27 March 2023

Hair Mentorships – Living Legacy

Mentorships have existed since Mentōr took Telemachus under his wing in Homer’s Odyssey – for those interested in etymologies. But perhaps nowhere as in the hairdressing industry has it had such a profound impact on individual lives.

Estetica asked both mentors and mentees about their mentorship experiences, but the only thing they seem to have in common is that each one is unique…

Funnily enough, many of those we talked to mention “hunger for knowledge” and relentless drive, while all seem to convey the message that any mentorship is a two-way street. There is a give and take – constantly. And our list of interviewees reads like a Who’s Who of the past, present, and future of the hairdressing industry: Horst Rechelbacher, Sonya and Christopher Dove, Pierre Villageville, Marylle Koken, Patrick McIvor, Van Council, Lupe Voss, Thomas Osborn, Richy Kandasamy, Lucy Doughty and the rising stars – Rachel Lynn Carr, Nicoletta Gauci, Katey Bug-Browne… and the list goes on forever…

What makes a great mentor? Maybe a great mentee! Aveda Concept Salon Co-Founder, Van Council, makes a unique observation: “I noticed that after our hairdressers began mentoring, their own performance improved in the salon. Leading by example speaks volumes in this industry, because your mentee helps to hold you accountable for your performance behind the chair.” Sebastian Professional What’s Next Award Winner, Heather Rae C. says, “All of her mentors were doing rad stuff, but didn’t have major egos or negative personalities. Real talent manifests itself automatically, there’s no need for sass.”

So it seems that mentors are open to bug-eyed academy drop-ins. TIGI’s US Technical Creative Director Richy Kandasamy met Brian Adelman at the TIGI Academy in SOHO. He recalls, “Brian always came to visit us in the Academy after working all day. He liked the energy and we couldn’t get rid of him!” Nicoletta Gauci used the same approach with Lucie Doughty. “I was practicing on my dollhead on a Sunday, when the school was usually closed. Lucie needed extra hands washing up and prepping the classroom, so I jumped right in! This resulted in her asking if I could assist her on her 2009 NAHA color entry.” But it’s not about slavish adoration either. Gauci continues, “Often the mentor will look to the assistant for a second opinion, so it’s important to share the same vision.”

Great mentors also adapt their style to the mentees’ mindset. Aveda Global Hair Color Team Guest Artist Lupe Voss weighs in by saying, “Mentors should be willing to go the extra mile and do whatever it takes to share information. And they must be open to understanding how each mentee learns differently.” Adapt? Sure, but there will likely be no pampering or sugar-coating! Katey Bug-Browne, who worked with Sebastian Professional Stylist Marylle Koken, notes, “She is brutally honest and I love it! She tells me when something is no good and has me find ways to fix it.” Brian Adelman, mentee to TIGI’s USA Technical Creative Director Richy Kandasamy, feels similarly. “I can tell you that Richy’s no-nonsense, tough-love approach is exactly what I need in a mentor,” he admits, “If something’s not perfect you hear about it immediatey. If he says nothing, it’s safe to assume you did a good job. I think the lack of positive reinforcement has made me a more confident person in all aspects of my life.”

Patrick McIvor, Goldwell/KMS California Artistic and Techni-Culture Director, puts an interesting spin on the whole thing: “Anything someone else taught me was usually because I asked them to show or teach me. The mentee has to realize it is their own responsibility to get what they need and hold their mentor accountable, not put them on a pedestal. Then they also need to honor their mentor by becoming even better than them.“

“There is something about watching the mentee grow into their own,” marvels Aveda’s Lupe Voss, “The beauty of seeing them… becoming strong in what they do… there are no words.” No words, except for perhaps those of TIGI’s Thomas Osborn: “When you keep knowledge to yourself and don’t share it, it becomes stagnant. When you share that knowledge, it helps you grow as well.”

By Marie Scarano


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