When two hair gurus with similar aesthetic from opposite coasts get together to chat hair, it’s always.
CERVANDO: Hey Harry!
HARRY: Oh my god, Hi! First of all I want to thank you SO much for telling me to go to the hair shop to get those tape-in extensions because they a frigging awesome! I just went in there and blew a grand. They’re so paper-thin and they’re so tiny!
CERVANDO: Paper-thin! Also get that Bumble and Bumble spray, it’s supposed to be a volumizing spray but it actually has a little bit of color in it, and then you just hit the root with that. Like a dark blonde, usually you can get dark blonde and it pretty much matches any color.
HARRY: Well typically what I do is I use eyeshadow.
CERVANDO: Oh! Okay perfect, that’s probably better because it doesn’t look as cakey.
HARRY: Well it’s just like you said, if I want to give them a root, I just paint in some dark eyeshadow and that usually works well and then also I know that Jen Atkin actually uses the Rita Hazan Root Touch-up Spray.
CERVANDO: Yes! Exactly.
CERVANDO: It’s impressive, She used it to create a root and I was like wow that took three seconds.
CERVANDO: Yes exactly. That’s exactly what the Bumble and Bumble stuff is like, I think the Rita Hazan stuff came out after and that one has a little bit more specific of a point so you can really get that root good.
HARRY: Totally, which is great! I feel like I have all these new toys to play with. Let me ask you a question, like obviously I know you have to use the flatiron for tape extensions, but you can use it literally by just peeling it off and stick it on fine hair if you want it to just be temporary for the night, and then …
CERVANDO: The way I do it for the night Harry, is I just do the hair and I place it on top and then I just attach it with my fingers. You don’t have to do it with the iron, the iron’s only if you want it to be permanent for three months or three weeks or something.
HARRY: Yeah, because I was thinking what a pain in the ass it would be for my clients to have to use that glue remover and take it all out.
CERVANDO: You know how you can also get it off though… you just take Elnett Hairspray and you spray the root and the alcohol just lifts the piece right up.
HARRY: Ah, that’s good to know! I’m thinking, I might just do double stick and sandwich the hair without the flatiron because it’s really just for the night.
CERVANDO: Yeah, you don’t have to do that.
HARRY: The tape in’s are perfect for pictures. They’re just so thin I can’t believe it!
CERVANDO: It’s exciting right?
HARRY: You could literally stick it on someone’s root and you wouldn’t even see it! It’s incredible, so BIG thank you for that! I might actually be using them this weekend, we’ll see if they’re needed. So how long have you been with your agency? Beause I know you do half and half, you’re still really busy in the salon, but you do freelance too.
CERVANDO: The truth is I started with The Wall Group in 1997.
CERVANDO: I met Brooke [Wall] at the very beginning of the Wall Group. They were just starting up when I was Sally Hershberger’s assistant, so we met and I’ve kind of been with them ever since then.
HARRY: That’s amazing. So you lived in New York first?
CERVANDO: Yes, I lived in LA and I was here working and then I had the opportunity to work with Sally Hershberger. And she brought me over to New York to work with her and I actually met Danilo there, so I was able to have her and Danilo as my mentors.
HARRY: How cool!
CERVANDO: Yeah, and this was in the late 90’s. I lived in New York first, then in the early 2000’s, I had the opportunity to go work at Sally’s shop and I was given the choice. You either stay in New York or you go to LA, and I decided to come to LA and I feel like I made the right decision. I LOVE being in LA, I love it here, I love my clients.
HARRY: Yeah, the quality of life is really spectacular here, I really love that I’m fortunate enough to come back and forth so much and I love that I’m able to do that because there really is something so amazing about being here in this weather and the mountains, it’s heaven! But I do so much fashion, I need to be in New York.
HARRY: So for me, it makes more sense to be in New York because I do a lot of fashion. I do celebrity stuff too, but I feel like my base has always been the fashion stuff and it just makes more sense for me to be there; but I feel privileged when I come here [to LA]. I really just love coming to LA and I love the space. Even the hotel rooms, everything’s just spacious there’s just room for everything. It’s just such cramped quarters in New York!
