So happy for today’s post because we’ve made it to one of my favorites—the one where we announce the newest Woman of the Month!
For May, I’m beyond honored that we get to feature my favorite hairstylist in the world, Rachael Gatenby. She comes to us from abroad and she’s the only person I trust to cover these roots! She and Courtney have a great interview for you where they talk about growing up around horses, finding a lifelong career at sixteen, and all sorts of inspiring topics.
Please welcome my dear friend Rachael Gatenby as our Woman of the Month!
MB: We’ll start with some basics. What I know from Toni (and some of our other Behaviorists) is that you are a WIZARD when it comes to hair. I’ve heard Toni gush about your skills many, many times. But what exactly do you do? Just color? Color and cut? Other stuff?
RG: I’m a colorist. I’ve been doing hair for twenty years and twelve of those just color.
MB: What’s the name and location of your salon? How did you end up there?
RG: I work in the design district of Dallas at Hair by Charlie. I’ve been there for two years as an independent contractor. Charlie has been a friend of mine for about five years. Before that, I worked for Frederic Fekkai in NYC and then transferred to Dallas for eight years.
MB: When did you know that you wanted to be a hairstylist? And what has your career path looked like so far?
RG: Phew! My career path seems like a very long one (lol) but super fun!
I started in England when I was sixteen! At first it wasn’t what I wanted to do, but it certainly chose me! About a week after starting I knew this was the path for me. I managed to travel and use my skills through Europe and Australia before making the move to the states in 2003. I arrived in NYC, the Big Apple!
I stayed in New York for six years before I moved to Dallas with Fekkai. I’ve now been in Dallas for seven years, and Texas has captured my heart. Hopefully, this will be my forever home!
MB: Wow! That’s such an exciting journey! So you said that at first becoming a stylist wasn’t what you wanted to do but that it chose you. Can you go into that a little bit more?
RG: Yes, I’d been working at the salon that a lifelong friend of my family’s had introduced me to. I’d known the owner and his lead stylist Kate my whole life. Unfortunately Mark, who owned the salon, had just passed away at a very young age and his best friends Peter and Jimie (who were very much like father figures to me) had taken over ownership of the salon. I’d been there a week, shampooing and learning how to be an assistant when a very sweet older lady who had been one of Mark’s clients for years, gave me my first tip for shampooing her hair. She placed a 50-pence piece in my hand, wrapped her hand around mine, and said, “You are a diamond in the rough that will one day shine so bright. Never let anyone tell you different!” She was awesome! I was touched and moved and knew this was my career.
MB: That’s such a beautiful moment. I love that it’s stuck with you all these years. Since you’ve had the opportunity to work in several different countries, are there any sort of fun differences you’ve noticed between Europe, Australia, and the US? Or even between NYC and Dallas?
RG: I think every place has its own unique identity and all were super fun. There were huge differences in looks between NYC and Dallas. NYC wanted a more natural, wearable look whereas Dallas wants those big beautiful blondes!
MB: When you say Dallas appreciates the big, beautiful blondes, I can’t help thinking of this classic quote from Dolly Parton as Truvy in Steel Magnolias: “The bigger the hair, the closer to God.” Feels so apt!
RG: I love that quote! And that movie!
MB: It’s a classic! This is a bit of a non sequitur, but do you have anyone you look up to professionally? If so, what do you admire most about them and/or their career?
RG: I have so much admiration for lots of different people in my field. The team I work with now is incredible! I look up to each of them every day!
There are three people I’ll always look up to, who put me on the path to an awesome career and who are my bosses and lifetime friends from when I first started at sixteen—Peter, Jim, and Billy. They taught me for my first eight years. Their passion, talent, craziness, and love for their clients were infectious! I will always look up to the three of them.
MB: It’s so important to have mentors like that in our lives, especially as creatives. Now, outside of your work in the salon, what other interests or hobbies are you involved in?
RG: I love to be outside! We’ve just bought a farm, which I’m super excited about. We’ll have cows, chickens, dogs, and horses. I’ve ridden horses most of my life. I love to be around them…well, all animals! We’ve also just found out that we’re pregnant! We’re having a little girl, so I can’t wait to get a little pony for our little lady!
MB: HUGE CONGRATS on the baby news! And your little girl will be so lucky growing up around horses! When I was young, I was desperate to have a horse. I read these books called Pony Pals (and basically any book about horses that I could get my hands on). We lived next to a huge field, and I dreamed that my parents would buy it so we could have a horse (in other words, so I could have a horse). I have my own theory about this, but why do you think girls are so obsessed with horses?
RG: Thank you. We’re so excited to meet our little lady! I’m hoping she’ll have just as much of a love for horses as me.
As for horses…what’s not to be obsessed with?! You get to primp and play with their hair and cuddle and love on them—horse cuddles are the best. And then of course, there’s the thrill of being able to ride and jump them! It’s a girl’s version of fast cars!
MB: Yes to all of that! For me, I was always fascinated by the idea of being able to communicate and work with a creature that was more powerful than me. It seemed magical, almost like make-believe.
Okay, so now that we’re talking about horses, did you ever ride competitively? Or did your family own a stable? Basically tell me everything about growing up around horses please so I can live vicariously through you!
RG: Haha! My love for horses and growing up around horses is certainly not normal. I grew up in a very low-income area. In England they’re called council estates. About five miles from where I lived, there was a tiny stable owned by a family that would offer lessons to the public on the weekend. As a treat for my eleventh birthday, my parents took me for a lesson. I fell in love!
Of course, I knew coming back and having a lesson every week was something we couldn’t afford so I needed another plan. I asked the owner if she needed anyone to muck out stalls, and she said yes. I’d struck gold! So on Saturday and Sunday I’d arrive at 8:00 a.m. and muck out stalls, get the horses ready for lessons, clean tack, and keep the farm tidy. When the stables closed at 5:00 p.m. on Sunday, all of us stable girls got to ride the horses back to their turn-out field which was an amazing gallop down the beach. I lived for those weekends!
I did that for three years. All that time, my love for the horses just grew. Then school and career took over, but when I moved to the states in 2003, I found a barn immediately and got back into riding.
MB: I know so many women and girls who’re interested in becoming stylists. What advice do you have for someone just starting out?
RG: Love what you do and make sure it really is the path you want to take. It may be a long one but it’s so worth it! And invest in comfy shoes!
MB: Wise words—for any profession.
To close things off, I’m going to ask one of my all-time favorite questions. What’s one of the biggest challenges you’ve faced (can be career-related or not), one that forced you to go head-to-head with your own self-doubt, and how did you overcome it?
RG: I’m not sure I would call it a challenge, but where I am in life right now is my greatest achievement. Leaving home at sixteen and finding a career I truly love and that eventually carried me to this place! I love living in Texas. I have the most incredible friends and family here. I work with an awe-inspiring team, and I get to share my life with the most amazing man. We are beyond blessed to be welcoming our baby girl in the near future!
Thank you so much to my dear friend and beloved stylist Rachael for her time and lovely responses. We have a lot going on with Rachael this month! She’s going to style our Mommy Makeover Contest winner, so you’ll get to see her in action when we post Renee’s final reveal at the end of the month! Plus, we’ll have her Day in the Life feature coming up soon, which includes an awesome giveaway that you will NOT want to miss.
Stick around for more amazingness from our May Woman of the Month, Rachael Gatenby!