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Chelsea Adair: “Try out a new style”

Make your hair shiny. The very first complaint clients share about their hair is that it’s dry. Shine is interpreted as healthy hair and taking the steps to give yourself healthy and shiny hair will go a long way in making you feel beautiful. Any stylist can give recommendations based on your personal hair type […]

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Make your hair shiny. The very first complaint clients share about their hair is that it’s dry. Shine is interpreted as healthy hair and taking the steps to give yourself healthy and shiny hair will go a long way in making you feel beautiful. Any stylist can give recommendations based on your personal hair type and products that don’t strip away your natural oils.

Apply lipstick. It’s pretty simple, but it brightens your face and gives a confidence boost.

Moisturize! It keeps your skin healthy and makes you look younger. Feeling beautiful doesn’t have to be complicated.


As a part of our series about “Five Things Anyone Can Do To Have Fabulous Hair”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Chelsea Adair.

Chelsea Adair, a fourth-generation stylist, salon owner and a working mom of four, carries on the tradition that began with her great-grandmother in 1929, as owner of Southern California’s Salon Adair in Carlsbad, CA. Chelsea lives and works by her noteworthy maxim, “Your life may not be perfect, but your hair can be!” — a motto that has garnered her salon a loyal clientele and provided her inspiration in even the most trying of times. A Vidal Sassoon certified stylist and a certified makeup artist, Chelsea has worked with celebrities the likes of Fergie and Keith Urban and has been featured on national tv, including “The Look: All Stars”.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I began my career as a hairstylist, unsure that it was actually what I wanted to do. My mom was very ill during this time so I decided to attend beauty school to get some experience under my belt while my mom was in hospice. My family, however, discouraged me from pursuing a career as a stylist. They had limited opportunities career-wise and had always pushed me to attend college. I enrolled in a nursing program, but my hair clients begged me not to leave. Turns out, I had inherited a love for hair and styling from the women in my life — and I was pretty good at it. I finally decided, why fight it?

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

Early on, I took a class with Sam Villa. It was the class that kick started my career. Then, later, I got the chance to appear on “The Look: All Stars,” alongside him. He was the goal, the unreachable, and here he was on this show with me. I finally got the opportunity to thank him for helping me become a success with his signature haircut. He told me, “The haircut is yours now. You’re teaching it to others and building your career from it. It’s no longer just my signature.” That was a moving movement for me.

Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Are there takeaways or lessons that others can learn from that?

In my early days as a hairstylist, I just wanted to be good at one thing. I wanted to cut hair and be exceptional at it. I enrolled in a class with Sam Villa — a class that would teach me how to do ONE haircut, for 500 dollars. Back then, that was more money than I had to spend on education, let alone to learn one cut. I was completely intimidated by him, but I signed up and paid up. In that class, I learned a v-shaped waterfall layered haircut — which turned me into a six-figure hairstylist in the same year. So, probably the best 500 dollars I ever spent.

The experience taught me to always be open to what I’m uncomfortable with and never limit myself. Had I let my intimidation for my mentor or my nervousness at paying that much money for one class keep me from doing it, I probably wouldn’t be where I am today. It also reminded me to keep reinventing myself. Even when you have money and success, keep pushing yourself and be open to more. Now, I don’t just have success as a stylist, but a thriving business with 20 employees.

In your experience what were the most effective ways for your business to generate leads and sales? Can you share a story or give an example?

Relatability is key in any business — it’s all about connections with people. I learned pretty early on in my career that people will support you in anything if you’re truly passionate about it. People want to see that you’re excited about what you’re doing, regardless of what you’re trying to sell. I always tell my staff that the first three times a client visits them, it’s based on attitude and chairside manner. After that, that’s when you need your skills to retain your clientele. As a stylist, we have to be uplifting and excited about what we’re suggesting, especially to a new client. That’s where the trust happens, and then the loyalty follows.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person to whom you are grateful who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Melissa Navarrete is the sales representative for the salon and she has mentored and guided me since I’ve known her. She constantly finds me opportunities to grow and then inspires me to go for them. I’ve gained so much confidence from knowing her.

Can you share a story with us about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting? What lesson or take-away did you learn from that?

I still laugh about this to this day, because I feel like it’s such a typical but terrible mistake to make as a stylist. I had an interview at a salon, for my very first stylist position. I brought a model with me to style her hair and showcase my skills. The manager of the salon was barely paying attention and somehow missed that I did a full highlight on a girl who already had platinum blonde hair. I basically re-bleached her platinum again. My intent was just to dye her roots, but I didn’t pull the ends out. Rookie move. I melted this poor girl’s hair off. Somehow, I still landed the job and the model was a good sport. Needless to say, she definitely did not become one of my clients and I think she’s a brunette now.

My main lesson from all of this? Don’t do that again. But, I also learned that confidence and attitude are key. Even in my first interview, when I so clearly messed up, I never panicked. I don’t think the client had any idea what was happening until well after the fact. I kept control of the situation and I think it was my calm demeanor that landed me that job. I went into that interview knowing I wholeheartedly wanted to be a hairstylist and nothing would stop me. Even a technical difficulty like that would just be a blip in the road.

You have been blessed with great success in a career path that many have attempted, but eventually gave up on. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path but know that their dreams might be dashed?