CERVANDO: It’s so true! How long have you lived in New York?
HARRY: 24 years I think, or 23. And it’s so amazing because I’m actually doing Emmy’s prep today and my hotel room is SO big, it’s bigger than my apartment and I literally have hair laying all over the floor, like 14 different shades, I’ve got all my gear out, I’m wiping all my irons an everything down. By the way! Have you had a chance to use the new iron yet?
CERVANDO: I haven’t had a chance to use the new iron because yesterday I went straight to work and then I had to go straight to a house call and then today we’re gonna go through them, and we’re gonna put them in my kit and we’ll use them tonight!
HARRY: Awesome! That’s super cool, play around with the dial. I was with Ellen Pompeo last night and I ended up giving her a haircut and she totally stole one of my irons, but I was like that’s all good, take it! She was playing with the dial though and she said let me figure out how to turn it on and off. It’s actually super simple but for some reason, people couldn’t figure out how to turn it and then she was like ‘oh my god I’m so crazy, this is so easy.’ But it’s literally just an on/off dial and you just hold it to the right and hold it to the left and it comes up, and then to secure it you push it all the way back down and you turn it again and it locks back into place. It’s truly awesome and I’ve never been any more proud of anything I’ve come up with so far in the line.
CERVANDO: It’s definitely impressive, I’m impressed.
HARRY: It’s super cool because I think it’s a game-changer for people in our business, and obviously great for consumers, that’s for sure too, but the speed and accuracy you’re gonna have now with this iron, like the disposable irons we all used to buy every three months and then replace.
CERVANDO: Yeah and I understand that, that’s the thing with the irons, it’s like I’ve had these same irons, I bought these same irons that are discontinued for years because they have the right speed, the temperature, they don’t burn the hair too much but they get hot enough and they get it done fast because I work really fast, you know. I don’t take forever.
HARRY: Oh yeah, well you’re gonna work even faster now, watch out!
CERVANDO: That’s amazing! Let me ask you Harry.
HARRY: Sure, talk to me!
CERVANDO: How did you get your start?
HARRY: Oh my god, literally my start was so arduous and painful! It’s such a long story but I’ll try to give you a quick, short version of it, because it’s quite crazy how it all happened for me. I was struggling for thirteen years trying to do this. It never took off. I kinda stuck my finger in a lot of arenas in the fashion industry, because at one point I kind of thought, it’s just not gonna happen. I’m not good enough to make it.
CERVANDO: Oh wow.
HARRY: Yeah, like I don’t know enough and no matter how hard I tried. I was rejected by agencies everywhere. In Miami, I started out in South Beach in ’91, and they said, ‘your book is weak, you don’t really know what you’re doing, you should become an assistant.’ So I assisted there for two years and I learned a ton and I thought I was so much better. Then I came to New York and I was rejected again by every agency in New York. They said, ‘you’re not good enough, you need to be an assistant.’ So then I hopped around and I assisted different people here and there but I wasn’t really hitting my stride. I wasn’t really that great I guess, and it wasn’t going so well.
So I ended up deciding that I wanted to stay in the business somehow and I had an opportunity to become a casting director for fashion shows. So I became a junior casting director and then became a casting director and I started in that arena and basically, I started casting shows for these huge production companies that produced the world’s biggest shows. I did Marc Jacobs, Ralph Lauren, Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent, everything. They were working with every brand there was. And I ended up casting Versus by Versace when they actually used to show in New York. This was in the late ‘90’s, early 2000’s.
CERVANDO: Yeah, totally.
