Award-worthy Hair

Award-worthy Hair

Celebrity hairstylist Neeko, who gives Halle Berry her pixie panache, offers style tips for Oscar weekend.

By Irene Lacher 02/27/2014

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Of course, even film stars don’t wake up looking like that — they have a squadron of top stylists and hair and makeup artists behind them. Their expertise is vital to currying a star’s image (or brand, in todayspeak). Take lovely Oscar-winner Halle Berry. What’s the first thing that comes to mind? Her über-chic pixie cut, which magazines from InStyle to Glamour regularly tout as the ’do du jour, along with instructions on how to copy it?

That comes as sweet irony to Joseph Abriol, better known simply as Neeko, the artistic director of Salon Sessions in Pasadena, who created the look for Berry more than 20 years ago, when both were up-and-coming artists in their respective fields. At the time, he says, African-American actresses were wearing their hair long or in an Afro, while straight spiky coifs were sported by skater girls. Berry, who was wearing her hair in a heavy bob, was looking for a more flattering, distinctive cut to take her into the next stage of her career. Neeko had been recommended by celebrity makeup artist Troy Jensen.

“Her hair was almost there, but it wasn’t there,” says Neeko, recalling their first meeting at Berry’s home in Beverly Hills. “She walked down her spiral staircase, and she was so beautiful that anything you do is going to be amazing. We went upstairs, and immediately clicked. She knew what she wanted, and I started cutting it as she was telling me what to do, and I was like, no, you have to do it this way. And we kind of battled it out and came out with this amazing haircut, which was really tailored, showed her cheekbones and her neck and had softness on the top. 

“It was a little daring for her time, because there weren’t that many short beautiful cuts. Everybody was like, wow. I wanted it to be about her, not about the hair. So I did just enough hair to frame an amazing picture, and since then it’s been her benchmark.” 

Indeed, Berry’s hair has transcended trends and helped shape her image as an international woman of style. Of course, real women, who aren’t spending thousands of dollars on their style, can also look special and glamorous while they’re throwing popcorn at the TV. Neeko, a former L.A. gang member who was introduced to hair by a youth counselor who also worked as a barber, recommends planning ahead for the weekend of parties.

“Most women don’t have the patience, let alone the funds, to get their hair shampooed and restyled every single morning,” he says. “I suggest getting an amazing set — whether it be a wet set, hot roller set, curling iron set or amazing blow-dry — on the first day parties start. Friday you get your blow-dry and go to the salon – boom. You get the texture set. Then you kind of want to work it so that your hair falls perfectly; when we shoot any kind of editorial, we’re banking on the second- or third-day hair because it’s got the perfect oils in it, and all the curls have fallen out just enough. It’s super-natural. So for women at home, I would design my whole schedule based on that third day.”

The second day, try a coif that’s half-up and half-down, he says. “Grab the hair above your ears and that separates [it from] the lower section. You take the lower section and put it to one side [over a shoulder]. Putting your hair over to one side formalizes your ’do. Then the [top section] you just kind of grab and put it in a bun that hangs that looks like it’s half-up, kind of goddess-looking.”

On Oscar night, “you put it all up and the texture is already cool, so you’re talking two or three pins, with just enough falling. The texture is perfect because it’s just enough flyaway but slinky at the same time.”

And a few of his Oscar weekend don’ts: This isn’t the time for purple hair or high-contrast ombre looks, Neeko says. Go for elegance, which means “super natural-looking.”

That also goes for your cut. “Either it’s going to be soft and amazing or it’s got to be a statement. So bobs are amazing — the classic A-line bobs — but it’s got to be super-strong. You can’t bring it that hard. It’s got to be cut perfectly on you and you have to have the hair for it.”

Finally, ditch the hairspray. “Nowadays the hot thing is dry sprays – all those dry shampoos, kind of powdery, give you volume,” Neeko says. “Those are the sprays that are more modern now. Nobody’s shellacking it down. It’s got to be ethereal.”  

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