Adir Abergel, Hairstylist to the Stars
Adir Abergel has a story to tell — and your locks are his medium. Although 'celebrity hairstylist' is the most common understanding of his profession, Adir is a storyteller, an artist, an admirer of the female form, and, when the dust settles and everyone goes home for the day, a compassionate human being. Working with everyone from Tina Turner, to Kristen Stewart, to Karolina Kurkova and Jennifer Garner, Adir's success over the years has grown from a combination of skilled hands, artistic vision, and one of the most powerfully loving energies we have ever come into contact with. What role should hair play in your life, how should you do your hair, and what kind of human being should you be? Adir has some words of wisdom for you.
What has the journey been like to where you are today?
I’m originally from Israel — Jerusalem, the Old City. I was raised there until I was eight, the Kotel, was my playground.
Growing up, my mom was an eccentric artist and my dad was a human rights activist. He was the founder of the Black Panther movement in Israel, so I grew up protesting for human rights. It was this underground thing in the 70s — it was the exact same movement that was happening with Malcolm X in America but my dad started it for all of the Sephardic Jews that were brought there without a voice. He still does that today, and he’s had a lot of documentaries made about him and his work.
When I was eight, we moved to LA with my aunt and lived across the street from the Guitar Center with hookers and musicians and amazing-ness everywhere. It was many different cultural experiences and a lot of different, new people for me. I went from a hippie life to a life with my aunt, who was a bit more conservative and religious, so I experienced many tastes of the different ways of life. Then, when I was 14, I moved to New York and started dancing. I would guest dance with the American Ballet Theatre — that was the career that I was on my way into. Then at 16, I tore a muscle in my foot and couldn’t dance anymore.
So I said, ‘Alright, time to move back to LA with my family,’ though I didn’t really want to live with them again. When I moved back, I immediately met this guy named Arthur Johns, who was the most important hair dresser on the West Coast in the 70s, 80s and 90s. I ended up working for him for six and a half years, and was surrounded by some amazing women who basically raised me in the salon. We were doing everyone from Chaka Khan, to Tina Turner, to Olivia Newton-John, to Julie Christie, to Diahann Carroll. Everyone was there. Around age 21, I started freelancing on my own, and have continued to grow from there.
What significance does hair have for you?
I love it, I love it, I love it. I really do feel like women have raised me, and the women in my chair are truly my inspiration. Women are incredibly powerful because they’re the ones who hold life. Without them, we have nothing. So I feel a huge responsibility in building them, making them feel powerful, making them feel beautiful, and making them feel connected. I’ve been given a beautiful craft, which I look at as architecture and sculpting. I look to it as an art.
Hair is great because you get to sculpt different textures and you get to create different shapes and mold something out of that. At the end, it’s an accessory that individualizes the human being. Hair tells an entire story about you the minute you walk in the door. Whether your hair is undercut and you’re a punk from the 90s, or you’re a socialite, or you want to have the perfect French blow-out, or a deconstructed wave — it tells an entire story. I love being that storyteller. I love taking the Norma Jean and making her into the Marilyn Monroe. I love creating images that eventually trickle down into people’s lives and other people’s homes. I just love it.
Where do you pull inspiration from? What's that process of sculpting hair like?
My inspiration comes from everything, but I do look at a lot of historical references to pull inspiration from. I’ll even look at George Washington [laughs], because you know what? That would be such a dope look to modernize! I also look to African tribes and the way they structurally wear their hair.
That’s where it all starts — with imagery and photography, and then there’s the process of being in a room with the photographer, with the individual, and with the magazine, and putting my energy into that collaboration. I also have to see what the hair wants to do — hair can be really temperamental, so it's not always up to me. For example, if you use too much conditioner one day, your hair may not do I want it to. I have to have a symbiotic conversation with it.
What are your secrets to building a sexy hairstyle?