HARRY: And that was my big break in the casting arena and after that, I was introduced to Marc Jacobs and I was put on that team and then after I worked on Marc’s show, he then signed a contract to start working with Louis Vuitton and he started taking me to Paris with his shows in Paris. Then I became the casting director for Marc Jacobs for almost eight or nine years. So I did it for a really long time and I was always doing hair on the side, but it was never full-time. And what ended up happening was that I became friends with all the models, because I would see them constantly. So we became friends and I would have them hanging out at my house and I’d just casually suggest, ‘you should get bangs,’ or ‘you should go blonder,’ and they’re like ‘what the hell do you know about hair?’ So they started to trust me, and I started to do it and then they would walk onto these major shoots with Steven Meisel and Grace Coddington and everyone would say, ‘your hair looks awesome, who’s doing it, who’s coloring it,’ blah blah blah. So it started to become an underground kinda thing. We had a hair salon in my crappy six-floor walk-up in SoHo and the big break happened to me in 2002. The beauty director of Vogue magazine, who is Amy Astley, who is now the Editor-in-Chief for Teen Vogue, stopped me at Yves Saint Laurent and she liked the models’ hair color. She said’ I love your hair color,’ and the model said Harry Josh does it. And then another model around the corner said, ‘he does mine too,’ and then what’s even funnier, the sales guy comes up and he said, ‘he cuts mine too.’ And she said, ‘how am I the beauty director of Vogue and I don’t know who Harry Josh is?’
So the sales guy wrote my phone number down and said, ‘he does Gisele and Karolina Kurkova, call him!’ So she calls me and I knew who she was because of course I was obsessed with the business and I read every masthead of every magazine since I was 17 so the minute I got the voicemail from her, I must’ve played it ten times in a row. I was so excited! They had been wanting to do a piece on 5 up-and-coming hairdressers to look out for, and it was going to be in the March issue. And as you know, the March and September issues are like the bibles for the season!
HARRY: the assistant called and said, ‘Amy will have to come to your salon.’ And I said, ‘oh, I don’t work at a salon, I work at a six-floor walk-up with ducked tape on my broken Bed Bath and Beyond mirror and they sit on foot stills.’ And so she said, ‘oh…okay. Are you telling me this is where Shalom Harlow and Kirsty Hume and Gisele Bundchen come to get their hair done?’ And I said ‘yep!’ Then they said, okay I guess we’re going to come. So she huffed and puffed her way up six flights of stairs, we sat down and I kind of told her my whole story over my twelve year journey trying to make it as a hairdresser. When the article came out, there was a full page picture that Anna Wintour had approved, and then the other four hairdressers just had tiny thumbnails.
CERVANDO: I remember that Harry!
HARRY: I had a Lyrnyrd Skynyrd t-shirt on. I didn’t know you were supposed to dress up for those kinds of things! It was just a monumental moment for me. After thirteen years I couldn’t believe I was being recognized at something I always thought I was good at, but I’ve only gotten better year after year. You know, that’s when I was thrust into the spotlight, overnight I finally got an agent, my first job right out the gate was Harper’s Bazaar with Patrick Demarchelier. So everyone wanted to be a part of it and it was hard for me because I didn’t think I deserved that much that quick, and I wasn’t ready for everything that was coming to me. I didn’t have assistants, I didn’t work on set long enough, I didn’t have that experience.
CERVANDO: Yes! Totally.
HARRY: And here I was working with major teams right out the gate. It was just like, crap! I’m not going to lie, I fell on my face a lot over the years where I felt like, oh I wasn’t that great, that guy’s not gonna book me again. And now over the last fourteen years, I wish I had that moment now! Because now I’m ready! I know things I did not know fourteen years ago, you know what I mean?
HARRY: I feel like I’m a really good hairdresser now, I’ve got a great eye, and those things really took time. I’m not going to lie and say I was always brilliant because I really wasn’t. I feel like I’ve finally arrived, and I’m finally feeling like I’m in a really comfortable place in my own skin! So that’s my short version of the long two-hour drama of it all!
CERVANDO: Listening to your story, you have really been through every curve, every turn, every defeat to get to where you are, you have so much experience and so do I. For me,I spent 5 years assisitng, going back and forth from LA and NY, having great opportunities to work on shoots with such great photographers like Herb Ritts, Annie Leibowitz, and actually getting to see and work with Kevin Aucoin, an experience that I believe to be invaluable, and an education I could never have paid for. They were experiences that made me the hairdresser I am, and proud of what I’ve accomplished since, and always taking risks is one thing that I would really love to put out there. Always take a risk if you can, because it will always take you a level further in your career. We have this major experience through all these years where sometimes in this newer age, a lot of people with much less much experience or time under their belt still reach that certain level of success.
