Omar Antonio is one of those souls that exude creativity. No matter the medium, he will find a way to transform what others see as everyday moments into a masterpiece worthy of a pedestal. His journey is, as he says, that of an artist first, that eventually landed his hands on a head of hair that he transformed into a work of art.
The Sebastian International Artistic Team hairstylist, with his signature turquoise eyebrow, travels and performs stages all around the world and shared with ESTETICA his source of artistry and drive to succeed.
So we’re talking about Eclectic. This new collection is breaking the limits of self-expression and it’s not about cuts, it’s not about styling, it’s about this new generation, right?
“Yeah, it’s really nice because we are focusing on a generation that is taking place right now, and for every single hairdresser that is behind the chair to be inspired by who is sitting in your chair right today. Sometimes we look to the past or future for inspiration, but there are so many things happening right now to use. Kids nowadays don’t follow trends, they follow social media. With a click of a button, they can be inspired by something they saw someone wear in China, a leather jacket they saw from Brazil, to a suede skirt they saw in Kentucky. Then they put all of these together; it is not a particular style. No longer do you say that’s very Italian-inspired, or that’s very Russian-inspired. It’s an eclectic bunch. Mix and matching things to make their own style. So we’re taking that and we’re thinking, let’s mix and match products that you wouldn’t think go together on a normal basis. No limits. We started with that foundation in mind of mixing, matching and embellishing the hair with items such as belt buckles and wooden sticks, or industrial metal clips.“
- It’s all about repurposing.
- “Sure… the idea is: how can we make this new? Jeans, you repurpose them, you sand them and rip them and have a pair of brand new jeans. You customize it to yourself. You know what is so great about this? I am 41 years old. I didn’t know what a millennial was until this collection came about, but I tell you, every single interview I have done in the past, every video that I’ve done, they ask, Omar, what inspires you the most? It’s the children, and my children are 24, 23, 20, and 16. They are millennials and this is the message that I get from them. That free love, dress how I want to dress, but there’s a cool edginess to them, that I find very moving so – I have been touched by them for many, many years since they are my kids, now I want to be like them!“
So how did you begin your journey with Sebastian?
“I’ve been with Sebastian for 10 years and I had been only been doing hair for three years before I joined! I’m colorblind. I don’t see a lot of color so I did a lot of cutting. Some people from Sebastian approached me and visited my salon. A salesperson came in and she said, ‘You should use Sebastian,’ and they also said come to a cutting audition to be an instructor. Now, I’d only been cutting hair for three years so I said I’d try it out because I had been taking many classes and I went. I auditioned and they pulled me out after the audition. Now, I am a very creative person, I make jewelry, I make clothes, so after my audition they came up to me and said my cutting skills were OK – they’re not the best. My styling skills were good, I had a good voice but my presentation onstage was not so good BUT these are things that can be worked on. They wanted to hire me and teach me cutting techniques, stage presence, and they wanted me to become an educator. So I couldn’t believe that a company approached me like that!“
- What did you know about Sebastian Professional before getting on board?
- “I really didn’t know what I was getting into until that first day of training, and that’s when I realized – this is such a tribe, a family, everyone takes care of each other. If I fail that means that they fail. So my instructors poured a lot of time an energy, Michael Polsinelli, Carole Protat… they trained me how to stand onstage, how to project my voice, and cutting skills, and now I’m on the International Artistic Team and it feels like 10 years blew by so fast. I, to this day, do not consider myself a hairstylist first – I am an artist first. Sebastian Professional really had their hand on my back the entire time to train an artist to be a hairdresser.“
So what do you think sets Sebastian as a company apart from anything else?
“Well, now that I’m a part of it, Sebastian has so much history that I learned about. I didn’t live it, I came with the relaunch, with What’s Next Awards, so just hearing about the history of the company, I have learned so much about the heritage of it and how year after year, even if the company changes, what sets us apart is that we are not out there to change the world: Sebastian is a group of really cool artists that like to do really cool hair, and for me as a kid to see that was something I wanted to be a part of. I don’t want to be the biggest star in the world. I want to be part of a team that thinks, what can we do next?“
I saw you during the latest Fashion Week in New York. Tell me about this experience of working with along with Anthony Cole and being involved in the fashion world with Sebastian?
