DRIVENby Elena Negreskul
Mr. Douglas, among your awards is one bestowed by the Queen of England. This is a very unique case for a hair stylist. Could you explain what kind of order it is and how you earned it?
The order is called OBE — the Order of the British Empire. I was awarded with it for developing business and popularizing the hairstyling art, and also for my charitable activity. As a matter of fact, that award was an absolute surprise to me; I didn´t even suspect it. …You know, only five hairdressers have been awarded with that order before me. And I am the youngest of them; the others were much older. Usually, they wait until you die to award it to you. At least to be acknowledged, you must be 55-60 years old. You know, great names, such as Vidal Sassoon, all of them are older persons who have achieved a lot. So, that accolade is twice, thrice as pleasant to me. It is a great honor to me. All the more so because I received it from a reigning monarch´s hands. Wow!
What did you feel when the Queen was bestowing the order?
In general, to appear before the Queen, you must strictly observe etiquette. As for clothes, you must wear a certain type of shirt, a tie, and, of course, a dress coat is compulsory. Have you ever taken part in a rowing race?
If anyone is constantly told that he or she is a star, at last they themselves will believe it. Thus, today hairstylists cut hair, tomorrow they sing, the day after tomorrow they dance…and they forget that you must not only take, but also give back.
Well, imagine what happens to a sportsman who is rowing? Just imagine it! When I was standing before the Queen, my back was so wet as if I had just come out of the boat after such a race. My hands were trembling. Oh my God. I was so happy!
What has changed for you after receiving such a high award?
As for business, it was an enormous advertisement: not only has my salon filled, it has attracted a capacity crowd. As for me in particular, I became famous in my industry instantly, and have occupied a wonderful position since then. And most importantly, I have won respect. That is a big deal.
What has motivated you to take part in contests? In general, what do you need competitions for?
I believe that the wish to be number one in your trade is a healthy one. I want my name to be a brand — like vodka or the red Square. Moreover, there is strong competition in the London hairstyling industry; that is why you constantly have to prove that you are the best there is. A victory in some contest raises my popularity and promotes my business: I obtain support on the part of my personnel, and attention and respect on the part of my clients. And all of them expect me to do it. That´s why in 2008 I took part in the British Hairdressing Awards for the 12th time, and every time they nominate me in some category. By the way, I am very pleased with the materials I presented at the contest, the images are excellent.
In 2007 you were awarded as the best in the category “Afro Hairdresser of the Year?”
I was nominated as British Hairdresser of the Year, London Hairdresser of the Year, and Men´s Hairdresser of the Year. And I won the title Afro Hairdresser of the Year.
Could you tell us about your charitable activities?
My greatest effort in this area is my cooperation with the Joint United nations Program on HIV/AIDS. I was the pioneer of this movement in the United Kingdom, and have already been taking an active part in it for two and a half years. In addition, we do a lot for the Pink ribbon Program, which fights again breast cancer. I help deaf-mute and blind persons, and participate in the activities of organizations that deal with disabled persons, such as Comic relief. This is a great British charitable organization: Famous actors and comics arrange charity shows to raise enormous funds to render assistance to disabled persons. …
You really do a lot. In general, what makes a person get involved in charity?
Of course, charity is everybody´s private matter. My company is an accomplished brand, it is my business, that is why I can give back everything I think fit. I can say another thing: Thanks to my charitable activities I have gotten the opportunity to meet celebrities whom I would have never met otherwise. That is, with the help of acts of kindness, you become a member of a sort of elite club for the best people in the world.
Why has a person awarded with such titles chosen Matrix Company?
The answer is very simple. I worked with one company for 8 years, and I couldn´t do it any longer. I wanted to work with a young, brilliant, ambitious company that aspired to achieve new pinnacles in the world. What I like about Matrix most of all is that it is like a family. I like its energy, the way it progresses, and also the fact that it gives me an opportunity to travel. … Matrix works with most famous hairstylists, and this gives me an opportunity to work along with them.
Now you not only work with Matrix, you work for Matrix. When a hairstylist cooperates with a certain brand, is there any pressure, isn´t his or her vision limited to a certain range of products?
By no means. Working with Matrix is a great and quite pleasant change in my life. I work a lot with creating trends, and take part in photo sessions and shows. … not only doesn´t the brand limit me, but vice versa; it needs my creativity to develop its products. In general, I am a perfectionist, if I make a show or photo session, for me everything must be “right” — the hair, clothes, everything I touch. To tell you the truth, I am not the easiest person to work with, because I am very particular.
probably, to maintain your vision, you need not only employees but also a team. How do you create a team in a salon?
In my salon there are 48 employees, and I rarely invite stylists who I have not taught. I cannot say that I stand over my employees and monitor their every step, but there is a certain consistency. Many people have worked in my salon for 10 years. Those who started as assistants have already achieved success. In general, it seems to me that stability is the cornerstone of every team´s success. And my personal task is to serve as an example, to develop myself, this stimulates the rest of the employees.
With all that success, how can one retain their humanity?
In our industry, you must be very careful. … If anyone is constantly told that he or she is a star, at last they themselves will believe it. Thus, today hairstylists cut hair, tomorrow they sing, the day after tomorrow they dance…and they forget that you must not only take, but also give back. Of course, to a large extent it depends on your education and background. For example, my parents honestly earned their living, which is why I was given that principle. In addition, as I told you before, stability has always been very important to me, I have never wanted to be a gadfly.
And have you ever regretted having become a hairstylist?
I was 11 when I decided for sure to deal with hair. I remember sitting at a lecture in an art school where my parents had sent me. I was in a bad mood and terribly depressed, since I did not like anything I was doing there. Suddenly I thought: “Oh my God, what am I doing here?” and I stood up and went away. I realized that I would like to devote myself to quite a different trade, to become a hairstylist. And I have had luck, I have become what I have become, I have my salon, I have had the opportunity to take part in photo sessions and make shows all around the world. I always thank my fortune for this.
And, at last, the last question. …
You know, I had the same situation with my team when we were making wigs for a show. I was telling them all the time: “This is the last one!” and here all of them are just dead on their feet, and I keep saying, “This is the last one!”
Well, it is really the last question: What is your greatest pleasure, apart from your work?
I envy people who have leisure time. As for me, I don´t have any. In our industry, there is no room for pain and disappointment; you have to smile all the time. My work took so much of my time that it brought about a divorce. Yet, my former wife is still my best friend, all the more because we have created three wonderful persons. To be a parent has many obligations. However, my children are my principal source of inspiration and happiness — they promote my success.