To celebrate the launch of Pony Studios, a revolutionary new hair education space in Oakland, California, Michael had a chat with Pony founder, owner, and Bumble and bumble alum Corinna Hernandez to talk about her story, her career thus far, and her vision for her new space.
MG: So, how are you? Are you excited? Did the launch weekend go well? C: The class was good. It went very well, we got really great feedback, and we only had a few minor audio/visual hiccups.
Are you ready for a question? Yes!
When did you get into hairdressing? It was 1999.
How did it happen? I met a hairdresser, Collette LaRoche, who really inspired me. I saw this girl walking around with a cute haircut, whose hair was similar to my texture, and I asked her who cut it. I booked an appointment with her hairdresser. It took me two months to get in. And I loved her. I loved her personality, her stories. She said she made really good money and went to Paris three months out of the year, and came back to work to her clients and she felt like it was play and not work. I mentioned that I thought about doing hair at one point and she told me to go for it. So I left there and immediately signed up for beauty school.
Where did you go to beauty school? It was in Sacramento, California, at a place called Federico Advanced. I went to the night school, so it took two years.
Were you working during that time? I was actually an office manager at a physical therapy office.
No kidding. And how long were you in Sacramento? Well, when I finished beauty school, I met Rowena [Hiraga], who had just left the Sassoon Academy to start her own salon. At this point, I had started working at a pilates studio, and she was taking classes. I heard that she was a hairdresser, so I introduced myself and told her that I was in beauty school and just about to graduate. She said, “You should come work for me. I’m just starting my salon and I just left Sassoon, and you’d be my first hire.” And so I did it, I went to work for her. That was in El Dorado Hills. That wasn’t necessarily where I wanted to be, but I did want to learn from her, so off I went.
What happened next? After a while, I wanted to be in Sacramento. I felt an urge to be in a different environment, and I felt ready to move on. I went to Sacramento to work for Shannon Marlin, who was also opening her own salon. When I got there, she asked me if I could teach what I learned with Rowena, because she had heard that the Sassoon education was a difficult program to complete. So I said, “Okay, I'll teach. I've never taught before but I'll teach.”
Did you enjoy it? I did, I really liked it. I felt like it was my thing. At first it was a little weird, but I kind of fell into it. I started going to New York to Bumble and bumble to train for the Network Educator position at her salon. I started being trained by Amanda Rich and Kevin Perryman, and I learned how to teach, how to speak publicly, all that.
So that was very different from the Sassoon method that you had learned. Yes, very different. But even when I worked with Rowena, we carried Bumble and bumble and I was very drawn to its aesthetic. That was always the kind of hair I wanted to be doing; the Sassoon technique wasn't really enough for me. When I started learning to cut with a razor, I was surprised at the amount of technique that was built into it. At the beginning, it was hard for me to not over-fix my cuts and to stop trying to make them look like scissor cuts. I had a hard time trying to break away from the discipline of scissor-cutting and not really looking at the person. My biggest takeaway from Bumble and bumble at the beginning was how to really look at the person, how to look at the hair, and how to make them work together.
How did you go from Network Educator to working at Bumble? I used to go [to Bumble and bumble] once or twice a year for network education. One of those times, I was with Coby [Alcantor, hairdresser and creative director] at the uptown salon, and I mentioned that I wanted to make the transition to Bumble and bumble. She said, “I'll help you, you just have to write a short letter to Howard [McLaren, legendary hairdresser and educator], get your boss’ approval, and then just send it.” So I went home to got the letter from my boss, and she was really excited for me. She said, “Do it. I would do it. You write the letter and I'll sign it.” I sent it in and I got hired at Bumble and bumble three months later. [The process of getting a letter of employer approval prior to being hired at Bumble and bumble was a part of Michael’s “No Poach Policy”, implemented to ensure that salon owners never felt as though Bumble and bumble had “poached” or stolen their employees.]
When did you start assisting at Bumble and bumble? It was 2004. I very quickly went from renting my station to making minimum wage, but feeling excited about it. I was at a point in my career where I was ready to be a student again. I loved learning, so I was happy being in that position. Coco [Santiago, hairdresser and educator] was my first teacher.
Were you downtown or uptown? I started uptown. Betty [Skier, salon manager] hired me over the phone. The first day, no one knew who I was and Betty was on vacation. Looking back, it was kind of funny because no one had any idea that I was going to be there, but they told me to just go to the floor and observe. I felt very out of place.
Is that when we first met? Well, I actually met you before I started with Bumble and bumble, before I moved to New York. I met you while you were out on the road, and I was in line to get my Hair Heroes book signed by you. You asked me if I was a great hairdresser. That really made me pause, but my friend was with me, and she answered, “Yes” for me. So you wrote, “To a great hairdresser” in my book and signed it.