“So, I had done Fashion Week before, and have worked on many seasons and Anthony Cole is our leader, and what’s really refreshing is that he is such a cool artist. The fascination I get from Fashion Week is watching him collaborate with designers, because it’s not about the hair, it’s about the clothes. So the hair becomes the accessory to the clothes. The hardest part of Fashion Week is the speed in which you have to work, and when they pick you it is because they think you can work in that environment. To be chosen for Fashion Week is such a great honor, because you have to be one of the best of the best, if it’s a ponytail, that better be the best damn ponytail; if it’s a braid, 37 models, they have to be exactly the same, whether the model has fine or coarse hair, or bleach hair or curly hair – so it is just such a challenge every season, but it’s a thrill every time.“
People want to know, working 10 years in Sebastian, and having four children, what is your secret for staying on top?
“I know exactly. When I started out with Sebastian, Michael was the Director, and I was at my very first show with him and I was asked to be a part of the team. I was a newcomer and no one knew who I was and I came up to him after the first day and I asked Michael how he thought I did, and he said: ‘You did a great job, I want you to come back next weekend and we are going to work again.’ We were building up and it was four months preparation for one humongous show. This was before I had signed the Sebastian contract, and Michael told me that I have to bring something new to the table every day. So what has kept me at the top? I have found a way to separate myself from the world, give myself a day and pull pictures from magazines, look on the Internet, find a new way to braid, maybe a new way to stich, maybe a new shape, or a collaboration with another artists...”
How many secrets are locked back behind your very own place, Studio 971?
“Oh, there are a lot of secrets! A lot of people contact me really excited and wanting to go back to my studio, like ‘teach me, teach me,’ and I always say, Nah man, those are my secrets.!”
In the first issue of ESTETICA this year we published about the second life of hairdressers and you were featured there in Studio 971 and you mentioned that you have a sewing machine there. Tell me about your tools.
“Well, what’s great about this is that it goes back to before I’m a hairdresser, I am an artist first. That’s my little man cave when I need to get away. When I feel inspired I go to my Studio 971 where I have a sewing table and maybe I saw something in Japanese outfit and I’ll get my material and start cutting and sewing, but in the middle I may get bored. Or something else catches my eye. Or I want to make jewelry. I have these drawers and they are full of materials an tools, and I have a painting area and a magazine area where I can sit for hours and just inspire myself. I have a sketching table I like to draw everything out. I rarely let people in. No clients, no one – it’s a very private place. That’s why I wanted the magazine to know about it, because it is a very inspiring space. The hairpieces, the paintings, no one has seen them. Some people may not get it and think that this is something that they cannot do in a salon, but I don’t care. I don’t make this art for them, I make it for myself and then open it up to them.“
What inspires you as an artist?
“Oh my God, it depends on what time, what minute of the day! Five minutes ago I was inspired by something else. Everything inspires me. I walk down the street, architecture, buildings… I remember one time I was walking in Oakland in a really bad neighborhood. It was nighttime. And I was walking with my boyfriend, we had dinner out there and were walking real fast and I was crossing the street and saw something really shinny on the street. Kind of like glitter. So I ran back and saw it was a shattered side mirror, and I picked it up, It was sticky, and I just sat there looking at this shattered mirror and took it. I stuck it on my wall and it was there for maybe two years. But every time I looked at that mirror I saw inspiration. Two years later I did a collection for Robert Lobetta and I did this huge A-line undercut. The entire back was shattered mirrors. And it was something I found on the street. I do these little sketches sometimes, they’re little doodles – and sometimes I just know that in those three little lines, there is something there. Someone will pass by and ask, what the hell is this, and I will respond, ‘I don’t know yet, but there is something there.’ Maybe sometimes I grab one of these and I’ll learn to put something together.“
I beg your pardon but… I had to ask you this one: what is the secret behind your turquoise eyebrow?
“I had a client, a millennial. He’s 24 and he’s got really long hair. He’s so edgy that he doesn’t even know it. He’s just so cool. And he has one teal eyebrow. I just said, what did you do?! I’m dying that brown, and he said NO! That he liked it! So I was doing an ombré on his hair, and I just kept looking at it. And then I thought, maybe I’ll do it. And he got so mad, saying no! I am the only one! And then I said, I have more Facebook followers than you. So I did it and I loved it. I have tattoos, piercings, and crazy hair sometimes, but I had never seen that before. So I told my tattoo guy I wanted him to tattoo my eyebrow. And then everyday I have a little powder to make it brighter. It has become my signature. This was about a year ago. I get, ‘Hey you know that Sebastian guy, the one with the green eyebrow?’ It’s like a teal, turquoise.“