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Roger Rodriguez, celebrated hairstylist: Every setback leads to a set-up

Sunday, May 17, 2015
Model: Elena Ng (2014 NPC Eastern USA Bodybuilding Champion) Photo: Wil Gray

Whether you’re preparing to vacation in Ibiza, toasting a birthday or changing careers, any occasion is a catalyst for a makeover. Updating your style is an ambitious mission that requires research and courage and usually symbolises a fresh start. 

Brooklyn-based hairstylist Roger Rodriguez said for his clients it’s a priority to stay on trend and keep their look youthful. Rodriguez, 46, relocated from a humble salon in Port-of-Spain to Follicles Salon in the Bohemian-chic Fort Greene community in Brooklyn, New York, over ten years ago. Today, he’s at the sleek Neal Farinah Salon. Education is pivotal to improving earnings and staying competitive. Rodriguez trained at the Aveda Institute in SoHo in New York City, and during his 20 years in the industry he has mastered grooming many types of hair.

We asked him to steer Sunday Guardian readers to the proper approach to researching a style makeover, so Rodriguez invited his muse, Elena Ng, the 2014 NPC Eastern USA Bodybuilding Champion, to transform her hairstyle to demonstrate his points.

Q:  What was a significant hurdle during the early stages of your transition to NYC?
A: The hardest adjustment for me was the winter, early nightfall, cold weather, and snow. I relished the pace of life [here], I was full of desire to succeed.

What blunder did you make in your pursuit to be an established stylist in NY?
Destiny has a way of putting you at the right place at the right time.  Every setback leads to a set-up.

Who have you styled that most will know by name?
I’ve been very fortunate to work with very talented people, Erykah Badu, Mariah, and a fun job at MTV called Silent Library, to name a few.

What common mistake women make when they decide to do a makeover?
I think women put limitations on themselves by not thinking outside the box and not seeking out the right stylist who can help bring to life the person they want to embody.

When you are approached to do a makeover what do you assess, what do you ask, and why would you reject a client?
There are a few things that go into a good consultation: what do you do for a living, do you workout regularly, wearability, suitability and personal style. Most importantly you must listen to the client. I would only reject a client if he/she has unrealistic expectations.

How is a hairstyle makeover connected to one’s wardrobe or are they not connected?
They are totally connected, because it’s your personal style, the way you present yourself to the world; it’s an extension of your wardrobe.

Do women need to buy a new wardrobe upon getting a hairstyle makeover?
Not necessarily. You can work with what you have, just a little imagination and wearing your clothing a little differently with confidence.

What influences the expiration date of a makeover: a client’s age, length of client’s hair or industry the client works in?
All of these things play a part.  Absolutely.

Women often feel they must style their hair according to the style rules of their profession, do you co-sign to such guidance?
I agree to a certain degree. If you’re in a corporate environment you have to abide by the rules. If you're an attorney working with a prestigious law firm you're not going to colour your hair blue, be as creative as you can [within] that environment.

Is there a red flag that women should notice during a makeover consultation?
A stylist that doesn’t listen to the client.

Do you recommend women consult with more than one stylist before doing a makeover? Would same apply to men?
Anyone looking for a hair transformation should definitely get two or more consultations. Just like visiting a doctor, you and the stylist have to have some sort of connection.

What is a trusted resource for keeping your knowledge of hair current?
Keeping my eyes peeled to the streets of New York City and what’s happening in fashion at the moment.  Also, a trusted online source is

Being on the top of your game in NYC requires 70 per cent of what and 30 per cent of what?
70 per cent talent and 30 per cent connections.

What tips would you offer to aspiring stylists who yearn to taste success in your industry?
My advice to any young talent would be: master your craft, have a great work ethic, and don’t be afraid to push the envelope. Keep learning.


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