Vivienne Mackinder: “Finding your authentic self is important”

Everyone has beautiful natural texture, so embrace the curl, frizz and even the limpness. When you have a haircut that supports the fabric, as long as the cut suits your bone structure, your hair will appear healthier because it requires less chemical/mechanical services. Color, chemical relaxers, perms, heavy duty blow drying, heat, all compromise the […]

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Everyone has beautiful natural texture, so embrace the curl, frizz and even the limpness. When you have a haircut that supports the fabric, as long as the cut suits your bone structure, your hair will appear healthier because it requires less chemical/mechanical services. Color, chemical relaxers, perms, heavy duty blow drying, heat, all compromise the health of hair.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Vivienne Mackinder. Her experience as Artistic Director for Vidal Sassoon and International Creative Director for Trevor Sorbie is unprecedented, and the foundation of her extraordinary artistic vision, technical expertise and educational style. She’s worked with countless celebrities and fashion designers and has been published by a myriad of international media. Her expertise culminates as founder of (HDTV), a five-star, post-graduate, one-on-one training system of online education. The content is designed to develop and refine the skills necessary to increase value and income behind the chair, as well as elevate to the highest level of professional excellence and mastery.

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

When I started hairdressing, I never thought it would take me around the world…doing photo shoots in some of the most extraordinary places with the most amazing people. One time when I was in a little bit of a slump, a photographer said to me, “Viv, I think it’s time for you to do something that really shakes you up and there’s nothing like travel to do that.” So, I did. When you go to a place like Morocco, and you’re in a Kasbah in a walled city, or the ruins where Hercules was supposed to have lived, or the Sahara Desert with the Bedouin, the richness of the culture, textures and colors are so inspirational to an artist…the environment evokes something really special. I would say that that was not expected when I became a hairdresser, but what a blessing.

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?

I’ve had many tipping points in my career, but I would say believing in myself and not being too frightened to ask for help changed everything. Having the courage to reach out to mentors to not only seek their advice but follow it as well. Sometimes when you’re feeling small, reaching out can be a little intimidating, but it’s a must! So is being okay with failure, because failure is an amazing teacher that allows you to have the courage to reinvent yourself. Try something new…if it doesn’t work, try something different and constantly look for new opportunities. When you always follow the path that you know, there aren’t any surprises there, and that path can very easily turn into a rut.

Going from being very present in the real world to the digital world was a real tipping point. Seventeen years ago, I started HairDesignerTV, and at that time, the streaming capabilities were very minimal. Most people still had a dial-up phone, and many didn’t even have a mobile phone…especially with a camera. My vision was to create an educational platform to empower hairdressers all around the world to then empower their clients. There’s nothing more beautiful than being able to mindfully and respectfully transform a client to find their own beauty and identity. HairDesignerTV was definitely a turning point for me to have the courage to go out there and do it and fail forward!

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?

A journalist asked me to identify my brand, and at the time I had no idea what he was talking about. I think today, most consumers would understand branding connected to food or a designer, but not as it relates to hair. I was baffled, because I try and create beauty that’s appropriate for the individual, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. You can do pretty punk, rock and roll punk, Bohemian punk and something that’s very classic and chic or classic and frumpy. So, depending on who is looking at that look determines whether they find it beautiful or not.

So, this journalist looked at me completely amazed and said, “You don’t know your brand?” And I said, “I just try and create beauty.” And he defined my brand as never compromising beauty, always having an edge and a little element of surprise, but not at the price of getting gimmicky and losing sight of the beauty. And that was a wow moment, because I do believe that when you put intention behind any action and you know the why behind what you’re doing, your end result is going to be really amazing versus hazy.

Being clear about your brand is important so you can attract the right people. And when you’re looking at generating sales and interest, whether it’s social media or another program, you have to know what your avatar is, what your character is, what your story is, and have such purpose around communicating it so that you’re not vague. You have to be crystal clear about who you are, and you can’t be all things to everybody. And even though I try and do so much, I realize that superwoman is very overrated…and I’m certainly not superwoman.

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

There’ve been many amazing business people, leaders and hairdressers who have helped me on my way, and I’m very grateful to all of them! When I look at my Hair Heroes, obviously, Vidal Sassoon is one of them, which is where I originally trained. I had a personal relationship with Vidal and he was such a gracious man. He always remained humble and had such charm and charisma, and an amazing ability to woo, which is part of why he could get women to be so radically different with their hair moving from shampoos and sets into the wash and wear hair styles that we all know today.

Trevor Sorbie was also a great mentor to me, I worked for him as well and classify him as one of the greatest hairdressers in the world. During the peak of his career, one of the things he taught me was to never compromise beauty and to understand a style that completes who you are and doesn’t compete with who you are. And that was a game changer because sometimes we can get carried away with a trend or an idea, and we lose sight of our authentic self and what’s appropriate. So that was a very, very important lesson.

