You have no items in your shopping cart.

Product was successfully added to your shopping cart.

The Road To NAHA Part 5: Ruth Roche

Sam Villa

Author Sam Villa | Founding Partner of Sam Villa

Our "Road to NAHA" blog series ends with Ruth Roche, multiple NAHA award winner. Click the links below to view parts 1-4: The Road To NAHA Part 1: Charlie Price The Road To NAHA Part 2: Sherri Jessee The Road To NAHA Part 3: Jake Thompson The Road to NAHA Part 4: Jeremy McDougle Ruth Roche NAHA Award Winning Stylist

For the fifth segment of “The Road to NAHA,” we’re highlighting Ruth Roche for her visionary thought process. She is an award-winning celebrity stylist, inspirational educational icon, down-to-earth hilarious entertainer and a conceptual artist with a huge fan base. Roche has successfully developed herself in the four cornerstones of the industry, celebrity, salon owner, educator and editorial stylist, which takes a strategic plan, hard work and talent. Stylists from around the world come to learn, grow and fuel their creative fire with her. Having won NAHA multiples times, Ruth is the real deal and we want to share what makes her tick. For a complete bio, visit ruthroche.com, Facebook, Twitter.

What is the inspiration for your next NAHA shoot? Many times when I do a shoot, I schedule a date, assemble a team and then brainstorm with the team to come up with a concept. Even if I have a glimmer of an idea, I feel it’s so much more powerful to develop it together as a team. It’s not just about the hair, it never is, it'’s about the people on set bringing a magical vision to life that can be captured on film. The other day I was looking through the November W and I was intrigued by the Naomi Campbell shoot with Willy Vanderperre, for some reason it reminded me of the Barbie my sister had with a 1950’s vibe. She came with four plastic heads with wigs you clipped on over Barbie’s “real” hair. I may do a doll-like look, very stylized and polished with colorful hair and makeup, who knows...

What does the average shoot cost? You can do it on a shoestring if you work with people who want to collaborate to build portfolios or it can cost upwards of 40K. All depends on who you know, who wants to join forces with you and who you hire.


What are three tips you can give a stylist that is entering NAHA for the first time?

  1. Choose your models based on their facial beauty rather than their hair – if you have a model that’s not photogenic or can’t connect with the camera, your work will come across as flat.
  2. Edit, don’t go overboard on the styling and concept – most of the time less is more. If too much is going on, it can get overwhelming and the viewer won’t know what to look at.
  3. Get a skilled photographer that you can openly communication with – they should know about lighting and how to compose a beautiful shot to make your work shine.

What’s the best advice you ever received relating to creating hair for a shoot? Trevor Sorbie used to say that when you think you have the shot you want, mess it up and then shoot it. We tend to over think concepts, messing it up and taking a step back forces us to see our work from a new perspective and teaches us to be flexible. It’s important to know when to let go of a thought, because something better has come along - letting go can be very refreshing and inspiring.

Any tips and tricks for doing hair on set?

  1. Look at the shot from the photographer’s point of view. Watch the monitor and stand near the photographer to see the model from their perspective...and voice your opinion. Sure, the photographer is a pro, but so are you, a great shot takes collaboration. If your photographer is not open to this, then that photographer might not be the best fit for you.
  2. Be careful when choosing to work on dark hair, details don’t show up well because darker hair absorbs light, so you can have amazing hair that just doesn’t translate. The same goes for when you’re working a show, it’s harder for stylists to see what you’re doing when it’s being done on darker hair.

What are your MUST HAVE tools and products for a NAHA shoot? Mason Pierson Brush, Pureology Strengthening Control Hairspray, Sam Villa E-T.C Light Ionic Blow Dryer, duckbill clips, 1” curling iron and hair, hair and more hair – you can never have enough hair! I basically bring everything but the kitchen sink. I have things I’ve been lugging around in my bag for years because I never know when I may need them - big plastic needles for sewing hair...strange, strange things in that bag…

Can you provide 3 guidelines for retouching (what to look for to make an image better/pop/shine)? I was a NAHA judge this past year and for the first time they instituted a rule where images had to be submitted raw and retouched so they could see how much retouching was involved in each image. These days, Photoshop can be used to create anything imaginable, so it has to be monitored. My advice is to create clean polished hair that requires minimal retouching. Other than that, clean up flyaways, skin tone and eyes, as a rule.


Why do you enter NAHA? To keep me on my toes and push myself to do new things – and whether I become a NAHA finalist or not, images are forever. They’re an outlet for my creativity and they can always be published as a collection, used in my portfolio or on the web.

Where do you get your inspiration? What tools do you turn to for inspiration? To get my creative juices flowing I turn to lots of European fashion and pop culture magazines to see what’s edgy and happening out in the world. American Vogue and Elle are cool too, but I find most domestic publications play it safe – they focus on the consumer rather than the artistic aspects that can be accomplished. European books take a much riskier approach - they push boundaries, which I like.

How do you convey a visionary thought process to stylists during education? Can you teach someone to be creative? I teach a class at the Redken Exchange with Ellen Lawlor and Kris Sorbie called “Destination NAHA” and we cover the process of pulling a shoot/entry together for NAHA. You need a fair amount of taste and skill to execute a creative idea, so we provide a pattern for the process that they can customize with their own ideas, skill level and style to make it their own.

You'’ve worked with a lot of celebrities, what advice do you have for someone who wants to break into that? You really need a portfolio of some sort to represent and present your work to an agent, digital is much easier because you can just email it to prospective agents or clients. If you don’t have a portfolio and need to build one, call agencies and offer to be an assistant to their key stylists, it’s a great way to get your foot in the door and learn the ropes.


Any funny set stories? Annie Leibovitz requested me for a shoot with Laura Linney – she had seen a red carpet movie premiere look I did and wanted it replicated for her shoot. I knew she was really intense and I was a bit nervous, but really excited to be working with her. I show up on set, the Manhattan Bridge, and she wants me to do very stylized Rita Hayworth inspired hair. I pull it off, despite that fact that the wind is literally blowing sideways, it’s raining and it was freezing. The hair was destroyed in minutes and it was so loud that I couldn'’t hear anything anyone was saying, so I was operating without any direction or feedback. I had no idea if she was pleased with my work and kind of felt like I was in a bad dream because I knew her expectations were high and I wanted to exceed them, yet had no idea where I stood at that moment. When I was leaving, she grabbed my hand and said, “Great hair, thank you” - that’s like a high five from Annie Leibovitz! It’s was a little dicey there for a while, but it all worked out – ha, sounds like most shoots!

Click the links below to view parts 1-4: The Road To NAHA Part 1: Charlie Price The Road To NAHA Part 2: Sherri Jessee The Road To NAHA Part 3: Jake Thompson The Road To NAHA Part 4: Jeremy McDougle

If you have any questions or comments please leave them in the box below.

Be sure to follow us on Instagram, Facebook and checkout SamVillaHair on YouTube for more free education.