Los Angeles-based celebrity hairstylist Greg Gilmore got his start in the industry working with textured hair and is now known for his colour transformations on celebrities such as Toni Braxton, Tiffany Haddish and Nicole Ari Parker. Learn more about his career path and his advice for hairstylists interested in expanding their skill sets.
I understand you developed an interest in hair as a child, when you would visit salons with your mother. How did you get your start in the industry?
When I was living in Cleveland, I started to assist with some artists that were prominent within my local demographic. I worked under a stylist who primarily did a lot with healthy hair and textured hair; a lot of smoothing and pressing. I liked watching and learning a lot of tips on how to keep the hair healthy. I also learned a lot while shampooing for other stylists; I worked in a salon that had about 10 stylists and I would shampoo for all of them. I also learned a lot about products and I moved up from there. I started to do my own clientele but I still felt like I was kind of figuring things out on my own, so I decided to start taking some advanced classes. I trained with New Millennium Salon in Cleveland and they would have educators come in and teach haircutting techniques, so then I knew that I had to go further and I started to attend classes from Sassoon, which is where I started to sharpen my cutting skills.
How did you begin working with celebrities?
I moved to Los Angeles around 2010 and I had a really rough time the first two to three years I was working there because it was extremely hard. I was struggling; I’d lost my car and had so many financial mishaps, but I stayed with it and I started to grow. I worked in a women’s salon called Eclectic Salon and worked with Jacqui Montero. She was a blessing; she allowed me to work in the salon on commission, which a lot of Black salons at the time were moving away from. She was a celebrity stylist and Aveda artist, and had a lot of experience educating and doing platform work. She had opportunities that she would pass along to me when she wasn’t available. My first one with someone notable was with Jennifer Williams. I had to do her hair for the first Basketball Wives reunion show. After that, I worked with Rochelle Aytes, Rosa Acosta and then I met Moniece Slaughter and started doing her and her mother’s hair. I worked around other celebrity stylists in the salon, and they would start passing opportunities to me; one of them was with Vivica A. Fox. The opportunities grew over time, but it honestly took me years to get to this point of being requested to do someone’s hair instead of just being passed a job.
You started your career as a haircutting and texture expert and now you’re known for colour. Tell us about how (and why) you made the switch.
I was always doing colour but I think once I gained a reputation for doing hair that stayed on people’s heads, I got a reputation for being a colourist. I actually kind of fell into the colour category, just because I love doing colour, but I was more of a haircutter; cutting hair is actually my first love but because I was so good at colouring, I was getting requested for colour.
It can be a challenge for hairstylists to find education on textured hair. What did you find to be the most successful when learning and refining your skills?
I think it’s just to really practice. Practice makes perfect and I think just being able to do the hair on a regular basis, all the time, and having that type of clientele has helped make me good at it. I think what set me apart was the colour. Colour can be kind of difficult for textured hair, and I think through the practice of doing it repetitively I was able to find different tips and secrets and how to make it process better, or things like adding oil into the lightener. I really just had to practice and get good over time.
I really enjoy all types of textures. Each texture has its own characteristics and behaviour, so it could be difficult for certain types of textured hair, but when you’re confident about your technique and confident about what you do, then you can tackle any texture.
Were you ever concerned about being categorized as a Black hairstylist and not being able to branch out and work with other hair types? How did you overcome that?
Yeah, I was concerned about that and thought that I would just be one note or one side. I had accepted it for a few years; I worked for an all Black, Black-owned global texture brand. I did that for a long time and I was very comfortable there but I wanted to expand. I wanted to be able to do other things and also not be pigeonholed into one category. I kind of had to force myself to expand. I started working for another brand afterwards that allowed me the diversity that I was seeking, so I was able to hone that craft by speaking to and about other textures, which gave me the confidence to be a more universal, diverse stylist. Now, I’m working with Moroccanoil, which is giving me a platform. It’s always a step-by-step process where people go through different things and learn different things. They adopt those lessons or things that they acquire from experience and then afterwards they’re looked at by other people who can help further their cause and their brand’s cause. For Moroccanoil, they were looking for someone who can speak to textured hair but can also hold their own with any texture in general.
Speaking of Moroccanoil, congratulations on being named one of their newest global ambassadors! What do you most enjoy about it?
It’s great! It’s exciting to be on the forefront of their new innovation because we’re the newest [colour] right now and the most innovative, so I’m really happy to be a part of that.
There were so many times that I actually wanted to really give up on colour because the products just weren’t sufficient enough to execute certain ideas in colour placement on all textures, and that can be very discouraging. I finally feel that I have found home where I can be more open and diverse, and expand my creativity.
It feels great because I’m a global ambassador, which is a more expansive opportunity for me. Being an ambassador, I think it’s the perfect fit for me because I like to represent and
I do love sharing information, so it’s a nice mesh of the two. I think that I can do very well naturally in the position, so that’s a very exciting thing to be in.
Any advice that you may have for others who want to expand their knowledge about textured hair and refine their skills to be more well- rounded hairstylist?
There’s a lot of online education now. I would say that the best thing when you cannot get to an in-person class is to take a professional virtual class. There are a lot of great things on YouTube, however I think [professional education] is something that’s more technical and not just quick. Virtual classes that are going to be more in-depth with a technical breakdown would be something that I would advise, especially for someone who lives in an area where there’s not a lot of in- person education. I think that it’s really important to just do on a regular basis. If you can’t do it as much as you want to, do it as often as you can.
What’s next for you? Anything else you’re working on or have coming up?
I have some great two-day cut and colour courses at the Moroccanoil academy in Manhattan, New York. They’re hands-on, so the first day is about cutting and the second day is about colour. I’m really excited about that. I also have some more independent classes, which I still do, which are mainly focused on cutting. Some basic techniques for people who are
just beginning or are straight out of cosmetology school, or people who have done more on other techniques and less on cutting techniques that can come and get a refresh or get some really good fundamentals about cutting.