Facing an all-too-common problem in the industry, a stylist digs deep to find fresh success.
Rocky Vitelli makes artistry look easy. After 21 years in the beauty industry, his career includes owning his own salon, numerous Canadian hairstyling awards and recent stints as a stylist for the Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants, as well as for Extra, Entertainment Tonight and Access Hollywood during Oscar Week.
The Toronto-based Vitelli has dug deep within to reach the heights he enjoys today, though. Vitelli started in hairstyling at age 18. Although he occasionally dabbled in drinking and drugs while partying, it wasn’t until he was 30, and became separated from his then-wife, that drugs and heavy drinking became a welcome escape. It is a problem that dogs more people in the beauty industry than you would think.
“When you were high you didn’t care about being hurt. But then when you come down, that hurt is always there,” he says. Over time, he became a functioning addict, carefully hiding his use from those in his personal and professional life.
“In our industry we have this problem. And people think that it’s cool—sex, drugs and rock-and-roll,” Vitelli says. “But deep down inside you know that it’s not the right thing. I find that when people get to that point, they can’t get out, because by then the addiction’s so strong.”
But Vitelli did get out, although not before a six-day emergency stay in the hospital alerted his family to his situation. Together, they decided on long-term treatment, and Vitelli embarked on six months of cognitive-behaviour-based rehabilitation. He emerged ready to start a brand new life.
Today, after five years of sobriety, he is now more successful than ever.
In 2007, Vitelli became a guest stage artist for Farouk Systems. In 2009, Vitelli and a co-owner opened the Mane Society Salon and Spa in Maple, Ont., where he enjoys inspiring young hairstylists and seeing their growth. He also recently became a father, when his wife, Samantha, gave birth to a baby girl they named Rocquel, after her proud dad.
Vitelli credits gratitude as a major factor in his success. “It’s a way of thinking, a way of being grateful for the things that God has given us,” he says. “The minute I became that person, where I had a lot of gratitude for life in general, is when I became a better hairstylist, and received more opportunities.”