A Conversation with

Chuck Amos

Chuck Amos抯 shoot to hairstylist superstardom reads like a Hollywood movie script. After a chance encounter with a then-unknown Brandy, Chuck抯 career was on the fast track to celebrity status.

Now, after more than two decades in the industry, Chuck opens up about his lifelong love of hair, creating his signature style, and what it was like to work with the very celebs who influenced his passion for the business.

When did you first know you wanted to be a stylist? Did a specific person or event trigger your passion for hair?
My aunt had come to a family reunion, and she had gotten extensions. It was September 1984, and this was the first time I ever knew what extensions were. She came in, and we said: 揧ou have long hair! We can抰 believe it! Yet, it wasn抰 a wig. It was absolutely enthralling. I started buying hair, and I started learning how to do extensions. I even put a track in my own hair to make it longer.

How did you get your break in the industry?
I broke into the fashion and music industries with different experiences. Fashion came easy because I was at FIT, and I was doing [styles] for $10 each. It had never occurred to me that these are fashion girls, and they抮e going to fashion parties and seeing the who抯 who of the fashion industry. The next morning at breakfast, they were handing me cards, saying, 揟his person wants you to do hair for their magazine.

At the same time, I did one photo shoot with a girl with braids. We put Christmas gifts in her hair.I didn抰 know who she was and didn抰 care. A few months later, I was at Rockefeller Center. This woman came up to me and said, 揥eren抰 you the stylist who did our artist and put the Christmas gifts in her hair? She said she had been looking for me and had a lot of new projects. I had no idea it was Brandy. I did her whole career卙er first album, everything.

How has your styling evolved over the years?
The evolution started with me writing letters to Orlando Pita. I knew I wanted to work with him. He never used me. I still continued to do my work. Finally, I was able to get an interview to see Orlando on-set. As soon as I started working with him, I started to see the real technique of how to do hair. Not just how to take it from beauty school, but how to heighten your awareness of what you know from beauty school, and to put it in the form or shape that is appealing to a viewer抯 eye.

What抯 your signature look?
The Diana Ross, huge, over-the-top hair. I like a lot of hair. I like a wind machine. I like hair when it looks like it抯 floating in water. I guess my greatest creation would be the album cover of Beyonc閽s Dangerously in Love. We put four fans on her, on low, all encasing her body, and it pretty much let the hair float.

What's the biggest difference between editorial and celebrity styling?
Editorial, you抮e freer. The model doesn抰 have a say in what her image is going to be. You抮e not boxed into the image; you抮e not trying to sell units as opposed to the fantasy of editorial. Celebrity is a product you抮e trying to sell.

What celebrity would you most like to work with? Anyone you抎 like to work with again?
Lady Gaga. She symbolizes a lot of the things I was in my early years. She brings me back to when I first started doing hair and was a club kid卋efore Orlando.

I would love to work with Bj鰎k again. I would love to do something with Grace Jones and Beyonc again.

When it comes to creating new hairstyles, do you look forward or back in time for inspiration?
I feel that you must look back in time to see what hairstyles were because those are the foundations of where hairstyles can go. I like to mix and match different decades of hairstyles, and I also like to mix and match cultures with the decades.

The future is just a twisted turn of what the past styles are. Right now we抮e simply doing side parts, middle parts and keeping our [hair] texture the same way.

What do you wish someone would have told you about the industry when you started?
You can be untrue to yourself and keep going and going and not be where you want to be. Be confident, no matter what you do.

What are some of the biggest changes you've seen within the industry?
There抯 a lack of knowing the past and the names and the foundation of what style is and what glamour is. The new generation simply knows the names and the adjectives that go behind them, like 80s punk, but they don抰 know Andy-Warhol-80s. There should be a reference book out there.

Tell me about your favorite shoot.
Working with Diana Ross for an Essence magazine cover. She was my mom抯 idol. I was in tears because she was an icon that I looked up to, and black women in general have looked up to [her] for such a long time.

I did the cover of French Vogue, and no other black stylist had ever done [that] except Michael Bodi in 1992. He抯 from London, so I抦 the first African-American to do the hair for the cover of French Vogue. It was the March 2000 issue with Carolyn Murphy.

What are some of your favorite Oribe products?
Dry Texturizing Spray. The packaging is deliciously good.

What抯 coming up next?
I抦 going to be making myself onto a cartoon. It抯 going to be on my website, ChuckAmosHair.com, coming this September.

- MARYLYN SIMPSON

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