Today is National Hairstylists Appreciation Day, and what better way to celebrate than interviewing one of our favorite curl stylists, Shai Amiel of Capella Salon in Los Angeles. We live for his before and after curly hair transformations, and for this reason we consider him to be a true #CURLboss.
1. Introduce yourself!
My name is Shai Amiel and I am the proud co owner (with my wife Nicole) of Capella Salon in Studio City. I got my cosmetology license in 1994 and have been doing hair since.
2. How did you get started in the curly hair salon industry?
Curly hair was never on my radar. Since day 1 of doing hair I really wanted to specialize in color. But there was always a special place in my heart for curly hair. Both my sisters have curly hair. One of them always wore her hair straight and had me blow dry it straight for her during beauty school. One day she came in to the salon to have her hair trimmed and I was running behind so I just left her with conditioner in her hair. By the time I came around to rinse it out and style it, her hair has dried and looked really pretty. She had great curls.
I was not in the mood for another crazy blowout at the end of my day so I talked her into wearing her hair natural. She wasn't so pleased with my "lazy idea" but said she would give it a try. Ever since that evening in late January of 1996, she has been wearing it curly. She never even tried to see how it would look straight. I've always enjoyed natural curls and was loved watching curls dry with the diffuser.
3. Everyone calls you the Curl Doctor. How did this nickname come about?
My client Nathalie Emmanuel found me a few years back on instagram and eventually made it to my salon for a little trim. After it was cut and styled she had a whole new appreciation for her natural curls. She posted a picture and said hair by the Curl Doctor. We all thought it was cute and didn't realize the name would stick. Her followers started asking questions about this so called "Curl Doctor" and before I knew it, the name kinda made sense and stuck with me. It started as a little joke and became really popular on social medias.
4. What is the biggest mistake you notice your clients making?
We are in such a DIY society. It's ironic that if we have a toothache, we call the dentist. If our car breaks down, we call the mechanic. If we have issues with plumbing we call the plumber. BUT, it's 2015 and if we have hair issues, we turn to YouTube. This is such a bad move for so many new naturals. Most of these bloggers are not educated hairdressers. They did not study cosmetology and only practice on their own hair. What works for them might not work for others. I always tell my clients that bloggers are great for styling tips and/or trying new looks. When we are sick and go to the doctor, he/she will give us a prescription. We do not go to the pharmacist for a prescription. Bloggers are usually not experienced enough to tell women what to do with their hair.
We are in such a DIY society. It's ironic that if we have a toothache, we call the dentist. If our car breaks down, we call the mechanic. If we have issues with plumbing we call the plumber. BUT, it's 2015 and if we have hair issues, we turn to YouTube. This is such a bad move
Also, many product companies will use these bloggers to market their brand. So women watch the videos and assume that they can get the same results if they bought those products not taking in consideration their curl pattern, density, porosity, spring factor, dryness level, etc and they get annoyed because their hair doesn't look like the girl in the video.
Many naturals are also afraid of frizz. They do not like it and avoid it all costs. Oils are really popular but unfortunately most curly girls don't know how to use them properly and end up looking like a greasy mess. I always explain to them how oil and water don't mix. Applying oils to wet hair will only make hair feel heavier and slimy. Wet hair can't absorb the oil so it just coats the hair weighing it down and suffocating it. I teach my clients that oils can be applied to dry hair as a pre wash. Let the oils soak in and penetrate the dry hair. The next step is really important because I explain to them how oils are not supposed to be styling products so they need to be removed by a proper cleanse. The dry hair will absorb whatever nutrients are in the oil and the rest will be washed off.
It's also challenging for women to spend money on quality products. I tell them that one good car is better than 20 bad cars. Those 20 bad cars will cost more in the long run and still won't be as reliable as a really good car. You don't need to have your shower look like a beauty supply. Every person needs 1 or 2 shampoos and same with conditioners and it's best to keep it simple.
5. What is the one pivotal moment in your career?
When my sister came in to have her hair trimmed and I didn't have time to style it so I left the conditioner in her hair. This opened my eyes to a whole new world. Hydrated hair meant pretty hair. What a concept. Ever since that day I've been doing everything I can to make sure my clients have really healthy hair. No matter how pretty you try to make the hair, but if it is not healthy it will never look right.
Healthy hair = pretty hair! this is my mantra that I preach all day long.
6. How did you meet Lorraine Massey, and how has she influenced you in this industry?
We were experimenting with a variety of curly products. I saw something on NaturallyCurly.com about DevaCurl so I decided to order it and play with it. At first I hated it. I thought their shampoo called No Poo was not good. I didn't like how it didn't lather. I bought the product directly from Devachan so it didn't come with instructions. I tried the shampoo a couple of times and eventually was fed up so I stashed it away. One of my clients came in and asked me if I know of a good brand that isn't pricey. At the time we were a Kerastase salon so it was the only line of curly products i used. I told her how I bought this product for curly hair but it didn't work for me. She came back 2 months later and I asked her how the product worked for her hair. She said she tried it once and realized that it didn't lather so she decided to call Devachan salon and ask them why it's not lathering. They explained to her about the product. She learned how to use it properly and ended up loving it.
