Master Class-Ted Gibson, Hair Rockstar
With a nod to Oprah Winfrey, Moontide Consulting will regularly present an interview with a hospitality, spa, beauty or customer service professional whose dedication to excellence has propelled them to the top of their industry. We begin with hair stylist and entrepreneur, Ted Gibson.
Ted Gibson is a critical force in the beauty industry. As a master hairdresser who coifs the heads of Hollywood glamour girls from Anne Hathaway to Kerry Washington to Angelina Jolie he is in high demand.
LHB-First, as a movie buff I agree with you that there should be an Oscar for hair design. I’ve read that you are a fan of Bette Davis’ set waves in All About Eve and Tippi Hedrens’ up-do in The Birds. Thirty years from now looking back, whose hair do you think will be iconic?
TG-I would say Angelina Jolie. I don’t know any woman who doesn’t like big sexy hair. When I was working with Angelina that’s what we did; it was all about below the shoulder, a lot of volume in the front, soft cascading waves. That will be iconic, because she’s iconic already.
You began your career with salon owner Zan Ray in Texas. Many young stylists aren’t fortunate to start with someone so supportive. How did that come about?
TG-When I met Zan I was living in Killeen, Texas and she was in Austin. A good friend of mine who was a hairdresser worked for Zan. I was selling the local newspaper and I would go to see my friend and visit the salon. When I said to him on New Year’s Eve that I was interested in hair he said “oh my God you should do it, so I went to hair school. When I graduated I knew that there was something Zan had that I wanted.
LHB- And what was that?
TG-I didn’t know specifically at the time what it was but I felt it. It took me about seven months to get a job with her. I would call everyday and drive about an hour to be at the salon.
I was her assistant for about a year before I graduated to the floor and she was hard on me. She taught me how to do a great shampoo, understand the idea of customer service and how to cut hair. It was invaluable.
I always say that everyone, when they finish school, for barber or beauty, should assist someone so that they really understand what the business is. I don’t think that a lot of young people really get what it means; that you can change people’s lives every single day. And you’ll be selling products; booking next appointments…you have to think about it as a business not just an art.
It takes a while to understand every aspect of being a hairdresser. From the art of the consultation, to the way the guest looks when they sit in your chair, how they feel, what you’re giving them, what they’re giving you-you can’t learn that overnight.
TG-Well my philosophy has always been about textures of hair not skin color. I can be working on Angelina one minute, Kerry Washington or Debra Messing so my platform has always been about the texture and what technique I can use to bring that out.
As beauty professionals we often don’t understand the magnitude of what we do. We don’t raise our prices every year and we don’t honor the fact that we change people’s lives.
LHB-Yes, speaking of prices you were charging $450.00 for hair back in 2003. What gave you the impetus and the chutzpah to do that?
TG-(laughs) Well, when our salon opened I charged $450.00 but now I’m charging $1,200.00 and I had three clients today. I go by what I feel I’m worth, and what my market will bear. I know the level of service I give and what I want to give when my guest sits in the chair.
I spend about an hour and fifteen minutes with each guest. Most times when you go to namesake salons in Manhattan or Los Angeles you’re passed to three or four people but that’s not my philosophy.
My philosophy is that you pay $1,200.00 plus tip and you get to spend an hour and fifteen minutes with me. You are six degrees of separation from all the women that I mentioned and you get to have that experience with me of styling for What Not to Wear, or doing the cover of a magazine or doing an editorial or fashion week, all of those things that are wrapped up in my mantra and my hands. You’re getting a piece of that and I want to give you a piece of that. I think it’s worth it.
LHB-Yes, and I’m sure your clients feel it’s worth it as well. You give so much of yourself while working and you’re very charismatic. How do you recharge from people wanting to be around you all the time?
TG-I meditate, I have a morning practice where I read, listen to inspirational music, I write. My mornings are my most creative time so I have to be disciplined about recharging in that way. I’m a person who takes on energy and really listens so I know that I have to do those things for myself. I get acupuncture and do all the things necessary to keep my mind and my soul straight.
LHB-How do you ensure that your personal standard is maintained at all of your salons?
TG-I am a micro manager. I have my hands in every piece of whatever has to do with Ted Gibson. I watch and I listen and I ask questions because it’s my name and I have a vested interest because I really believe in the brand and I believe in what we’re doing. I can’t be in all places at all times, there are only 24 hours in a day but quality control for me is really important.
Since 2007 you invested in wind energy to offset the carbon dioxide in your salon. Why?
TG-Well I wouldn’t call myself an environmentalist but I choose my platforms, and that was something that I could do easily. It helps the environment and the people who live upstate where the energy comes from.