"I honestly never actually thought I was going to make it to 20 years of age.
As a young punk at high school, I was interested in science and thought I’d pursue a career in biochemistry. That is, until the hairdresser explained to me the science behind what she was doing when she coloured my hair. The pink and purple flat top I was sporting, with the green fringe hanging over one eye, offset by a bright orange wedge cut around the sides and back was no accident. It was a masterpiece of chemistry combined with biology along with an architectural approach to cutting that created perfect symmetry despite the uneven organic form of the medium (my head that is).
Something struck me, like a left hook from Mike Tyson, and I knew, in every fibre of my being, that I was going to be a hairdresser. It was the first thing I ever truly knew without doubt, and that is what drove me to leave school at fifteen (despite the protests of my mother) to pursue an apprenticeship and start the biggest and longest lasting love affair of my life.
Some days, I actually can’t believe I get paid to do what I do. As a shy, socially awkward fifteen-year-old fresh from an all boys school, I was thrust into a world of women, fashion and beauty that I never really knew existed. And boy did I go on a steep learning curve! I learned how to shampoo and condition hair properly, how to greet people and make them feel at home. How to pamper and perm, blowdry and empathise, listen and colour, understand and empower and most of all, how to make people look and feel better than they imagined they could.
Struggling through my teens, trying to negotiate the terrain of responsibility and freedom, I was a rebellious boy, and even though I tried my best, I didn’t always turn up to work on time or prioritise my career as much as my bosses might have liked. I preferred to spend what little money I earned on having a good time and this led me into all sorts of teenage strife.
It took me nearly 6 years to complete my apprenticeship, partly because I didn’t put aside the money I needed to pay for my annual assessments, and I was too proud and embarrassed to tell anyone. And partly because I was too busy partying and getting into trouble. At the age of 18, I found martial arts. It gave me the discipline and focus to get back on track and start tidying up my act.
In 1992, after the birth of my first daughter, and receiving my black belt, I turned my attention and focus to setting an example for my child by showing her that it is possible to live your dreams.
It was important to me to show her by example, and not tell her she could do or be something when I hadn’t lived up to my potential yet. I knew I had to figure it out as best I could so my kids would have an example of what a man could be. I decided to see how far I could take this hairdressing thing that I seemed to have attached myself to.
I wasn’t sure exactly what the dream career looked like, but I felt it in my bones. It felt like New York, and money, and something bigger than I could see. Somehow I knew that I had to get started, I needed to work with the best people and start entering some awards and building my career seriously. I moved back to Auckland from the Far North, started working at the best salon around with an award winning team and started working on my craft and all aspects of it. After winning some awards and placing in others, I started working on editorial and advertising fashion shoots which required me to learn a whole new skillset. Coming from New Zealand and having a desire to work on a global level, I knew I had to be resourceful. I had to find a way to do whatever it took to grow my portfolio, grow my skills, expand my horizons and invest every spare dollar and every spare minute into my work. I became obsessed.
I feel extremely privileged to have all the incredible experiences my career has bought me so far. I’ve travelled the world working with A-list celebrities, supermodels and the most prestigious fashion houses. I’ve presented on stage in front of 10,000 people and had a big part in a Hollywood blockbuster, I won a golden gloves boxing title, shot for vogue, and surfed in Hawaii. I’ve had the opportunity to impact the careers of the 600 plus staff at Rodney Wayne through education, creative direction and global opportunities and I’ve been honoured with awards in other countries. But the thing that keeps me doing what I do, the reason I am still excited and passionate after 30 years in the hair business is that we, hairdressers, get to help people have good hair days, and you know how amazing you feel when you’re having a good hair day."