I think of hair as architecture, and if you don’t create the right architecture, everything else collapses. When I’m thinking of an up-do or a blow-out, I always start with a volumizer at the root, because that’s the foundation. If I don’t create the foundation there, it doesn’t matter how much product I put elsewhere — it’s going to weigh on the foundation and collapse, so I aim to start with creating that great base. There have been a couple times where my bags have been lost en route, and then I have to use sugar water or something else I can create with what's available. You can always use sugar water for a good base, but there’s obviously many incredible products out there — from Living Proof to Oribe.
Then for texture, I love a great salt spray, some kind of shea butter, and a finishing cream of some sort — nothing too heavy. I use very light-hold hair sprays.
What are you rules when it comes to all-natural products? Do you go back and forth between commercial and organic?
I have girls who want to me use only natural stuff, but really, there are no natural aerosol-based products. With hairsprays and texturizing sprays, you really do need that aerosol to give it a lightness.
I think when it comes to all-natural products, it’s about the balance of life in general. It’s about trying to be as good as you can to your body. Obviously, we’re all going to enjoy the balance of going and having a drink once in a while, or having a great ice cream while traveling. It’s the same with keeping your hair, skin and nails healthy. It’s also about drinking enough water, taking your omegas, making sure you have those natural oils on hand, taking multi-vitamins, and eating as healthy as often as possible. I definitely see the correlation in all of that with hair. Eating well equals healthier hair. Period. There’s obviously a lot of other factors there too — if you’re taking too many medications because you’re sick, or you just gave birth and your hormones are wacky so your hair is falling out — your diet is your foundation.
Is there anything in the supplement realm that you recommend for healthy hair?
Omegas, omegas, omegas. I see the difference in women’s hair 100% when they get on omegas and biotin. It changes the way that their hair grows and the condition of it — and it grows a lot faster.
When you allow your hair to become very powerful, it can give you a lot of sexuality — it makes you feel feminine, or masculine, or androgynous, or whatever you want. In different points in our lives, we want to feel different things, and hair can do that even more so than clothes because if you’re naked, all you have is your hair. Kristen Stewart tells me all the time that she’s discovered a whole new world because of her hair.
How did you stay motivated to stick to an artistic, and at times difficult, path in life?
I’ve had pretty big, serious changes in my life. I left home at 14 and kind of raised myself, in a lot of ways. I was around really passionate, beautiful people growing up though my personal circumstances were not always the best, and it taught me to tap into my individual drive in life and find the positivity in everything.
All of us know know what it feels like to find a parter, to find your happiness, to find your inspiration, to find what you love to do and go do it. I’ve been very, very blessed that from a young age I always had a lot of things that I knew I loved, so I could go after them. That’s one of the biggest things I learned most in life that kept me going forward — there are always people who are doing worse off than you, there are always people that have a lot more pain than you, and for me, that always meant not having any excuse to not find my own inspiration. We all go through hard times in our lives — we’re human beings. It’s a very hard thing to be a human being on this planet.
I also made sure that I didn’t listen to anyone too closely — I grew up with a Jewish family who wanted me to be a lawyer and a doctor, but I didn’t listen to them. When I became a hairdresser, my parents were like, ‘How are you going to make money?!’ I didn’t care and very honestly, I made $23,000 for eight years of my life when I first started working on my own. Success takes a long time for a lot of people. I think kids look at me now and say, ‘Oh my God, I want to be where you are!’ And I’m like, ‘You can be where I am today — anybody can be if they care about what they do and put in a lot of work!’
You also need to have some luck along the way. I think that I attracted it, but I do think that there’s luck in life. There was luck in that one day, a hairdresser was on another job and that job extended and the spot opened up for me. I walked in and I capitalized on that moment, but it was a very lucky moment to be in that room at that time. There is luck that happens within life, but most of it is hard work, determination, being a good human being, and keeping yourself honest. William Burroughs says, ‘The highest currency in this lifetime is yourself and your name, so make sure to keep it clean.’ I truly believe in that.
What’s your idea of legacy?
Wow, that’s going to make me cry — I hope that I am kind and loving and that I affected someone on this planet, thats it. I think there’s not much to leave behind because you don’t leave anything anyways. But while you're here, you're constantly affecting other people.