinum hair. She has a Redken contract now, so I don’t do her color anymore, but it’s the second time Redken has given a contract to one of my clients that I’ve made platinum.
PAUL: That’s pretty amazing!
AURA: Yeah, I think that’s a good sign! The first one was Sky Ferreria. I didn’t do Sky’s hair for a few years, but I just started doing it again because she finally grew out all her hair in order to wait for me to make her blonde again.
PAUL: Oh my god, that’s so cool. It’s almost like you set people on their path with their look. It’s pretty cool.
AURA: Yeah, it’s actually something I’ve always wanted to do, which is image consult and come up with concepts and a certain look that would best-suit the person, and it’s funny because when I made Sky blonde again, she felt like herself again and almost started crying. It was an emotional moment!
PAUL: That’s a great feeling, like when you make the client so happy that you actually bring them to tears, that’s a cool feeling.
AURA: Yeah, it’s really what I do this job for!
PAUL: I agree. So do you have any secret color tips?
AURA: I mean, my biggest tip that I give people is don’t wash your hair often!
PAUL: Yeah right?! You can’t stress that enough with anything!
AURA: I think people are just so addicted to washing their hair. Sometimes when I just rinse my hair with cool water, it feels clean.
PAUL: Exactly, I do the same thing. It doesn’t really take shampoo to help make your hair feel clean.
AURA: Yeah and especially in California, there’s enough chlorine in the water that it’s going to clean your hair! So what’s your signature technique?
PAUL: It’s funny, for myself as well I don’t think I have a specific technique but what I like to do is have the ability to read someone’s style, and whatever look that we’re going for, really making the look theirs so that they feel sexy in it. So I love doing anything from a pixie to long layers, whatever fits their personality and what they can pull off. I just did a pixie yesterday on someone who came in with hair past her collarbone and it looked amazing on her. She’s coming back for color, she’s going to get a bleach and tone, so she’s really feeling this pixie now, which she didn’t even know she wanted until she walked in.
AURA: Oh my god, how fun!
PAUL: I know I’m so excited, I can’t even wait to see the result!
AURA: Whose doing the bleach and tone?
PAUL: Holland. Do you know Holland?
AURA: Oh cool! Yeah! Awesome.
PAUL: Yeah and she came in with this really long, messy hair that she didn’t know what to do with anymore and we just chopped it all off, gave her a really cute pixie, and she was into the change and wanted to take it a step further and do a bleach and tone.
AURA: That’s so fun, I love that! And she’s going to feel so liberated now.
PAUL: Oh completely. What’s funny is I don’t think you get enough people that want to do that anymore and it was just super fun.
AURA: Yeah, people get really scared to go for it. So what’s your secret tip?
PAUL: My tip for hair in general would be to know what fits your face, whether it’s short or long hair, just make sure that you feel comfortable in your own skin. Also let a stylist help guide you in the right direction.
AURA: That’s a good one for sure, which is to just be open to suggestion.
AURA: This is awesome, I feel like I learned so much about you!
PAUL: I know! We always see each other in passing but we never get a chance to really talk.
AURA: Yeah this was nice! I loved getting to know you better.
PAUL: Yeah me too! Let’s reconnect soon.