Owner/Founder, Ouidad Salon, NYC and Santa Monica, CA

Ouidad Salon Certification Program and Ouidad Products

Curl Specialist

Licensed: The Cosmetology School, Lincoln, Rhode Island.  
First job: At Squires Salon on Brown University campus in Providence, RI, with summer, apprenticeships in Rome, Italy and London

Clients per week: 100 clients per week.
Price point: Cut and style: $225; deep treatment with cut: $350; extra $150 for color and $400 for highlights

Women of Style: OuidadWhy did you choose beauty as a career? I have extremely curly hair, so the topic of beauty and hair is near and dear to my heart. Growing up, I always had a tough time taming my mane. In learning to care for my own hair, I began developing a professional specialty for conquering curls. At the age of 26, I opened a salon dedicated solely to the care of wavy, kinky and curly hair. Two decades later, I have built curls into a multimillion-dollar hair business that also includes hair products and professional training. This October, I am being awarded the Great Idea Award at the CEW 2011 Achiever Awards Luncheon. This annual award recognizes the achievements of some of the cosmetics industry’s most talented women; it is CEW’s highest profile event and serves as an inspiration for future women leaders and for companies to support women’s advancement. I am more than proud that I chose beauty as a career.

Milestones: Helping curly hair be accepted in the beauty world; being honored with the Great Idea Award at the Cosmetic Executive Women’s Achiever Awards in October 2011; teaching stylists across the country my cutting techniques; having my daughter Sondriel work with me in my NYC salon. She is just as passionate about curls as I am. When she was younger, she used to say to me “Can you curl my hair more?” Today, I can see how much she enjoys her career at my salon and curl empire. Looking ahead, she wants to be at the helm of my business. As a mother and a professional, that is so gratifying. I am proud of the curl empire I have built and I am a very proud mother to support a daughter who truly loves her trade.

Big break: My first big break in beauty happened on the tails of my summer in London when I was in a hairdressing program. I remained in England and established a career there, working with celebrity stylist Danny Velesco. After doing the hair for the original production of Evita in London, I decided to join Valesco’s team and help launch the show in New York in 1978. I started to then work with many curly haired actresses in various Broadway Shows, advertising agencies and fashion magazines. This was my entrance into the curly hair world.


Career advice you’ve received: From my dad: do what you love, stay focused and don’t let anyone deter you.


Career advice you’ve given? Do what you love, stay focused and don’t let anyone deter you.

Your mentors: My father has always been one of my mentors. As a businessman, he always instilled the value of a strong work ethic, maintaining a high level of professionalism and following your heart to achieve goals. Vidal Sassoon has also been one of my mentors. Vidal Sassoon single handedly changed the world of women’s hair in the 60s by creating the now famous five-point cut on Mary Quant. I have read quotes and stories over the years on the impact architecture had on his style of cutting. I look to him as someone who truly followed and lived his passion and made a huge difference in the hair care category.

You mentor: My entire team at Ouidad. From the hair stylists in my salons to the certified stylists nationwide, I am a guide to many of these people.


Are there benefits to being a woman in beauty? Yes, we have a lot to offer our fellow women. When growing my business, I was often challenged by the successful men in hair care. I quickly learned to focus on my own career and bring my passion to the forefront of my business

Sacrifice and lesson: When I first started my product business with my husband, Peter, we had to move our distribution center to Connecticut. At the time, I had my salon in New York City. Our family home was close to the distribution center, so I had to spend the weeks in New York City and just the weekends at home with my family. I did this for 15 years. Luckily, my family was understanding and we learned to make the best of the situation. 

Risk and reward: Entering the salon category and only offering curly hair services. I knew that so many curly haired people out there needed someone to help them understand their curls and teach them how to care for them. I have pushed that curly hair should be embraced year-round and can be gorgeous and care free. I am ALL about the curl and glad I took that risk in 1984 when I opened my first Ouidad Salon in NYC. I have learned that if you believe in your passion, you can and will succeed.

What does “work/life” balance mean to you? Since I work with my husband and daughter, I have always been challenged to maintain a healthy work/life balance. The minute I step out of work, I don’t discuss “work.” It is strictly my time with my family and time for my “life.”

To follow in your footsteps, a woman would have to: First work in a field that she truly loves whether it be hair, make-up or skincare. She would have to believe in it and grow with it. She would have to start from scratch, working through the good and the bad, staying focused the entire time.  

Famous woman you would like to style: Beyonce. She keeps in close contact with her Texas roots, often sporting a head full of large golden, gorgeous curls. At the moment, she has a golden brown color with highlights in the front and lowlights in the back. I would love to style her hair and bring her curls to fabulous new heights.

Next change to my personal style: I have no plans to make any changes to my personal style or look. I love my classic curl, the length of my hair and the style. I feel comfortable with who I am.

Reading: I have always been a fan of author (and curly client) Jodi Picoult. I’m reading her new book, Sing You Home. Also been reading Enchantment by Guy Kawasaki.


Playlist: International music, classical music and jazz. Beyonce’s Girl’s Run the World is a fabulous song to inspire women everywhere!

Important client experience: When my husband and I first opened our salon in NYC, we stood outside and passed out flyers. An executive at Hearst was walking by and smiled as she received our flyer. She later returned back to our salon and received a signature Ouidad cut and style. She was obsessed with her new cut and felt as though she was “reinvented at the age of 45.” She has been a client ever since that day. During the years, she was instrumental in our business, offering guidance and marketing ideas. She believed in our company and helped guide us in decisions that served as powerful tools to help grow our business. I will always remember the first day she visited my salon and I will always be thankful for the impact she has made on the Ouidad brand.

Every day, just for you: I take a walk and use the time to reflect on my day. I also love sitting at home and drinking a cup of tea.

Working on: We just launched our new Climate Control Defrizzing Shampoo and Conditioner, and working on a new product that has technology to fight frizz, anytime, anywhere, on all hair types.

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, Click here.

Read more about