Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Do or Dye: Interview with an Up-and-Coming Hair Stylist

March 2, 2012  
Filed under Profiles / Interviews

In a generation filled with tech-savvy, resource-rich, smart and ambitious twenty and thirty somethings, more and more people are picking up a second skill next to their day job to pursue a creative passion or hone a hobby professionally—and they’re embracing it with glee. Meet Esther Suh, who’s a case in point where she’s a full time occupational therapist by day and a future professional hair stylist by night and they both have something in common: it’s all in the hands. Read on to find out more in her own words…

esther's hair model
{Photo Credits: Hair by Esther Suh; Model, Maria Chun Fletcher; Photo by Jason Dazzo; Makeup by Erin Griffo}

CM: How did you develop a passion for the hair industry when you were practicing Occupational Therapy (which is something totally different) for so many years?

ES: Several years ago, I was struck by an article in the LA times featuring a hairdresser who wanted to make a difference in the world, who did–by setting up shop in the Middle East and offering her ear, heart, and skills to a community of women who desperately needed to taste validation, empowerment and liberation by allowing them to share their stories. She not only provided a safe, therapeutic outlet to help restore beauty  and dignity, but also a means to make a living by training them in the artistry of aesthetics/hairdressing. I thought, what a powerful tool to touch the lives of people and not just “give fish”, but “teach how to fish”. I was fascinated by this industry of cosmetology–clearly, a gift that keeps on giving. Not that I’m planning to completely abandon OT, but I’m aiming to fuse the two and do what I call “tHAIRapy”.

CM: What do you like most about working on someone’s hair? What is your favorite process or thing to do?

ES: I enjoy watching people sit/transform in my chair as they unwind, get refreshed after a long workday and are excited for their new look, and eventually see their delighted expression when they see their image in the mirror and can say “you are beautiful, you matter!”. It’s hard to say which hair design process–hair cutting, styling, or coloring is my favorite. That’s like asking me, “which baby is your favorite?” because they are each unique and come as a package to complete a smashing look.

CM: As a hair stylist, what do you want to be known for and what mark do you want to leave in your industry?

ES: A tastemaker who creates “dangerous beauty” and a joy-carrier who breathes life into people. The mark I want to leave: Being part of the G-Generation or Giving Generation that Winn Claybaugh, co-founder and dean of Paul Mitchell the School talks about–those not satisfied with money as the “end-all, be-all” and instead redefining success as “doing good” and “giving back”. I want to be part of a team that creates a g-bomb or giving bomb where when a team of creative energies, abilities and passion, mix together, explosive things happen, not just locally, but globally.

crafty hands hair stylist interview
In the words of Esther: “This picture represents my purpose—breaking through closed barriers to give where no or few hands have gone before.”

CM: What’s a stereotype you had when you entered the industry that is simply not true after experiencing for yourself?

ES: Superficial, catty, gossipy. I mean, this is in any industry if there are humans running it. However, I quickly came to find that the hair industry is a powerful, giving, honorable, noble and intimate profession that goes beyond skin deep. If you think about it, good hairdressers are actually leaders and trendsetters of the community who make the face of society and have much influence to bring out the best in people.

CM: How do you come up with concepts and ideas? Where do you get your inspirations?

ES: From the Creator of the Universe. Cultures all around the world, an encounter with interesting/fascinating people, ingenious designs/products, senseless acts of beauty/random acts of kindness, my imagination, sifting through creme de la creme tear sheets to see what’s out there, then watching 2D images lift off the page, triggering new ideas filtered through my lived experience, which eventually changes into a transforming vision in my mind.

CM: How has being in the hair industry changed your perspective on life, if any?

ES: It’s an honor to be “let in” to our clients’ lives. Interacting with such diverse clientele, allows me to see how sacred, precious, unique life is. That although on the outside everyone is different, we all have universal desires to be “heard and understood, affirmed, blessed, safe, touched, chosen and included”… That beauty can arise from ashes.

CM: What do you like to do for fun?

ES: Creating “rags-to-riches” projects, traveling, shopping for unique finds, doodling/ journaling life’s adventures, people watching, outdoor activities, ATVing on the beach; any type of flying–airplane, hot air balloon-riding.

CM: What is your favorite food/fun spots in LA?

ES: Aroma Cafe – best lemon poppy blueberry cake, Masa – best deep dish pizza, The Association – best Cuban mojito.

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