The slightly bouffanted blonde older (older, like my age older) woman with black eye liner and nude glossy lips was waiting for me. To be perfectly frank, I had my eye on a younger more tattooed woman to do my hair for the fashion show I was privileged to be a part of last night. I had decided to be completely open to the entire event as previously written about in my last writing so when Lori approached me, I just went with her and the flow of the beautifully crafted and organized like Swiss clockwork evening. These ladies from the Paul Mitchell School in Cranston, RI were volunteering their time on a Saturday afternoon doing all of the models’ hair and makeup and I just wanted to be a part of the total experience. I wanted to let them take care of me and free myself of the ridiculous incessant need to control every waking moment of my existence. I am sure that this need for control is one of the more esoteric reasons I got breast cancer in the first place. It seems like a common denominator in the personality traits of so many survivor chicks I have had the fortune to cross paths with over the last three years.

She gazed at my thick, long salt and pepper hair with a sparkle in her eye. I had no idea what she was thinking and I really didn’t care. There were no mirrors around for me to have to watch and I really used the time to just enjoy the experience. Typical of hairdressers and their clients, we began a light Q and A session to pass the time. Especially since I have been in the beauty business for over thirty years, I am always curious why people land there, she seemed about my age so I asked if this were a second career. It was. These are some of my favorite women to speak with because it usually means that they have headed down the path with an inner calling fueled by a long time dream to be part of the hair world. I admire women who follow their calling the later years of their career and I love to speak about it with them over the pulls and twists of getting my hair to do what they envisioned. She flat ironed, and marcel ironed and sprayed and teased. The aroma of heat with hairspray melting into my hair brought me back to my old days having to attend hair shows when I worked with Aveda. Meanwhile the twenty something tattooed waif of a girl standing across from us was thinking about my makeup and looking at me with her artistic eye. An hour later, I was the embodiment of a vintage pinup girl and I LOVED the whole look, the preparation and the end result. I was slowly learning that the whole point of the night was to celebrate the collective US. The cancer survivors, the caregivers, our families, our friends. I never really felt the need to have a group celebration like that, it never occurred to me that it was even necessary. As I plodded through the blur of the Kentucky Derby themed evening sitting with my only two friends who didn’t have plans that evening, I leaned in. Sheryl Sandberg would have been proud. I applied the wonderful five A’s that don’t always need to be reserved for intimate relationships. I Allowed. Appreciated. Accepted. I Attended and I had deep Affection for the women and men who made it all possible. What I assumed would be a silly and fun wacky evening was remarkable and the deep layers of emotion surprised me.

I stood in the line in my David’s Bridal coral chiffon dress and my five inch wedge shoes from Off Broadway Shoes from The Warwick Mall waiting my turn. I was second to last and stood a person away from the only young man in the lineup assuming he was the son of one of the cancer survivors modeling in her honor. “How did you get roped into this?” I asked with a playful curiosity.

“I had lymphoma.” He said with a gentle spirit.

“You are alive!” I said with utter happiness. “I bet you have a lot of people here who are so happy you are alive, how old are you?”

“Twenty.” he said. I smiled firmly. “I’m so happy you are here.”

Then out of nowhere, the tears flooded my mascara lined and ladened lashes. I had to turn my head so the floodgates wouldn’t open five minutes before I was supposed to sass my silly #lovelybadass self on the runway to the beat of some more music my fifty three year old self didn’t recogize. My brother. Yep, there he was in the center of the tears, just like thirty years ago when I was getting ready to speak in front of over one thousand attendees at an Aveda business conference, my first speaking appearance at the tender age of twenty nine. I had learned just the night before that my brother had adeno carcinoma of the lung, at the time a fatal diagnosis and had just asked the leader of the company five minutes before going on stage if he knew of a healing place in the country that may offer alternative medicine. My eyes had filled up then five minutes before going on the stage. Here I was thirty years later and it was a reenactment. So much had happened in thirty years and here I was standing in front of a twenty year young man very much alive who triggered my entire thirty years in one short sentence. I had lymphoma. Twenty. The same age as my son now. My son who was also diagnosed with the BRCH 2 gene. I got home and realized I didn’t want to be alone last night. I was mixed with joyful sorrow so I got my stuff together and drove to my partner’s house and promptly into his arms, tears flowing with the sadness of loss and the joy of life all mix and matched. All because Maria Gemma asked me to be the fashion show. It’s like she knew it was exactly where I should be on a Saturday evening. I would do it all over again in a nanosecond. This is the power of not only a powerhouse woman but a powerhouse organization filled with powerhouses on a mission to get people like me to say yes instead of no. More yesses for the right reasons, for the right causes. The unintended and unplanned emotions that came up last night despite the tears keeps my life in perspective. This was the gift that keeps on giving from all of this cancer. #LUCKYINDEEDAGAIN.

i didn’t want to take my hair down or wash my makeup off. My two superchick friends who gave up their Saturday eve to cheer me on. Runway pictures will follow soon. Lori the magnificent goddess who make this hair do what it did. And another survivor chick, Ali also modeling last night.



This is what my mother always called the place that we would go to get our hair cut. The connection I feel when I grace the entrance of a hair salon still excites and surprises me. I have been exposed to the world of beauty salons since I was five years old getting my hair cut on Newbury St. in Boston, Mass where my mother used to take me for hip pixie cuts in 1970. 1970 was when the movement of the shampoo blow dry invention took root (pun intended) in mainstream America and women’s relationships to their hair and hairdresser changed forever.