We were the first salon that retailed and used DevaCurl besides their salons. We would call the front desk and place orders. This went on for a while until the Long Beach hair show. I went to the event with my assistant who has curly hair. We were walking thru the isles until this "crazy" lady walked up to us and started touching her hair. She was telling us how much she loved her hair and wanted to know what the product she uses. I am very passionate about hair, curls, products, etc so I started giving Lorraine the sales pitch about Deva not knowing who she was. As soon as I finished explaining the product to her, she looks at me and says "you must be Shai" I asked her how she knew, and she said she was hoping to run into me at the show. I still did not know who she was but quickly realized she was the Lorraine Massey. She invited me over to the Deva booth and we spent the rest of the show together. She had me talk about my Deva story and I helped out spreading the good word about Deva. The rest is history.
7. What are some useful resources for those trying to newly embrace their textured hair?
Patience is the best resource. Rome wasn't built in a day. Athletes don't achieve the results they want in one workout session. It takes time to heal hair and perfect healthy lifestyle. My blog has great advice and inspirational stories that will help those who feel lost. NaturallyCurly.com is another resource that has been really helpful for both clients and stylists. It is such a great community.
8. You help a lot of transitioners with embracing their curls. What is your biggest piece of advice on caring for their curls?
Moisture! It's difficult styling hair that has healthy curls at the roots and very damaged ends. It's best to cut off all the dead hair, but not ideal for some people.
9. What makes the DevaCurl cut worth the investment for curlies?
The reason I love the DevaCut because I still use the original method that is cut curl by curl. The new method is taking large sections so it's very similar to cutting traditional wet hair. I like the curl by curl method because it allows me to snip each curl where it needs it and gives the ends a happier finished look. it takes me longer to do but the results last a lot longer.
Unlike traditional cuts that are recommended every 6-8 weeks, my curly girls can go 3-4 months without needing a trim. Some can even go 6-7 months. The price per cut is a bit higher because it's time consuming but if you average it out over 1 year, you will be saving money from the traditional haircuts.It's also the only real method that has no gimmick. many other stylists have tried to create similar cuts and renaming them but they are essentially based on the DevaCut method. Deva created this method so i am giving them credit for inventing such an amazing look. I learned it from Lorraine Massey about 15 years ago. we flew her out to L.A. and we spent almost a week in our salon training and practicing this method. So many other curly cuts are done wet and when the hair dries you never know what to expect. this haircut looks amazing as soon as it is completed and sometimes even better before hair is washed and styled. It creates a really fun volume that many of my regulars enjoy and skip the washing process.
It also requires you to use a really blunt shear. I use my BMAC sword blade that cost about $1200. I don't mess around when it comes to quality. This gives each ringlet a really defined end that prevents split ends from returning for a while. So many stylists prefer to cut curly hair after it is blown out straight. we don't wear our curly hair straight, then why are we cutting it straight? It also doesn't make sense to damage hair before you trim dead ends. The blowout just creates more split ends.
Other methods call for carving and slicing creating shorter pieces throughout the hair leaving hair lifeless and limp. When you remove bulk from a ringlet you create frizz and weak hair. the Devacut keeps each ringlet as healthy as possible by trimming just the dead ends.
10. You are seemingly all over the place! Is there any event or panel coming up that you plan on participating in?
I will be on a panel with other hairdressers this Saturday April 25th in downtown L.A. at the Naturals In Hollywood event at the LA Convention Center.
11. You are also a family man. How do you juggle business with family life (and make it look so easy)?
Yes. I've been happily married for over 13 years to a wonderful woman. We have a 12 year old boy and a 10 year old girl. Nicole and I work very well together. Every morning she gets the kids ready for school while I get ready and I am in charge of the drop off. I volunteer at my daughter's school at the drop off lane. I open car doors to help those who don't have time or their kids don't want them to walk in to school. I love being a part of my kids' school whenever I can. I served as the PTA president for 2 years. Luckily our type of work doesn't have homework. Once our work day is complete we can go home and enjoy our quality family time. I try to be home everyday before the kids go to bed. I have Saturdays off and it's a complete family day. We spend the entire day together and we don't deal with work related stuff. I try to stay off social media that day and give my wife and kids my undivided attention. It's the day that I recharge my battery and get as much family time as I can. Monday is my day off with Nicole so we have the entire morning together until kids get off school. It's a great day to have for just the 2 of us.
I don't take my family for granted. If my kids call me at the salon, I never ignore their calls no matter what their call is about. I always said I won't be "that dad" that is too busy to listen to his family.
We are in Los Angeles so we are surrounded by celebrities and musicians. It's pretty cool when you ask your client to record a personal message for my daughter and she does. I asked Zendaya last week if she could send my daughter Maya a message and she did. I posted it on my personal Facebook page (it's a public post so everyone can see it). I also receive tickets to events and TV shows so my kids love when that happens.
12. How can we follow you online (social media links)?
Who would you like to see do our #CURLboss tag next?