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At Sam Villa we love to stay involved in the hairdressing community, which means that our team is constantly on the look out for people doing great things...especially in unexpected places.
Recently we found inspiration in the editorial work of Lyneé Ruiz on Hairbrained.me. What really peaked our interest was when we found out that she was from Milwaukee, WI which isnt the first place that typically comes to mind when thinking of high end editorial work. We reached out to Lyneé for an interview because we know that many of you are in a similar situation. You want to get into editorial work but dont live in a hotspot for that type of hairdressing. Lyneé was so kind to let us into her world and we know that you will learn a lot from this powerhouse editorial stylist!
Andrew Carruthers: What prompted you to enter the beauty industry?
Lyneé Ruiz: I cant remember a time when it wasnt what I wanted to do when I grew up. There was never an aha! moment, it was just always there. As a teenager I asked my parents if I could be homeschooled through high school because I wanted to hold a job. As soon as I was old enough (16) I applied at the salon I went to as a receptionist. It was a rather rocky road to actually get my cosmetology license, because I didnt have the money to go to beauty school and I couldnt get a loan. I have a lot of people to thank for taking me under their wing.
Andrew Carruthers: At what stage in your career did you decide you wanted to focus on the editorial side of hairdressing?
Lyneé Ruiz: When I wanted all my clients to leave looking like they stepped out of a Louis Vuitton ad. I was obsessed more with the finishing of their hair at the end of the appointment than I was during the cut or color! Soon local photographers were asking me to do hair and makeup for their photo shoots and I was hooked.
Photo: Akin Girav | Model: Jessica LaRusso | Makeup: Nicole Cap | Hair: Lyneé Ruiz
Andrew Carruthers: How would you suggest that a young hairdresser get involved in editorial hairdressing?
Lyneé Ruiz: Start out simple. Straight hair, beach waves, ponytail. You have to train your eye to see what looks good in a photograph verse behind the chair. If you start out too editorial and crazy it can look like a hot mess if your eye isnt developed. Network with local photographers and offer to do hair for them. Most importantly, keep going. Dont do it for the approval of others because sometimes youll work really hard on something and not be recognized for it. Also, always be open to learning. The tiniest difference in technique can make a big impact on the final image.
Andrew Carruthers: What steps did you take to network with local professionals to begin the process?
Lyneé Ruiz: I did a lot of research on Facebook on local photographers in my area. If I liked their style of work and they were trustworthy I would reach out to them about working together. I found a great group of artists in my community that had a lot of connections. I also wrote a local fashion and beauty blog and would visit local businesses and groups to feature their work and products.
Andrew Carruthers: What skills do you feel are essential as a session stylist?
Lyneé Ruiz: No one likes to work on set with a problem maker, so leave your ego at the door. Great communication. Be genuine. Stand by your word. Have a good work ethic. Unless you are given free reign to create what you want with the hair, someone else is usually telling you what they want it to look like. And of course, you need to really know your skill and love what you do.
Photo: Akin Girav | Model: Jessica LaRusso | Makeup: Nicole Cap | Hair: Lyneé Ruiz
Andrew Carruthers: Many young stylists don't have access to strong leadership or mentorship. What advice would have for them to work on their craft without that mentorship?
Lyneé Ruiz: Follow someone on Instagram that you look up to. Attempt to make your work look like theirs, or use it for inspiration. I dove in to the world of Vidal Sassoon and read everything I could on him. I read articles on who was doing the hair in the magazines that I loved and found their pages on Facebook. Although she didnt do hair, I also have an obsession with Coco Chanel. Her strength and class is something I try to emulate in my life.
Andrew Carruthers: What interested you in having representation through an agency?
Lyneé Ruiz: I knew in order for me to get the jobs I wanted I needed a force behind me. After awhile, you exhaust your connections and need a group that can back you. I'm horrible with numbers and billing, so my agency takes care of that as well. Also, once I left my salon I needed a sense of community.
Andrew Carruthers: At what point would you recommend a stylist look into being represented by an agency?
Lyneé Ruiz: Build a portfolio. The photos of your work is everything. They need to be good photos by a great photographer, professional model, with retouching. Of course, that's not where you start. It took years to get to my point and I still have so much to learn. Once you have a solid portfolio contact an agency and set up a meeting.
Hair: Lyneé Ruiz
Andrew Carruthers: Has living in a smaller city like Milwaukee created any challenges for you versus living in a city such as New York?
Lyneé Ruiz: Yes and no. There is less competition in a smaller town. I was lucky that there are a lot of clients in my area that provide regular work. There is a lot less fashion work available in smaller towns, but you would be surprised how many crews travel to locations outside of New York or LA that need to hire a hairstylist. If you have good connections and are known for great work, you will find it. I do have to travel a lot now for work but it's one of the things I love. This means being away from home, and I really miss my husband. At the beginning though I would say the hardest thing was not having much support. You do a lot of free work and projects at your own expense. Family and friends might have a hard time understanding why you do it, and there isn't a promise it could turn in to anything.
Andrew Carruthers: What have you done to overcome those challenges?
Lyneé Ruiz: Not giving up. Making sure I communicated what I was doing and why to my family and friends. I had to learn to save my money instead of buying new clothing or fun things, because most likely I'd be spending it on gasoline. Learning to invest where it counts. Now I have to make sure I dedicate time for family things and really be present, both physically and mentally.
Andrew Carruthers: Do you also work in the salon? If yes, how has your editorial focus affected your salon work?
Lyneé Ruiz: I don't any more, but for years it was a balancing act when I was part time freelance part time salon. I made sure the salon owner and the team knew what I was up to. I kept them in the loop. I also explained my schedule to my clients, and had a back up stylist they could go to if I had to cancel last minute.
Hair: Lyneé Ruiz | Makeup: Frances Tsalas
Andrew Carruthers: What's the most bizarre or interesting photo shoot you've worked on?
Lyneé Ruiz: One of my first jobs out of state was in New York. I was hired to keep a model looking beautiful all night long while she attended parties and dinner. It was the first time I was exposed to the fashion crowd, and maybe that's why it still stands out. We stayed up all night and I found myself at a table at Le Bain at the top of the Standard Hotel, with Victorias Secret models and photographers for Elle Magazine. This man wearing a cape and a muzzle walked past us. I knew I would never be the same after that.
Andrew Carruthers: Do you have anything else you would love to say to our audience?
Lyneé Ruiz: Ah my favorite quote by Vidal Sassoon, "The only place that success comes before work is in the dictionary."
From all of us at Sam Villa, we want to thank Lyneé for sharing her story and some very valuable suggestions on how to enter into the world of editorial hairdressing. We love when big things happen in small places!
Read our feature article about Steven Robertson to learn what it takes to be a great editorial hairdresser.