The power-lunch season is in full swing as the overflowing Wednesday crowd poured into Michael’s. There were plenty of hard working PR mavens (Peggy Siegal wielding not one — but two — cell phones at once, while she waited for her date to arrive) and famous faces (Barbara Walters and the ageless Willow Bay) among the sea of usual suspects.
I was joined today by Ouidad (Yes, she goes by one name like Madonna and Cher) the renowned hairstylist whose celebrity clients include Minnie Driver, Sean Lennon and Jordin Sparks. The tireless and incredibly exuberant industry icon is considered the “pioneer of the curl” among beauty business insiders since she launched her eponymous business in 1984. Ouidad tells me she’s “all about the curl” — while shaking her own impressive tresses for emphasis – whether she’s cutting and styling clients at her Manhattan or Santa Monica salons, training stylists (600 in all!) across the country on her signature techniques (the “rake and shake”), or formulating her own product line designed to enhance the health and appearance of the manes of her curly-haired customers. ”There is such freedom in letting your hair be!” she told me referring to the fashion set’s obsession with the flat iron (guilty as charged). “This is all about empowerment. I love helping women be free to be who they are. It’s my mission,” she said.
Ouidad’s other deeply personal mission is her commitment to raise breast cancer awareness and funds. A breast cancer survivor who lost her own mother to the disease, Ouidad told me the experience was life changing both personally and professionally. After her bi-lateral mastectomy in 2002, she had a newfound respect and understanding for women struggling with the disease and felt deeply connected to her clients who came into the salon facing the difficult diagnosis. “Before I’d try to tell my clients, we can try different wigs, do different things,” she recalled. “Now I’d never say that. Being behind the chair listening to them and having had my own experience, I tell them, ‘Yes, this is awful, but it’s not a death sentence. We’re going to get through this together.’”