HARRY: It is a different day and age! I feel like this is something I hear from a lot of different hairdressers, and this is not how I feel, but I know some of them do have a chip on their shoulder about that because they feel like these guys can only do one or two things and that’s all they do and they’re making hundreds of thousands of dollars and travelling the world with two different artists and the truth of the matter is, we’re not in competition with each other and we shouldn’t be, you know?
CERVANDO: I agree.
HARRY: And it’s great, listen, if they’re able to do it, and make a go of it, good for them. If we had to suffer and do these other things first, it’s fine! It makes us who we are today. There’s such a sense of humility I have that I don’t think I would’ve had if I got it all so fast.
CERVANDO: Yeah that makes sense.
HARRY: I’m okay with the process, I was okay that it didn’t happen fast for me because it was a sweeter success to me. Because I struggled so much and I was so grateful when I did have…success is such a weird word. In our modern day and age, and especially in the industry, success always seems to equate more. More clients, more money, more fame and I don’t personally think of success that way. Success to me means waking up and loving who you are, loving your life, and even if everything was pulled away from me today, I know that I’d be a happy person regardless. If you can get to a place like that in your life, that to me is success. So it’s just all about perspective I guess.
CERVANDO: Yes, I’m very happy for everyone’s success.
HARRY: A similar journey!
HARRY: We’re in the same age bracket.
CERVANDO: Totally, a different generation.
HARRY: Exactly, that was a different generation! And there weren’t a lot of us doing that, so we did have to pay our dues long and hard to get anywhere, so I can appreciate that and I think you could say it’s an easier time for young people to make a go of this, and good for them, that’s great. Good for everybody whose doing what they’re doing, and all we can do is trust that there’s enough work to go around and be awesome and do great work. I celebrate all my colleagues, I love their work. I love Mane Addicts! This is what I love.
HARRY: I love that Jen Atkin has thought of something that we can all share what we know on one hub. I know that if I was an eighteen-year-old hairdresser trying to break into this world, I wish there was a Mane Addicts back then!
CERVANDO: Yeah I know, it is so true because the difference is now there’s so many other avenues and opportunities, and a lot different things that are really cool to look at online, stuff you were never able to have access to or see before.
HARRY: No way! Our world at our age in the 90’s was so secretive, nobody wanted you to know anything. They didn’t want to teach you, they didn’t want to help you, they said, ‘tough shit, figure it out yourself.’ And now all of a sudden, people like Jen Atkin who is like a huge hairdresser sharing knowledge not only with us, but a platform for people all over America, and all over the world!
CERVANDO: It’s so true! For a long while, no one talked about who did what and for who. At the time, things were kept so secretive, no one knew what was going on the industry. All the behind the scenes tips, tricks, who the makeup artists were, nothing. Now, through social media, everything is so much more accessible. Back in the day, you were really only known in the publications, Harper’s Bazaar, Allure, Vogue, as opposed to now where it’s everywhere! These days, it’s so great because if you want to put something out there yourself, you can, and people are happy about it. Where then, no one would talk about it. It’s so great and it’s benefitted so many people.
HARRY: It’s so cool because it makes everyone’s life easier, even like me, I’ve been doing hair fifteen years and you gave me one nugget yesterday when we met, and I’m super happy! You never stop growing, you never stop learning, and we should always share as much as we can. And trust that we don’t need to be competitive because there’s always going to be enough work for everybody. I know between me and you, we share so many people in New York and LA.
CERVANDO: We do! That’s the one thing with you and I, even though we met for the first time yesterday, I was so happy, I was very excited to meet you. But we’ve shared so many clients through the years, and we still do!
CERVANDO: That’s the one thing I’ve always loved, is when somebody really takes care of the client’s hair well. Because sometimes you have a client that goes to someone else and they come back and you feel like, ‘oh okay, we’ve got to start all over.’ I just love that we share so many clients and you and I agree on that.
HARRY: Me too! It makes me feel proud and privileged; so there you have it.
CERVANDO: Yes! Exactly.