By Lubna Hamdan
Sally Hershberger has styled some of the biggest names, such as Jane Fonda, Tom Cruise and Gigi Hadid
Sally Hershberger is more than a hairstylist. If anything, she’s helped build Hollywood’s beauty image since the 80’. Not only did she style Hollywood’s most iconic names – even Hilary Clinton – she’s also the hair guru behind many a celebrity Vogue and Vanity Fair cover. But her most impressive move to date is probably the fact that she was the first ever hairdresser to charge $600 for a haircut, a change that raised the bar in the beauty industry and caused many to follow thereafter.
Now, Hershberger plans on doing the same in Dubai, except this time, it’s by injecting the city’s beauty scene with a “touch of modernism.” What does she mean by that?
Firstly, I have to ask, how did you end up working with Hollywood’s biggest icons?
I started when I was about 18 years old, my family said you need to go get a job or do something, because I came from a family who was in oil and I just didn’t think that I’d ever have to work. Then my friend said ‘Oh you should be a hairdresser, you should go to that famous beauty school and work for that famous hairdresser’ - because I was so obsessed with my own hair.
So I worked for a famous hairdresser, met Olivia Newton-John from Grease, she was like Madonna– huge – the biggest rock star and gorgeous, worked with a photographer who did all the Vogue and Vanity Fair covers, and I’m like 'this is fun'. I’m touring with Olivia Newton-John, flying on her private jet, going from city to city, playing tennis in the day and then I’d just fluff her hair!'
And in the 80s they paid you a lot of money. It was very decadent. You’d fly on choppers and private jets all the time.
They don’t pay you a lot of money now?
[Laughs] No, it’s a different world now. It was the best time then. Too bad you weren’t alive. Oh no, you were two [years old].
So anyway my career took off then. I was working for everyone in Hollywood.
So you’ve come to Dubai now to train the staff at Sisters Beauty Salon and launch your 24k gold hair products, but you’re a salon owner yourself. Would you ever consider opening a salon in Dubai?
No, I don’t need to. I’m already in New York and LA. I’m all over the world doing [other things]. I do HSN, it’s a home shopping network, and the shopping channel in Canada, and a million other things. I’m just busy.
From your experience and work, what do you think of the beauty industry in Dubai?
I think it needs an injection of modernism. I think it’s a little too done. Do you know what I mean? It’s a little too fake for my taste. I’m more of a naturalist, because I think it’s sexier. So I think that’s important. I love long hair and all that but I like it a little easier. A little more natural.
What advice would you give the ladies here?
I’m giving them very textured hair, a lot of layers. A lot of them come in here with long hair reaching down to their waist. And I love long hair, but not when it’s thin and with all the extensions. It makes you look older. They all want their skin to look young, and I’m like, well I need to make your hair match your face, you know? And it’s funny because just by coming in here, they’re changing. I’m giving them more layers and they’re saying ‘wow, I have some volume.’
I’m also talking to them a lot about the products. They’re very interested in our 24k gold products, because gold is a heat conductor so styling actually works better with [these products.] It also works great for humidity, because they’re asking a lot about that too.
Going back to your work with celebrities, would you say there’s a negative side to working with them?
I’m going to be honest, I don’t have anything negative, only because the celebrities that I’ve worked with are high calibre celebrities, like Jane Fonda, Michelle Pfeifer, Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt and Johnny Depp. So no offense, but I don’t work with the Kardashians. Do you know what I mean? Now if I work with a celebrity it’s like Gigi Hadid, a model. And I do the Hollywood Vanity Fair covers with all the actors.
Which celebrity made you feel starstruck?
Hilary Clinton. Because you go to the White House, it’s Hilary Clinton, and she’s super smart. But I mean it’s like that with lot of them, you just pinch yourself, because a lot of them are big famous superstars, even though I met some of them way before they were famous, like Julia Roberts and Nicole Kidman. I used to do their hair for years. And like all of the supermodels, like Naomi Cambell and Cindy Crawford, I knew them from the beginning. And they always treated me equal to them, they always wanted to hang out with me.
What’s your secret to running a successful salon?
You can’t run a successful salon! No I’m just kidding – but they’re very hard to make money out of. They’re more of a staple, like a flagship. It’s more like a poser, a house of experts that represent you, but it’s not a big money maker.
It could be, if they sold products properly - but your dealing with hairdressers, they’re not business people.
I said to them you guys should act like doctors. You go see a doctor, you don’t leave without a subscription. Like whoever I touch, they want to know what I use - I don’t even have to tell them. So it’s important that you tell them what and why you’re putting [products] in their hair. You can’t just be a silly hairdresser. It is a business.
And I changed the industry by charging more than any male hairdresser, I opened on Melrose place – it’s the most expensive real estate that you can be on right now, and I was there when nobody was there. No one can afford it now, like Stella McCartney had a leave, Alexander McQueen had a leave. The real estate [there] became so high.
So I just kind of do what I feel, what’s natural, and that’s been my business model, not following other people, because otherwise I wouldn’t be successful. They were all like, ‘Oh my God, she’s charging so much money,’ and now they all do. So I just kind of always did my own thing.