“I was born in Jamaica, but I grew up in the Bronx. I was probably 8 years old when I decided that I wanted to do hair. My dad used to buy Barbie dolls for my sisters and me, and I was fascinated with their hair. Sometimes, my mom would take us to the salon with her, and when I was 9, she let me start setting her hair. I got really obsessed. I missed my prom because I was busy doing all my friends’ hair.
After high school, I convinced my parents to let me go to beauty school. When I finished, I got a job in New York at a salon called Extension Masters. When it closed, a lot of the clients didn’t have a place to go for that specific extension type, so I rented a chair in the West Village and took over a few clients. One of the other stylists there, Lisa Mitchell, introduced me to Odile Gilbert. I was like, ‘Whatever.’ I was just starting out, and I knew nothing about Odile.
She came to New York, and I assisted her on a shoot, and it went so well. She asked me if I would come to Paris for the couture shows in 1997. I worked with her on the Christian Dior Couture show, and the look was Salvador Dali—1920s with finger waves. Luckily, at the salon I had worked at in the Bronx, everyone wanted finger waves, so I knew what I was doing. Odile decided I was good, so she sent me over to do John Galliano’s hair the next day. He loved it, and he started using me as his personal stylist, flying me to Paris to give him haircuts and extensions.
I became part of Odile’s team, traveling to New York, Paris, and Milan for shows. One day Donatella Versace called me because John Galliano had given her my number. I pick up and someone in this heavy Italian accent says, ‘This is Donatella.’ I thought it was one of my friends pranking me, so I hung up. She called me back and said, ‘This is Donatella Versace, and I need you to come to London tonight.’ She needed me to do her hair for a ball that Princess Diana was throwing with all these fashion designers. And when I finished, she said, ‘If you want to attend the ball, you can. Just go to the Versace store and get an outfit.' That was a Cinderella moment.
This was the era of girls like Christie, Naomi, and Kate Moss. I became known as The Extensions Girl. Once the word got out that I could press your hair and do your weave, it was my thing. So, that’s how I got Naomi as a client. If she was shooting a story and there was a hairstylist she didn’t know, she would tell them that she needed me on set. That opened a lot of doors because I was at shoots with people like Steven Meisel, Annie Leibovitz, or Patrick Demarchelier.
This whole time, I still had clients in New York. So eventually I had to decide whether to keep traveling or build something more concrete. Around 2003, I left Odile and decided to expand my salon. I knew that my clients like the intimacy of dealing with one stylist, so I wanted to keep it a personal thing. A lot of the models come here because we’re not Tweeting about them or something.
Now, when the modeling agencies get a new girl in development and they want to give her a look, they call me. It’s important to me to get that right, and they’re always happy. We have to protect their hair because the girls are working a lot, shooting constantly, and their hair breaks. I always tell them, ‘Your hair and skin are the most important thing. Because if people are complaining about having to retouch, they’re not going to hire you.’
During beauty school, I was doing so much to my hair that it fell apart. I don’t have a relaxer anymore. I do a Brazilian blowout. The difference between a relaxer and a Brazilian blowout is that the blowout doesn’t permanently change your hair. You are putting in an amino acid. Whereas with relaxer, you’re breaking the bonds of the hair, and the texture is changed. I’ve turned a lot of my girls around and put them on Brazilian blowouts, and I see the difference right away. It will not flatten your hair like a relaxer, but it will loosen your curl pattern. And if you don’t like it, the good thing is that it comes out in three months, whereas with a relaxer you have to grow it out. The other good thing is that you can do color with a Brazilian blowout. Unlike with relaxer, you can go as light as you want without any breakage.
I carry my own line of hair extensions that are 100-percent human hair. You can color it, so when someone comes in and she wants to be blonde today, she can do it without destroying her hair. We’ll just give her a full weave that looks natural. But, you can only keep them in eight to 10 weeks, because when your hair grows in, there will be nowhere for it to go. You can put the same ones back in again and again, which is why it’s worth it to make the investment and buy really good quality hair. I look at extensions as the ultimate accessory.
For the most part, I do my own hair. I use a lot of Rene Furterer products because they’re really moisturizing. I have my own line as well. Sometimes, when girls are going to be in the sun, I like to recommend something that has UV protection. The girls that get a Brazilian blowout have to use sulfate-free shampoos, so I push them to the Moisturizing Shampoo from J.F. Lazartigue. I like things that are plant-based, without many chemicals, and I like products that work for everyone’s hair. Not just like, ‘You’re black so you can only use this.’ It’s all about moisturizing.
I wash my hair twice a week. Your scalp is part of your skin, so it should be clean to stimulate growth. Who wants to work with dirty, greasy hair? When I’m doing extensions, I teach girls to embrace their natural curl pattern. If you don’t have time to blow dry, your hair should also look good if you wash-and-go. I wear mine curly maybe once a week. I let it dry naturally and put curling products in. I love my Amoy Couture Sapphire Pomegranate Curly Balm and my Ruby Citrus Serum because it’s not too heavy. I put Phytolisse Ultra-Glossing Finishing Serum in when I’m doing a blowout because it’s anti-frizz. The flat iron seals it in.
For my face, I use Biotherm products. It’s a French brand that I’ve been using forever. They have the best body lotion called Lait Corporel. I use Shisheido skincare products, too. I love Bobbi Brown Skin Foundation SPF 15 and Nars Pure Radiant Tinted Moisturizer. My skin tone is so many different shades, so I combine the two for the perfect color. Then, a little mascara and that’s it. It’s funny because I work with some of the best makeup artists in the world, but I really don’t care about makeup. As long as my hair looks good, I’m good. Hair is literally an extension of who you are, so you have to take care of it.”
—as told to ITG
Amoy Pitters photographed by Tom Newton.