Today, they inspire thousands. But who helped set Sophia and Larisa on their respective paths to hair industry success? We ask them to reveal the mentors who had an impact on their lives and where that drive has taken them…
SH: For me, it’s got to be Sally Brooks.
LL: I’m completely self-taught and never took an education class until I started teaching. I’m so big on education now and telling people to do it – it’s almost hypocritical compared to what I did! But I didn’t think education was important, I thought I knew it all, y’know? So I never took any classes, but I’d always loved colour and art so it came very naturally for me – like the colour wheel, colour theory, where the hair falls and all that. That’s not common sense for most people, you do have to be really trained.
So that means I can’t really say that I learned from someone like that, but my mentor is Nina [Kovner] at PassionSquared. I find her so inspiring. I met her four or five years ago and that’s when my whole life changed. She found me on social media – not even to do with hair, about my lashes! – and she wanted to get her’s done too. I didn’t know who she was at first, but it turned out she was one of the main educators for Paul Mitchell back in the day.
She was like “Well, I’d love to meet up with you. I see me in you when I was younger.” So we met up and talked, and connected really well right away. She’s in her 60s – she’s been in the industry a long time – and she doesn’t do hair anymore, she now does mentoring. But she was the one who connected me with Cosmoprof, who then asked me to do a talk – which was my first hair show ever. I didn’t even know hair shows existed! I was just so busy getting stuck in behind the chair, trying to build a client base – that was just my life.
So I did Cosmoprof, and then they asked me if I wanted to do a meet and greet. I was like, who would want to meet me?! I mean, four years ago, I had about 70k followers, which was low for the US.
SH: Not compared to England, don’t worry!
LL: We were shocked at how many people wanted to meet with me – it was the largest number for a meet and greet they’d ever had. The line went outside the convention! It was amazing and exhausting and so, so humbling. So because of Nina I went to Cosmoprof, and because of that I became a brand ambassador for them – so I feel like my life started, in the career of travelling and teaching, because of her. I literally go to her for any questions I have, hair related or not, and she’s just there. She gave me that boost and helped me start.
SH: Sally was definitely a mentor in terms of career development for me. The company I worked for before wasn’t a colour company – they did colour but…
LL: They didn’t teach.
SH: Yeah. My cousin (Grace Dalgleish) now sort of does my job at my old salon. She’s five or six years younger than me.
Creative HEAD: Did you nudge her towards them because you had such a great experience there?
SH: I gave her a list of around five to 10 salons that I’d recommend, and the first one she applied for was Brooks & Brooks. She was probably a little bit better than I was when I first started, actually. I think she’s more talented than me, more naturally creative. She’s not interested in business or marketing or anything like that – she’s what I would call a true raw creative, which isn’t what I’d say I am, so it’s quite different. She’s amazing.
Creative HEAD: What would you say has been your biggest achievement following that mentorship?
LL: My biggest achievement that I am so proud and humbled by is that I opened my own salon. Also, that I became the first brand ambassador for Cosmoprof and now I am a brand ambassador for JOICO. I’m so honoured, so happy.
SH: I guess my biggest achievement, and one I didn’t really see coming, was that the people who came to my salon weren’t really colourists at the level that they are now. A lot of them had either barely coloured hair at all or were just in their first year or so. Looking at the level they get to every day, and knowing that I was responsible for growing that. Just looking round the room and thinking “Yeah, I did that,” it’s just the most beautiful thing to me.
LL: I love that. Amen to that!
SH: You know Harriet (Stokes) wasn’t even a colourist when she came to me. She’d done her NVQ –
LL: Wow, isn’t she the one that just won an award?
SH: Yeah, the L’Oréal Colour Trophy Star Award last year and the London regional this year! She’d just done her NVQ and she went to a salon in the Midlands as a stylist. When she came to London and to me, within six weeks I had her fully booked with colour changes.
Harriet came to the company eight or nine months in – when we, like, exploded. All the other guys had time to learn slowly, have breaks, pick it up as they went along, but Harriet didn’t. She had the expectation of Instagram, but she had no experience, and she just flew. She’s a true creative as well, and an artist.