The hair industry is joining forces to offer COVID-19 health-care workers free services through a digital platform launched by celebrity hairstylists and longtime friends Lucy Halperin, Jeremy Tardo and Amanda Shuttleworth.
All three live in Los Angeles, where the initiative was born. Familiar names in the world of hair are among the bunch to join the cause and offer their talents, including David Babaii, Mara Roszak, Ted Gibson, Benjamin Mohapi, Johnnie Sapong and Jenny Cho — whose clients collectively include the likes of Angelina Jolie, Gwyneth Paltrow, Billie Eilish and Meghan Markle. So far, major L.A. salons such as Mèche, Nine Zero One, Ramirez Tran Salon and Sally Hershberger have also signed up, though the endeavor is open to all states. A total of 53 salons and freelance hairstylists have joined to date.
“We want it to be inclusive to everyone,” Halperin said. “Whether they have one chair or 100 chairs, every salon is important.”
“It’s an army of hairdressers we’re building,” added Tardo.
Services will be available for two weeks via Frontline Fortnight, as it’s called, a nod to Halperin and Shuttleworth’s British roots. Hair professionals and health-care workers are able to sign up directly on frontlinefortnight.com. It’s an honor system, said the founders, and anyone with a hospital ID working during the pandemic is able to benefit.
“That includes the person answering the phone, the janitors…,” said Tardo, a colorist who’s worked with Miley Cyrus, Jared Leto and Miranda Kerr.
Though the idea for Frontline Fortnight was sparked in March, and the site is up and running, a launch date has yet to be set. Evidently, it’s due to the surge of coronavirus cases across the country and news on Monday from California Gov. Gavin Newsom to roll back reopening of salons.
“We’re trying to be very sensitive to the fact that the hairdressing industry has been hit pretty hard by the whole pandemic and a lot of hairdressers have been out of work,” Tardo said. “We really want to allow those people to be able to go back to work and make money for a period before we ask them to provide free services. That, combined with the fact that obviously the pandemic is ongoing, we can’t personally be responsible for sending first responders into people’s chairs all over the country when they’re still dealing with COVID-19 patients on a day-to-day basis.”
The site also invites visitors to donate to the Professional Beauty Association’s pandemic relief fund, which is providing aid to those facing financial hardships.
“We thought, ‘What can we do with all this time that we have?’” Tardo continued. “We’re not doing anything we feel is productive enough. We’re obviously not making money right now.”
The hair salon business has been hit hard. It was a relief to the industry and hairstylists to return to work, following Newsom’s announcement allowing salons to reopen on May 26. Many had been unemployed since March 19, when nonessential businesses were ordered to close. But now, the roll back is another blow.
“I understand that it is to reduce spread, but for me, I’m having a much, much more difficult time personally with it this time around, I have to say,” said Shuttleworth, who works with Tardo at L.A.’s Benjamin Salon as a hairstylist and hair extension specialist. “There seems to be little to no monitoring of house parties or going out or congregating….[The team has] gone to extraordinary lengths to make the salon safe and clean. So, for me, to not be able to go to work when I look outside or I see people eating outside close together with no masks on…it just seems unfair.”
For Halperin, who works as a freelancer, life is different these days. She’s usually on the move, dividing her time between between L.A. and London, working as a makeup artist and men’s groomer for clients that include Brad Pitt, Jason Bateman, Steve Carell, Kate Mara, Mia Wasikowska and Kaia Gerber. When work resumed, however, she had one job total.
“I had a shield, a mask,” she said of the experience. “It took me so long to prepare mentally, actually. It’s quite emotional. It’s just the process of working. It’s so different. I don’t think that there’s going to be the red carpet for a while. Cinema is being closed again, so that will set back premieres. I know a couple of my actors had premieres, and we did no press. I wasn’t involved in anything. Normally, I would go to their house, do makeup. I normally do all their press junkets with them. They just do everything on Zoom from their house now….The days of the big premieres are a long time to come.”
Tardo normally splits his time between L.A. and New York, working in freelance and in the salon. “For me, both of those things were nonexistent overnight,” he said.
To adapt, he created at-home hair kits for clients and offered FaceTime appointments to walk them through the steps: “I would put together, personally in my home, a kit with their color formula and all the tools that they needed in order to do these color applications for mini touch-ups on their roots.”
“I have clients who just send me money, because they’re worried I haven’t worked,” shared Shuttleworth.
When they were back in the salon, the first two weeks were “really busy,” though that changed as coronavirus cases rose, she said.
“As soon as the numbers started to climb, it went quiet for everyone,” she continued. “People were too scared to get back in. I noticed that [compared to] the first two weeks, it could not have been any different.”
Still, despite the hardships, the three are determined to unite the community and give back to health-care workers. The entire operation, including the site (created by Daniel Landrocheat of creative agency Grl), is built and managed free of charge with the help of peers.
“It’s great to see that in the worst of times, you do see the best of humanity,” Tardo said. “We’re all going through this together.”
“We’re a really resilient bunch,” Halperin said. “The industry will recover.”
“I think this is an opportunity for us to grow and change,” Shuttleworth said.
“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent,” added Tardo, quoting Charles Darwin. “It is the one most adaptable to change.”