Backstage

  • Neal Farinah
  • Farinah styled Beyonce for her 4 album cover
  • More of Farinah's work with Beyonce
  • The new Neal Farinah Salon in Brooklyn, NYC
  • Farinah gave Beyonce voluminous waves for the cover of InStyle
  • A sleek ponytail for the cover of Harper's Bazaar
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Jan 30, 2012

Neal Farinah

Born and raised in the Caribbean, hairstylist Neal Farinah felt it was his destiny to come to the United States and accomplish great things. He was right. Over the past 20 years, Farinah has built up an impressive roster of celebrity clients (he’s Beyoncé’s mane man), opened a successful salon and traveled the world doing what he loves. Farinah uses his talents to not only make women look and feel beautiful, but also to inspire others to embrace their dreams and make them a reality—just as he has done.

How did you get your start in the industry?


I trained with my local salon in Trinidad and established myself as a hairdresser there. Although I was successful, I felt my destiny was in the U.S., so I came to New York City 20 years ago. I’ve met so many interesting people, and a lot of my clients saw great potential in me. One of those clients is now my agent.

Who was your first celebrity client?


Crystal Waters. I subsequently worked with M’ya.

What inspires you creatively?


There’s so much inspiration everywhere, even walking down the street. I love looking at the styles in different countries when I travel. I also regularly study other hairstylists’ work in magazines and on red carpets.


One of your most famous clients is Beyoncé. Tell us about your experience working with her.


I was introduced to Beyoncé through my agent, who booked me to do her hair for a holiday party. After that, Beyoncé asked me to go on tour with her. It was the opportunity of a lifetime, but I was scared…the unknown is always scary! During the world tour in 2007, we went to some amazing places: China, India, Europe, Japan and more. If we were in a city for more than one day, we got some time to explore, which was incredible. I loved looking at all the people...and salons.
My first big ad campaign with Beyoncé was for Emporio Armani Diamonds perfume, which we shot in Germany. Words can’t express how it felt to work on that with her. I felt like I was living in a dream world…sometimes I still feel like I’m dreaming!

I continued to work with Beyoncé on many projects over the years, including personal and press appearances, her “Halo” and “Irreplaceable” videos, another world tour in 2009, her 4 album cover, shoots for Elle, Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and InStyle and more.


What are your favorite styles to do on her?


Beyoncé has become an icon for beautiful, sexy hair. She’s always changing her look, but her style is usually long, flowy, young and fresh. The album cover we worked on together for 4 was really different for her—we went for a bedhead look; someone who just wakes up beautiful and sexy and free. I loved that.

As we all know, Beyoncé just had an adorable baby girl. Do you think motherhood should change a woman’s style at all?


Having a baby is just one of the amazing things about being a woman. It shouldn’t alter someone’s sense of style or ability to be sexy. Women should be at their sexiest throughout their pregnancy.

Who are some other celebrities you’d love to work with?


Adele and Lady Gaga, for sure. I’d also love to work with a young artist and help shape her persona.

What are the challenges of working with a celebrity?


Time can sometimes be an issue. You may only have 30 minutes to execute a look and make the celebrity look amazing. You have to learn to be flexible and creative at the same time.

Tell me about your new salon in Brooklyn, NY, which opened in fall 2011.


I worked at Follicle Salon in Brooklyn for about 15 years. In 2010, the owner decided to retire, which was a very scary moment for me. Even though I was working with celebrities, the salon was still my livelihood and my home. He offered to sell me the salon, and I took it and transformed it into a space I am so proud of. I created a space that I think is really a gift to women—they can come here and just relax and enjoy themselves.


Why did you decide to carry Oribe Hair Care in the salon?


I first discovered Oribe products when I was styling Beyoncé for a performance for President Obama. The makeup artist introduced me to Oribe, who gave me some products to try out, and I thought they were incredible. My favorites are the Shampoo for Brilliance & Shine, the Conditioner for Beautiful Color, Foundation Mist, Royal Blowout, Supershine and Après Beach. I love the smell, which is so light and wonderful and doesn’t leave clients smelling over-perfumed, and the unique packaging. The formulas are so weightless and don’t leave any build-up.

When it came time to choose a line for my salon, Oribe Hair Care fit perfectly into what I was trying to achieve, which was to bring an opulence and a Manhattan feel to a Brooklyn salon.


Other than your celebrity work and opening your own salon, what are some other defining moments in your career?


I was the lead hairstylist for the Tom Ford fashion show in New York City in 2010, which debuted the new women’s line.

I also love the opportunities this industry provides me to give back to my community. I go to beauty schools and tell my story to help students see that it’s possible to accomplish their dreams. I also talk to women and men who have abused drugs and inspire them to recognize their potential. I have been so fortunate, and I want to share that with others.
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