Interview With Tabatha Coffey

Tabatha Coffey may not have made it to the end of the first
season of Bravo’s Shear Genius
the out hairdresser and salon owner was cut at the end of Episode 6 — but the
fan favorite made it in a different way. Soon after the season ended, Bravo
approached her about doing her own reality series, Tabatha’s Salon Takeover.

The first season of the eight-episode series follows the straight-talking and
brutally honest Coffey as she visits struggling salons in the New
York
and Los Angeles
areas to make them over. Each episode takes place over a period of one week.

"A lot people feel like if you put a little bit of
paint on the wall, the problem’s going to go away," Coffey explained
during a press conference in July. "Or if you change your outfit, the
clients will come. That’s not the case in business. You need to manage your
business. You need to lead by example. You need to have great work. You need to
have fantastic customer service. You need to have an experience."

Coffey’s directness is part of what made her so memorable on
Shear Genius, but it’s also what
makes some people uncomfortable — hence, the drama of her new show.

The Australian native took her first salon job at age 14,
and went on to train in London
for eight years. She has been working in the United States for 19 years and
owns her own salon, Industrie Hair Gurus, in New Jersey, where she lives with
her partner of 10 years. "When I’m home I’m part of it; every day I go to
work," she said in an interview with AfterEllen.com.

Last month I sat down with Coffey in Los Angeles to talk
about her new series, the challenges of being known as an assertive
businesswoman, "lesbian hair," and her dominatrix vibe.

AfterEllen.com: Did
you ever think you’d be doing a series like this?
Tabatha Coffey:
Absolutely not. I never did imagine it, could have imagined
it, would have imagined it. It’s brilliant. It has been really brilliant. I’m
having a great time doing it.

AE: Your persona in Shear Genius is quite demanding and direct. How much of that
translates into your everyday life? Are you like that in everyday life or is
that just a job thing?

TC: It is me, you know, I’m not
acting any way whatsoever. I am direct. I’m honest. I think I’m assertive, and
it comes out when it needs to come out. Yes, it does come out at work a lot
because I need to take charge of a situation, and it comes out personally when
it needs to come out as well.

AE: Has that ever created any problems in your
personal life?

TC: Look, when I’m honest, some
people find they’re uncomfortable with it … [but] if you ask me for my honest
opinion, I’m gonna give you my honest opinion. And it’s not to hurt people,
it’s not to be rude, but I prefer to be honest with people and tell you what I
really think, especially if you’re asking me that. But my friends know me. My
friends, my family, they all know me, it’s who I am, so: no.

AE: Do you get this question a lot? Do you
think it’s because you’re a woman in business as opposed to a man in business?

TC: Yeah, absolutely. I think
unfortunately still there is a big difference between a woman and a man in
business — or if they’re strong. It’s a shame, but I still think people are
very quick to label a woman a bitch if she’s a strong, kind of forthright,
honest woman. And I have a definition of what I think bitch stands for.

AE: What is that?
TC: It’s brave, intelligent,
tenacious, courageous and honest. And if take those traits, I’m definitely a
bitch, because I am all of those things. But I think you need to be to survive
in business, and to be a woman in business you need to have those qualities,
and people sometimes misinterpret it for meanness. It’s just taking care of
yourself and doing what you need to do.

AE: I’ve met a lot of women in successful
businesses and they often have those personalities, and I do think the
perception that they’re mean is because of sexism.

TC: Yeah, absolutely. I think
there’s definitely a stigma. … Sometimes if a guy does a certain thing,
everyone’s like, "Ooh!" You know, "Great for him, he’s a
go-getter." And a woman does it and they’re like, "Ugh, she’s mean,"
or she’s this or she’s that, and it’s unfortunate but it does still exist.

At the end of the day I need to make sure I take care of
myself, and I’m honest with myself and take care of my business. They’re the
important things to me.

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