Tabatha Coffey: The Atlanta Interview
Last year we caught up Tabatha Coffey, star of Bravo’s ‘Tabatha’s Salon Takeover‘ and author of the new book, ‘It’s Not Really About the Hair,’ to talk about her head shaving charity event and appearance at Outwrite Bookstore.
Have you been to Atlanta before?
I have, although I haven’t been here for a while. I’ve been here to participate in hair shows and things like that.
Do you watch the ‘Real Housewives of Atlanta‘?
Which Atlanta Housewife do you think has the best hair?
What do you think of Kim Zolciak‘s wigs?
[Pause]. Do you really want me to answer that question? [Laughs] I want to know what’s under there!
From watching your show I’ve learned that many stylists don’t know what they’re doing. What is your advice for finding one who does?
Ask people. If you have a friend who has good hair, ask them because there’s probably a good stylist behind it. Go in for just a consultation. A good salon always lets you come in for a free consultation. It’s a great way to get a vibe of the pace and feel out how they’re going to treat you so you know whether you like the salon and the stylist without having to book a haircut.
Any favorite salons in Atlanta?
Paul Mitchell is amazing. I used to work for Toni and Guy. I like them because like Vidal Sassoon, there’s a standard that runs all the way through their company. That’s always a good standout for me. I’m sure there are a lot of other independent salon owners in Atlanta that give amazing service as well.
Is an expensive haircut really better than a cheap one?
When you’re paying a really high price for a haircut, a lot of it is because of real estate. If you’re in a high-end area with high rent and overheard, salon owners have to charge high prices. Like if you bought a house in that area, it’s more expensive. Sometimes yes, an expensive haircut can be better because you’re paying for an experience. Iif you’re paying that kind of price, your salon should be flawless. But a lot of it really is about real estate.
Why did you decide to get involved with the St. Baldrick’s head shaving event in Atlanta?
I do a lot of work for children’s cancer organizations locally in New Jersey. It’s something I really, really believe in. St. Baldrick’s is an amazing foundation that does such a great job nationally. The Atlanta chapter does such an amazing job as well. We already have 200 people signed up to get their heads shaved. We’re hoping to make $100,000 tonight. The money stays locally in Atlanta, which I think is great. It benefits children with cancer in Atlanta. We’re already at $93,000. It’s important to me because my mother passed away in November from cancer.
Your parents ran a strip club with transsexual performers in Australia. It sounds glamorous, but there had to have been hardships.
What you read in my book is how it really was. Yes there were hardships. There were some performers who committed suicide because they couldn’t deal with who they were. But there was also a community of togetherness and authenticity. Everyone stuck together. It was incredible for me to be around, especially being so young. My parents didn’t hide anything from me. Growing up among transsexuals wasn’t a conventional childhood by any means, but it was the best education I could have ever been given.
What did you learn from the transsexuals who performed in your parents’ clubs?
I learned a lot of things. On an aesthetic level, I learned how to be a glamazon, not that I am one. Sitting backstage watching the girls get ready; helping them put their hair and wigs and lashes on. As a kid that was such an amazing thing – to see how they could transform into glamazons. On a personal level, I learned how to be authentic and honest. Even through all the bullshit and adversity, they still stayed true to who they were.
You had a tough relationship with your father, as do many gay people. What advice do you have for dealing with that?
My situation was a little different because my father disappeared. He just up and left. I think it’s about believing in who you are. When I came out, one would that my mother would accept me because she ran clubs for transsexuals. ‘Oh you’re a lesbian, fabulous!’ But like I talk about in the book, that wasn’t the case. It was amazing to me that she had an issue with it. I adored my mother and respected her so it was disappointing. But at the end of the day was her problem. You need to stand up and be true to yourself. If you’re not true to yourself you can’t be true to anyone else.
Reader question: Georgia wants to know why many times a stylist will give a great first cut, then not do it as well when you go back. Any advice?
One of the biggest things you want with a stylist is that they are consistent. That’s why I harp on this whole consultation thing. The reason I do is because when you’re a new client the stylist should really listen. Even with clients I’ve been doing forever, I always have a consultation. Do you still like the color or haircut? Do you want to change anything or are there any issues? What happens sometimes is that hairdressers aren’t checking in with their clients enough. It’s an easy profession to do it in. ‘Oh it’s Mary again and Mary keeps coming to see me so she must be happy.’ Sometimes Mary isn’t so happy, she does just doesn’t know where else to go.
Reader Question: Robb wants to know have you ever had a salon that you had to take over but could not make over?
I think you’ve seen them on the show. I’ve walked out when I’m pissed off or I don’t feel like people are taking me seriously. But I always go back because I find there’s one person in there who really does want my help. That’s what drives me to go back. I mean you’ve seen when I go back for my six week checkup and nothing has changed. It’s sad for me because at least one person always wants the help. They want to make more money or support the owner. I think what could I have done differently or what more could I have done? I could have helped another salon that really wanted it.
Reader Question: Claire wants to know which flat iron is better? Tourmaline or ceramic?
It’s debatable. I personally like ceramic because it glides through the hair a lot smoother. What they’re doing now is mixing different components, so there are tourmaline coated ceramic flat irons. The only problem with ceramic is if you drop it it will chip it then snag your hair when it goes through. I really like ceramic, but you need to take care of it more. Another tip is to make sure you’re using a thermal protectant with it.
Child beauty pageants are big in the south, and the kids are often judged on their hair. How do you feel about those?
I think if the children want to do it then I’m all for it. When I was a kid I did ballet. I don’t know if you have them in America, but in Australia we have pantomimes where the kids get up on stage and perform. I did those because I loved them. The second I told my mother I didn’t want to do them anymore she would have stopped me. I only have a problem when the kids aren’t having fun and the parents are pushing them to do it.
The South is known for big hair. When is big hair too big?
I actually don’t mind big hair, in fact I quite like it. I think it’s too big when it doesn’t suit the person or it looks ridiculous. There are ways of doing big hair when it looks modern and ways that it doesn’t look modern. If you can’t fit through the friggin’ doorway when you walk through it, that’s probably a sign that it’s too big! Or if you look like you’re stuck in the 80s.
You’re signing your book at Outwrite tomorrow. Was writing it cathartic?
I really like the book signings because I get to meet everyone and answer questions. It was incredibly cathartic and incredibly hard. I was really honest in it. I had such a big outreach from fans, so I wanted to answer those questions as truthfully as I could to help other people who felt different or were being bullied or given a hard time about coming out. It was hard to go back to those memories, but I’m really glad I did.