One time when I was working really hard on a collection for a show with many hair pieces and feeling a little homesick because we were traveling so much, Trevor came into the room, looked at the collection and just stood there. I thought I was in trouble and felt my lower lip start to quiver. Then he said, “Vivian, do you realize there’s a fine line between creativity and bad taste?” …and I said, “Well, which one am I?” And he just looked at me quite coldly and said, “Bad taste.”

For a second, I wanted to have a pity party…and then I realized that wouldn’t help me learn from this amazing man. So, I asked him to tell me how to take it from being highly creative and technically ugly to creative and beautiful and he explained that I was trying too hard and didn’t know when to step back. It was true! I just kept adding and adding and adding because I was coming from a place of lack. He said if you come from a place of faith and belief and have a clear vision of what your product is going to be, you’ll know how to stop, and you’ll know how to self-edit. He said my edit button was gone and it was true.

Can you share a story about most humorous mistakes you’ve made when you first started? What lesson or takeaway did you learn from that?

I remember having this lady who wanted a little pixie haircut. She was mature, her hair line receded, and she had a very pointy nose and small eyes. I got so focused on technically cutting her hair, that I forgot about the big picture and I didn’t take into consideration the recession of her hairline and wasn’t using my mirror, just focusing on my hands and her hair. And, if your hairstylist is not looking at the shape in the mirror, you know that they’re not designing with you in mind! So, I step back and look and, oh my goodness, I had two holes! I successfully made this lady so unattractive and it was devastating. And that was a painful lesson to realize that if you get lost in the detail, you’re going to lose sight of the big picture. Painful lesson. Isn’t it funny how some of the funniest stories you tell people are of when things go the most horribly wrong? It’s interesting, isn’t it?

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

I think for any career path, you have to know the price because there is a price that you pay. The higher you climb up the ladder, the thinner the air becomes. And that’s always very challenging. Had I known to design my lifestyle first and then back my career into it, maybe I wouldn’t have made the sacrifices I’ve made and maybe my career path would have been different. I didn’t realize that by taking the path that I took, that travel, which is wonderful, would also be disruptive. Very hard to have a relationship when you’re on a plane almost every week.

When you’re striving to be the best you can be, you’re working very long hours. All successful people are passionate and work phenomenally hard. So, the question is, what are you giving up to go up? How much money do you want to make? How much time are you prepared to give up? What is the price you’re prepared to pay? And do you love it? Are you passionate about it? Because whatever your career path is, if you love what you do, then you really are not working. You’re doing what you love to do. You don’t have a desire to retire because this is who you are, and you love it. That way, when things go wrong, the passion keeps you going, and you have the ability to bounce back because it’s part of who you are.

There are three circles in life that should intersect:

Love of what you do

Your destiny


Here’s an example — I was a dancer and danced professionally for a very short period of time. And I loved dance, from the age of five until I retired at 19. And as much as I loved dance, it was not my destiny to be a professional dancer because I didn’t make enough money and I was always battling with my weight, because I didn’t have the body type that could endure the demands of being a dancer. So, there was the love, but it wasn’t my destiny to make a career of it. It was my destiny to have it as a hobby because the compensation was not there.

To have a successful career, you have to be compensated appropriately and love it for it to be your destiny, otherwise it’s a hobby.

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. Texture — Everyone has beautiful natural texture, so embrace the curl, frizz and even the limpness. When you have a haircut that supports the fabric, as long as the cut suits your bone structure, your hair will appear healthier because it requires less chemical/mechanical services. Color, chemical relaxers, perms, heavy duty blow drying, heat, all compromise the health of hair.
  2. Volume — Promote thickness, as we age hair thins due to stress, hormones, thyroid, DNA and genes. Make sure to use the proper products recommended by a stylist and brush your hair properly to reduce breakage — start at the ends and work your way up. You can also get hair extensions, just a few rows underneath the occipital bone, because sometimes hair extensions can stress the hair due to their weight and can actually make hair fall out. You have to be practical about the maintenance of a look, not only in time, but also the financial aspect and state of your natural hair. Hair is a fabric, if you can work with it versus against it, then you’ll be better off.
  3. Color — Only lift two shades away from your natural color to reduce stress on hair. And if you want more intensity, focus on specific areas so you are only stressing say 10% of with chemicals and the other 90% will still look fabulous! Face framing sections and strategically placed pieces can add a lot of impact. You can also do a glaze (deposit only) for gorgeous shine.
  4. Heat — Use less versus more, try to stay below 350–400º and hydrate with the right conditioners and treatments. And if it’s summertime and it’s hot and your head tends to frizz, try a ponytail or short little haircut.
  5. Trim — A little often goes a long, long way versus neglecting maintenance and having to cut a lot off. Every time you trim your hair, it does give the illusion of it looking a lot thicker because the hair is constantly shedding. Also having a blunt edge makes hair look thicker, while razoring creates that soft, wispy, textured effect. Both are fabulous, but you have to have the right technique for your hair type.

