From the first moment audiences encountered Tabatha Coffey on Bravo’s “Shear Genius,” she has never been shy with an opinion. Her reputation as the dominatrix of deep-conditioning led to her own series on the network, “Tabatha’s Salon Takeover,” now in its third season.
Each episode features Coffey in a struggling salon, doling out tough love to the owner and staff. In each installment, it is absolutely guaranteed someone will cry, Tabatha will be gobsmacked by someone’s incompetence, and at least one person will call her a bitch. Sometimes this all happens in the same scene.
In her new memoir, “It’s Not All About The Hair: The Honest Truth About Life, Love and the Business of Beauty,” Coffey opens up about growing up in the dressing rooms of drag queens, coming out at fifteen, the nearly fatal experience of getting breast implants, and why it doesn’t matter if the truth hurts. She talked to the GA Voice while packing to leave Hollywood, following her TV Guide Channel coverage of the Academy Awards.
GA Voice: I know if you get nervous, you cover it flawlessly, but tell me: Red carpet at the Oscars? Were you freaking out?
Tabatha: I wasn’t nervous about the broadcast, I was freaked out about getting ready for the show. I didn’t know who’d do my makeup, I didn’t have a dress.
At least you didn’t have to worry about the color.
Right, black, so we had that.
How do you have an all-black wardrobe while living with a dog?
He’s a poodle. They don’t shed.
I picture you having a shockingly well-trained dog.
He is not exceptionally well-trained. But he’s the size of a football, so if he causes trouble you can just pick him up, tuck him under your arm.
Sorry, we were talking about your pretty black dress.
So I met with Mon Antelier, and absolutely fell in love with this fabric, he drew a fantastic sketch, and I came back for just one fitting… he’s so fucking good at what he does, it’s all hand-stitched. I totally got what brides experience with having something custom-designed, just for you, fitting your body and your style.
Did you get to keep it?
No, I had to give the fucking thing back!
Where would you wear it again?
Everywhere. I would walk about the house in it. Have my princess moment.
On the red carpet, everybody seemed to be going for that romantic, tousled look, with mixed results. What makes the difference between a soft, casual look versus just a hot tragic mess?
A good stylist and about two hours work. Look at Scarlett Johansson. My God. She looked like she had literally just rolled out of bed, like she hadn’t even tried. There is a difference between effortless and not trying.
Your hair is your best accessory. You can put on the fabulous dress, jewelry, whatever… but the hair is you. If you’re dressed great but your hair’s a mess, people notice the clothes, but if the hair works, they say you look good. Even if you’re just at home in a pair of sweats, if your hair is done, you feel put together.
Promoting a positive self-image is a major part of what you do. You donate styling of wigs for chemo patients, and you’re shaving heads at a cancer research fundraising event for St. Baldrick’s while you’re in Atlanta.
It’s so amazing giving people the chance to feel better about themselves in such a hard moment. There’s no one who hasn’t been touched by this disease… we’ve got to fight it together. If I can use my notoriety, or my celebrity or whatever, to make it happen, I absolutely want to do that.
When you’re back at your salon, do you have an insane waiting list, or do you just show up and take some walk-ins?
The waiting list is necessary, unfortunately, because my time in the salon is so limited at the moment. I tell people they’re welcome to wait or use another stylist, but I have to give priority to my long-term clients.
That relationship is so crucial, isn’t it? I’ve been with my hair stylist longer than I’ve been with my husband.
And you go through a lot, don’t you? It’s such a personal connection —there’s a professional boundary that cannot be betrayed in that relationship.
Your salon is in New Jersey, so you’re on the frontlines of fighting Snooki hair.
Which isn’t all that prevalent in the area I live in; or at all really. But yes, being there we can stop it before it spreads.
We shouldn’t make fun of Snooki, now that she’s a published author too.
Oh, but did you see her with Kathie Lee and Hoda on “The Today Show”? She basically admitted she hadn’t even read the book? That she supposedly wrote?
That sounds awesome.
What inspired you to write a memoir at this moment in your life?
It was honestly my fans. I’m very active on social media, and so many of their questions really weren’t about the hair, which is where we got the book’s title. They were asking how and when I came out, is my confidence innate? Did I really grow up around these strippers and drag queens?
I wanted to address that, and hopefully make them feel empowered; that you really don’t have to take other people’s shit, no matter who you are or who they think they are.
You’ve been with your partner for over a decade, and I know you prefer to keep your home life private-
Yes I do.
I hope this isn’t too personal… Do you cut her hair?
(laughs) Yes. When I am home I do.
You pull the whole kitchen beautician bit, with a dining room chair and a sheet?
Well, I try not to do that, but sometimes you have to, don’t you? If I’m gone for a long time, some bad haircuts can happen and we have to do something about it.
Your parents ran strip clubs featuring transgendered performers. I basically picture your Australian childhood as “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.”
That’s essentially what it was. “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” with a loud little fat girl in the middle.
The drag queens are still with you. I saw plenty of them dressed as you on Halloween.
Come on, I know you’ve seen pictures.
I don’t see nearly enough of them. I want to see more. I can’t believe people do that.
Well it’s cost-effective, and it’s like putting on armor. You throw on all black and the platinum hair, and now you have license to say anything you want.
Yes you can. You really can.
Do you ever have a day where you say, “Screw it. I wanna wear polka dots?”
No, Topher. I do not ever have a day where I want to wear polka-dots.
Top photo: Bravo’s Tabatha Coffey will be in Atlanta March 10-11 for a childhood cancer fundraiser and two book signings. (via tabathacoffey.com)