My words of advice: be generous and be reliable. At the start of my career, I was generous with my time and with my business plan. I mimicked what bigger brands like Ulta and other chain salons were doing with their marketing. I followed along, as much as I could afford to do so. I would do ‘buy two blowouts and get a third free’ specials and other incentives that got new clients in the door and excited about rewards. Sure, I didn’t make a huge profit back then, but I got the clients that would help me get there in the future. I also stuck to everything I agreed to. I didn’t cancel, I gave them my full attention, I didn’t bargain and I gave everyone the same amount of energy, whether they came in at the beginning of the day, or they were my very last appointment.

I also always made an effort to involve my clients in my personal life. When I was pregnant, I said anyone who brought me diapers would get a free first haircut. I got 75 new clients and 75 bags of diapers. Plus, I created such a strong impression that some clients still mention, “remember that time when I used to pay you in diapers?” It also showed I was a pregnant mama doing anything I could to build my business; people really related to that.

Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Can you please share “Five Things Anyone Can Do To Have Fabulous Hair”. Please share a story or an example, for each.

  1. Familiarize yourself with the texture of your hair. Everyone has different hair and we each have a unique texture. Get an idea of what you want to achieve, create a plan and stick to it. I advise curly girls all the time that have no idea how to style their hair, or how often they should be hydrating, etc. For example, coarse curly-haired girls can’t get a textured pixie cut; I guarantee you they won’t like it. It won’t flatter their hair texture. Really getting to know your hair is the best way to align with it and have hair that you love.
  2. Play around. I’m all for playing around with accessories and not overthinking how to style my hair. Play around with bandanas, braids, dry styling products, texturizing sprays, etc. Go outside the box of your usual routine — you may just find a new look that you love.
  3. Try out a new style. I find my own inspiration from time periods or celebrities. I alternate between Hollywood glam and 60s hairstyles or looks from my celebrity icons. I love to pull things out that others do and make them work for me and my hair, and I fully commit to it. If I do Hollywood waves, I also add in a smoky eye and a classic red lip. Don’t be afraid to go for a new haircut style, talk with your stylist, show them your inspiration and they can let you know if that works with your hair texture and face shape.
  4. HYDRATE. I recommend cocktailing a hair mask and serum in shower three times a week. Be sure to brush it through. Your hair will thank you, no matter what hair type you have.
  5. Hair vitamins. I’ve had four kids so I know personally what it’s like to experience hair loss from hormonal changes, stress, age, etc. When talking with my clients, I learned they’d been having the same problems. While there are plenty of options to camouflage this issue, if you want to get your hair back, I always recommend hair vitamins. I made myself the guinea pig and tried out plenty of brands and supplements to create a curated list that we sell at our salon. Now, my clients get the same results and it’s so rewarding to see their hair and their confidence come back. From alopecia to thyroid issues, to chemo, surgeries, etc, I always say: vitamins, vitamins, vitamins.

Can you share 3 ideas that anyone can use “to feel beautiful”? (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. Make your hair shiny. The very first complaint clients share about their hair is that it’s dry. Shine is interpreted as healthy hair and taking the steps to give yourself healthy and shiny hair will go a long way in making you feel beautiful. Any stylist can give recommendations based on your personal hair type and products that don’t strip away your natural oils.
  2. Apply lipstick. It’s pretty simple, but it brightens your face and gives a confidence boost.
  3. Moisturize! It keeps your skin healthy and makes you look younger. Feeling beautiful doesn’t have to be complicated.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I’m all about paying it forward. It doesn’t take much to help others, but it has a huge ripple effect. Even the smallest amount of effort can have a big impact on someone’s day. I really saw this during the 2008 recession. I offered “recession roots” where I would color my clients’ roots at no cost so they could feel and look their best for an interview. I would even do makeovers prior to a big interview at no cost. Not only did it boost their confidence, but when they’re getting paid, so am I, so why wouldn’t I want to do something to help get them there? We could help each other, and sometimes we all need a little help.

I still pay it forward today. When a client is diagnosed with cancer, I buy their first wig — the stylists do a prayer circle around the client and pray to the hair gods. And, I do what I can to make the transition to shaving their head as comfortable and fun as it possibly can be. I make it a process. I have them come in and cut their hair into a bob, and we do a fun color. Then I bring them in the next week for a pixie cut with another color. They have the chance to play with their hair before it’s shaved off. All appointments are a week apart as chemo hair loss happens quickly, but it gives them something to look forward to when their hair comes back. They may even have a brand new style or two as their hair grows out.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Life is what happens when we’re busy making other plans” — John Lennon. This quote is a mirror image of my life. It’s all about rolling with the punches and being flexible with unexpected circumstances (like, say, a pandemic?). Applying this outlook has brought me a lot of success.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world with whom you’d like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this. 🙂

My mom’s icon was Oprah. I always thought they had so much in common. My mom passed in 2010, but I think being able to meet Oprah would make my mom so excited.

Personally, I’d probably want to meet Gwen Stefani. She’s managed to always stay relevant, uplifting and a true beauty icon. I’d love to pick her brain.

How can our readers follow you online?

Instagram: @salonadair and @mrshairstylist

Facebook: @salonadair

Thank you so much for this. This was very inspirational, and we wish you only continued success!


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