Can you share 3 ideas that anyone can use “to feel beautiful”?

Beauty comes from the inside out; I think it’s about embracing your best authentic self. And life is one huge maintenance program, so maintaining your beauty starts with being healthy. You can be the most gorgeous person inside and out, and if you’re not healthy, it doesn’t matter. Find an exercise regime that you enjoy so you stick with it. I love horses and dance…I do not like the gym or formal classes, but I have the discipline to do exercise at home. I have found activities that I love and look forward to doing. You also have to exercise your mind and spirit. For any of you who sit at a desk, we all know that that can be quite unhealthy. I have a standing desk so when I’m editing, I move it up and down. And sometimes I kind of move my legs up and down while I’m typing. Anything so I can keep my body moving so that I’m not sitting for hours and hours, that’s very, very unhealthy.

Finding your authentic self is important. In my consultations I use three wheels of fashion. The first is how quiet or loud your hairstyle and fashion should be. Are you an introvert, extrovert or an ambivert? Do you pump up the volume or quiet it down to find your authenticity? The second is where do you live in the wheel of fashion? Are you trendy… classic…edgy? Where do you live within that fashion wheel to find the best version of yourself? My third wheel is the femininity. Are you more comfortable when you’re boyish…cute or girly…glamorous, sexy, sophisticated? Where do you feel your most authentic, fabulous self is? No one wants to walk around being invisible, we all want to be noticed. Make sure you’re being noticed in a way that suits you and draws the right kind of people into your life.

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. 🙂

Authenticity, living a truly authentic life with love. And with that comes, respect for self, honoring the temple, being kind to yourself, listening to your inner thoughts… our body tells our brain something, and then our brain tells our body something. And we can shift how we think in a moment.

For instance, I was having a really bad moment and I thought this feels horrible and I wasn’t sure whether it was my head that was making my body feel miserable or my body that was making my head feel miserable because nothing was working. And I thought, how can I shift this moment right now and thought about George Clooney walking in the door and how that would make me feel. Could I actually shift my whole energy and change the laws of attraction? By putting out a more positive version of myself to the universe, could more positive energy be returned to me? I believe that what we put out will always be mirrored back to us. Focus on being that authentic self, because you can’t give what you don’t have.

This thought process helps you be less judgmental and allows you to have more compassion. It helps you to look at the world to see that we have more in common than we don’t. It’s so easy to judge somebody and get in a bad mood, but we don’t know what’s going on in their world.

I had a situation where I was working on a client and she was a model for this big event and she was so grumpy and difficult to work with, it was like she wanted to argue. I tried to be as kind and compassionate as possible, but she was very non-trusting and negative. Well, it turned out the day before she had lost a baby and was dreadfully sad and angry, and it would have been easy for me to have gone down that path with her. Instead, I treated her with love and compassion and when she left, she was a very different person… she actually felt very positive. It was hard not to take on that toxicity because it was dark energy and we come across it often, don’t we? The more loving and compassionate we can be, and the more authentic and the best version of ourselves we can be would make the world a much more beautiful place.

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

I have many actually, but one I do really like is “Build a dream and the dream will build you.” (Robert H. Schuller. I believe that when you have a dream, it’s a desire and it’s a goal. And when you go out there, the journey of the acquisition teaches you things and changes you, because the journey is always longer than the destination.

And I know for myself as a dancer, a rider and a hairdresser, whenever I’ve done competitions and won medals or whatever, winning that award is a few seconds, but the journey to get there was actually a lifetime. And if I don’t enjoy that journey, then the reward is actually quite shallow. The reward is just a confirmation of the journey that was really quite beautiful. If we focus more on the journey, we could have much richer lives.

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. 🙂

Maybe it’s George Clooney because he’s funny, charming and seems very humble…and I think it would be a whole lot of fun. But there are quite a few people…Sadhguru would be totally cool as well because he is such a brilliant mind and so wise. And then when I think about amazing women who are just so fascinating, there are so many…Lady Gaga would be quite intriguing because she’s had so much success and has a powerful voice and a great story. In fact, all three at once would be the most interesting…Lady Gaga, Sadhguru, and George Clooney. Quite fun.

How can our readers follow you online? I’m doing a series right now on Facebook called Viv’s Hair Heroes, and it’s about iconic hairdressers — going inside their mind, hearing their story and having them teach me something, because isn’t it wonderful to just keep learning and being stretched? So that’s a really fun thing. And even if you’re not a hairdresser, I think you’d quite enjoy some of the stories along the way, which I think are marvelous. In fact, we just finished an episode called “The Journey of a Lifetime,” celebrating the life of Freddie French who started doing hair in the 1920’s. His son continued in his footsteps, Nicholas French. We cover from the 1920’s to today sharing the stories of the trends and the fashions and how they evolved. And we try to adapt those looks for today, it’s really quite fun.

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

Thank you for your questions and I hope more than anything, I’ve made you smile and given you something to think about. Thank you. Bye bye.

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