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Celebrity Confessors: Meet our Four Alchemists of Color!

Thursday, 21 August 2014 21:11

Here are four top celebrity colorists of legendary red-carpet glam squads. They seem to wield rainbows, moonlight and sunshine to keep stars sparkling for those special events. Here they shine in their own light!

They are the ones who get the real scoops as color confessors to the stars. The colorists who work backstage to keep red carpet divas on the cutting-edge of trending hair color palettes. Formulating bespoken nuances and conniving for spectacular change-ups to wow the crowds at Hollywood premiers, award ceremonies, and events. What is it that distinguishes these behind-the-chair alchemists? What makes them tick? Estetica asked Aveda Artistic Director Hair Color, Ian Michael Black, Joico Celebrity Color Connoisseur Denis De Souza, Goldwell Celebrity Hair Colorist Rona O’Connor, and Wella Professionals Celebrity Color Ambassador Jennifer J.

Like doctors, hairdressers are often highly specialized professionals. But how and when do they realize that this is their vocation? Both Ian and Denis admit to having been somewhat late bloomers, choosing their vocation as colorists basically when they got to beauty school and were weighing their options. Jennifer and Rona instead remember a special affinity with color since childhood. “I’m so sensitive to color,” admits Jennifer, "even a slight difference in hue can make you feel totally different. I think I’ve only ever thought of myself as a colorist.” Rona, instead, apparently always had a more hands-on approach. “When I was a little girl I loved coloring fabrics and beautifying my friends.”  Determined to create the best red hair color, she gravitated towards Goldwell to benefit from the wide variety of color pigment the brand offers. The result was Debra Messing’s signature red – and the rest is history!

What is it exactly that distinguishes a colorist from –let’s say– a cutter? Joico’s De Souza believes it’s because colorists only “play” with the chemical side of the hair industry. Black agrees. “The colorists I work with are very left-brained, methodical and love the formulation part of coloring hair,” he observes, “while cutters are more about instant results.” Wella’s Jenny concurs, saying, “Cutters are interested in hard edges, angles, and forms, while colorists think in terms of shade, contrast, and movement.”

There are apparently many motivations behind sudden and drastic changes in color among celebrities. Sometimes they play the photo opp card to make a statement or a big splash. Often it is obviously a new role that dictates the change. De Souza shares that "Kate Mara had never colored her hair, but had to go blond for a movie, and now she absolutely loves it!” Other times, as for mere mortals, they can be triggered by a break-up or a move to reinvent themselves. In any case, nothing is left to chance on the red carpet. Usually the hair comes first as a lead-in fashion accessory, to complement eyes and skin tone. Then more times than not, the gown is designed to pull the look together. Jenny ‘modestly’ believes, “The dresses are like the icing on the cake.”

“Be consistent,” offers Rona, “Never think you know it all, and don’t be afraid to over create.” All four agree that education lays the groundwork for a successful career. Black advises, Perfect the craft. By becoming a master at what you do, many doors will open for you.” Denis De Souza takes all this one step further, urging students to, “Follow your dreams, work really hard, starting from the bottom. Build a very strong base and pick the brains of whomever you work with. But always remember to apply what you’ve learned and make it your own. That will set you apart!”


  • Ian Michael Black (left) and Rona O'Connor (right)

  • Denis de Souza (left) and Jennifer J (right)


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