Vidal Sassoon changed hair with the creation of the shampoo blowdry; before this it was the weekly shampoo sets or wigs. Women got their hair ‘coiffed’ and it was expected to last for a week until their next appointment, usually on a Friday after the weekly household chores were complete and they could finally take a rest. All of this was unbeknownst to a little girl of five who grew up thinking that everyone drove an hour to Boston to get their hair cut and then go to dinner at Duberrys where she would sneak and eat the pats of butter put out on the otherwise elegant table. This was all going on as the Vietnam war was still in full swing and the irony of this two worlds apart does not now go unnoticed.

Fast forward to 1976 and local towns were at last catching up to the trend. Pockets of hair salons started to sprout in the neighborhoods making it easier to get a good haircut without the drive to Boston. My mother continued the tradition of taking me to the best places for haircuts and also adding manicures and facials to my list of mandated beauty services. I can say many things about our relationship, but I can never say I wasn’t provided for materially. She exposed me to great restaurants, great food, love of kitchen toys, clothing shopping and hair salons and for this I am grateful. We may not share a close relationship, but we do share these feminine connectors and when I walk into a hair salon like I did this past week, I immediately feel happy. It is no accident that this would end up being my own business in retrospect and I love every single element of the beauty business I am sure because of this young exposure.

As I got older, I still went to Newbury St. because this is where ‘real’ hair salons still were- the best and most current unless you wanted to drive to New York. Great hair dressers morphed into great hair stylists as they started to be called who knew the latest trends and had the best salons around. Hair salons have a pulse. As more women began getting their hair cut, their visits changed from weekly to monthly and additional services began being added like manicures, facials and waxing services. This helped get these women back in the salon more frequently or gave opportunities for them to get additional services while they were getting their hair colored or permed. I don’t think we realize how significant the history of beauty salons are in women’s lives. Hair dressing and beauty have been fast tracks for any woman to become entrepreneurs and many great careers and empires were started by women who saw opportunity. Estee Lauder, Mary Kay, Helena Rubenstein, Elizabeth Arden, Bobbi Brown all started with their two hands and an idea. Let’s face it, most every woman has an interest in some element in beauty.

I was watching an interview this past week with Dr. Laurie Glimcher, who is the CEO of the Dana Farber Institute. As I listened to her brilliance, I also noticed her lovely hair color and style, her makeup and how everyone across all levels is part of the tribe of women who get hair services, buy makeup and skin care. The industry is massive and not a day goes by when I am not grateful for the opportunity to be a part of it. We are a feel good industry and these types of businesses become more iconic as less and less people are physically connecting.

When my cousin decided to move on to do her own thing, I realized that for the first time in sixteen years, I would have to figure out an alternate plan for my regular pedicures. I knew that it would be difficult to get an appointment with her as it surely was when she worked for me so I had to find back up. I found that right around the corner at a colleague’s salon and sold my pedicure beds to her, pronto. This is where I have been landing for my pedicures and it has been fun being a client for a change for a beauty service. I have had the luxury of getting beauty services whenever I want because of my business, but now I could be a client. So when I went in to get my monthly pedicure, I asked if there was time for a manicure, too. Check. Yes. So I sat myself down at the manicure station old school across from the manicurist and as she filed and buffed and polished, I was twelve again sitting at Rams Head Salon in Brick Market in Newport, RI. I forgot how much I love being in a hair salon. While I waited for my nails to dry, I thought, what else could I get done? “How about a blowout?” Nicole asked. “YES!” I exclaimed with a jubilance that even surprised me. I felt old fashioned. I felt like I was in the 1939 movie THE WOMEN with Joan Crawford and Rosalind Russell. I made the trek back upstairs to wait for my nails to dry because as I said to Nicole, “it is too quiet in the nail area, I want to watch the hair salon action.” From my female perspective, the buzz of a hair salon is like nothing else and it has been a part of me for almost fifty years.

I have worked in beauty since my first foray at a beauty supply store in Framingham, Mass then as the only white employee as a receptionist at a primarily black hair salon in the same town when I was 21. Working in beauty seemed like my destiny after all of my exposure as a young client and it is no wonder I ended up going to esthetics school. I have worked at Cherry and Webb at the Estee Lauder counter when I was twenty three after school, apprenticed a very hip woman in Newport for about six months out of school where I really learned about the skin business. I worked at the very hair salon I started at, Rams Head as my first skin care job and then went on to Judy’s where I landed for almost eight years and learned the business of skin and hair from a woman who built one from the ground up. I worked for Aveda Corporation learning from a man who built a business and learned more about running a company as I found my way in my twenties and early thirties being exposed to an element of business I could have never learned at business school.

Owning a beauty business and being a client at one is a dive into female psyche. It is a place of comfort and camaraderie. It is a place to take a deep female breath. When I worked for Judy, Fridays were my favorite. Fridays were the day of standing appointments for women who back then were likely in their late sixties and seventies who hadn’t given up their weekly shampoo set for the easier shampoo blowdry. I often thought it was because they enjoyed the connection they had with the other women who they had built unlikely relationships with on those Friday jaunts in rain, sleet or snowstorms as they shared their lives over a cup of coffee waiting for their appointments. Nowadays as these generations of women lessen, our connectors as the younger generation have become yoga and exercise classes. We always find ways to connect and if my business gives that excuse for real human interaction I am in the right business. From the time I got my first pixie cut in 1970 to what I have built with my own two hands. From my first facial in a tiny treatment room in a tiny salon in 1987 to a full blown company employing twenty women; there is nothing like a beauty parlor.

some pixie cuts from yesteryear along with some great pictures of my mother from 1970 and finally a hilarious picture from the eighties of me.