Hair Nerd Carrie and John McCormick Nerd Stalking Nancy Braun


Whenever the word “Balayage” is uttered out of hairdressers mouth, Nancy Braun is the obvious standard we all would like to hold ourselves to… I mean, you don’t just get a name like “The Queen of Balyage” for standing in the corner. Her passion for her craft stems from a day of training, blossoming inspiration and spiraling into a career of paying it forward to stylists globally with the motivive of being sure they walk away doing it right. So when John McCormick and I got the 411 on her Monday atinerary, we may have staked out her salon for a bit just to see her in person. John and I’s afternoon of car venue antics qickly turned into #HairNerdHavoc with a dash of social media photo ops and make shift hot or not red carpet critizizms…Those poor dog walking locals amusused us while on the grind. Once Nancy pulled up to give us the grand tour it was game on with a touch of creepy stalkerish tendencies…. Once inside we started to chat for quite some time about her journey.  Almost missing my plane was the last thing on my mind due to Nancy’s awesome vibe and journey.  I hope all of you Hair Nerds enjoy this as much as we did! – Hair Nerd Carrie xo

 The Hair Nerds Nerd Stalk the Balayage Queen Nancy Braun

Tell us about your HairVenture…

I got into the business because my mother was a hairdresser. I grew up in Louisville, Kentucky where  my mother had a cute little salon with three or four girls working.  I would do everything for them like get lunches and pick up supplies.  I just loved being around the salon environment. It was such fun environment to be around.  When I was 15, my mother decided I was going to go to beauty school and work in a salon instead of the local McDonald’s, like everybody else.  I can’t say I was in favor of it, but I followed what my mom said and did it anyways. By the time I finished high school and was ready to go to college, I had my hairdressing license which meant I was always able to make money. It was kind of easy for me being that my mom had opened her salon when I was 10 yrs old, so I always knew what needed to be done.

How does it make you feel when you hear people refer to you as the Queen of Balayage?

It is always a privilege for people to give you that kind of a title. I have had the honor of  working with amazingly talented people in my career to mentor and guide me. To be able to pass that forward, makes me appreciate that I have this little title.  It is so rewarding to see how it has grown and to see how many hairdressers are doing it, AND loving it! Helping and educating others is such an honor. When I visited my male chiropractor and he knew what Balayage was, I mean he actually really knew what Balayage was. I thought, “Wow, it has really gone so main stream that people actually know what it is!”

What is the biggest mistake you see stylist make when practicing balayage?

I don’t think people are getting proper training, so I always go back to the foundation. Many times people will watch what I do and think, “Oh that’s easy”. Unfortunately or fortunately I make it look easy. I always think it goes back to the training.  Get a good foundation with your passion whether it be: color knowledge, cutting knowledge, or styling.  Go back to the beginning and learn the basics. Once you get it, expand and break out of the box.  I think hairdressers see it and say they can do it and they jump in and start doing it, maybe not doing it as well as they could if they took a proper training.

Many of our readers are younger stylist and cosmo students, just coming into the industry. What advice would you say you would love to have had at that moment in your career?

I think anybody that is young should just take risks. Don’t get so stuck in your head or worry  what other people are going to think. If this is something that you really love, pursue it. Get as much training as possible you can never be over trained. You can complicate training by learning to many different types of things. This might confuse some personalities but I would say get great training and practice, practice, practice, practice, practice! Every time you get experience with the head it always gets you stronger and stronger. You will learn some things don’t go right that’s okay, you will remember that experience and it will set you up for the next time. I always tell young people to take as many risks as they can.  If you got that opportunity, then move out of your hometown, like I did. I’m from Louisville, Kentucky and I moved to New York City,  it was the greatest thing that ever happened to me. One, I had a relationship with Loreal and  two, I was put into the best and strongest Fashion oriented city other than Paris. New York City is very forward thinking andforward thinking when it comes to hair. What I learned in Kentucky was great but when I moved to New York it was an entirely different.

How did you find your way to NY?

I was working for Loreal as a field representative and teaching classes. I had worked for the company for about one year when they offered me a position in New York to run their training academy. I was 25 years old and said this is a chance of a lifetime! I wasn’t confident I could do the job, because I only had a year experience with Loreal. I knew it that it was something that they believed in me and they told me they would train me. They promised to make sure I was up to speed so that when I was standing in front of a group of hairdressers, I would have the information necessary to convey what Loreal wanted us to pass on to properly train.

Was New York a major culture shock for a young lady from Louisville Kentucky?

I was lucky as a kid, my mom often traveled to New York City and she would bring me with her. So I had a lot of familiarity with New York. She would do business things at the Waldorf. I knew the Waldorf like the back of my hand. I ended up getting an apartment very close to there and always had such a love for New York. My mother was the one who really showed me that New York truly has an energy, I mean there must be a magnetic pole there or something.

The Hair Nerds Nerd Stalk Balayage Salon by Nancy Braun Beverly Hills California

Being a very successful business owner, what kind of advice would you want to give someone thinking about opening up a salon of their own?

Run…work for someone else ha ha Ha! No, I’ve been on both sides of it. I wanted to create an environment that would give me everything that I wanted and not to play by someone else’s rules and guidelines. Having said that, as a business owner you have to think of a lot of different things. The area that I see hairdressers make big mistakes is that their successful behind the chair, so they think for the next step is to open their salon. They aren’t business savvy, not all, I say that as a generalization but we are not all trained in business very well. Typically we are not always good with numbers so there are a lot of areas that we don’t think about and then you have to manage people, and that is the hardest part. I’ll take clients all day long, but hairdressers managing the hairdressers personality is tough. You have a lot of ego, we have young kids, a lot of immaturity and so that comes with the whole level of angst that you never think about as are signing the lease. It’s not for the fainthearted.

You have been in this space for a year now. What is different from the expectation A year ago and the reality now?

We did a complete gut out and designed it. I think just getting a year underneath my belt what I can look at numbers right. I do love business. We are really pleased with the interior of this but now it’s about building the business, thinking about business and luckily business comes easy to me. I think that having that one year bar I can really take a close look at what my business is doing and take what we have and grow it so clearly coming from the business side the execution of the work in the salon. We built this place in four months, that never happens. I still love my contractor in fact, he was just in for a haircut. We are really pleased with the interior of this place but now it’s about: building the business, helping my kids, as I called them my stylist, Building confidence to help them with the professionalism and train him well.

Do your stylists at Balayage specialize or do they do it all?

Right now everybody I have specializes so I have two who cut and two colorist and several assistants we are a very small and boutique. I’ve had several people contact me who do both. One of the things that I really wanted, was to create in this space is people who work together. Unfortunately, in a generalist world it’s like that’s my client,which is how most people handle it. I’m from that old-school of thinking where we we’re departmentalized. I do what I do really well and I want to work with someone who cuts hair and has the same level of expertise because I can’t do it. Of course I can cut hair, but not at the same level of expertise and precision someone who’s cutting 10 heads of hair day can do.

Nerd Stalking  Balayage Salon by Nancy Braun Beverly Hills California

What are your future plans for 2014?

I still do a lot of education for Loreal. One thing that I’m really proud of what we done is filter the entire Bali’s team. I kind a flashback it was me and maybe one or two other people teaching and now we have a group of about 35. They’re really and truly qualified and stand behind the chair daily and do Balyage. It was always my frustration, they wanted to teach Balayage but they weren’t doing it. My team wasn’t very thrilled with me when I told them they had six weeks to do 75 clients. If you want to be on the team this is what you’re going to have to do and if you don’t do it. When I see your work, I will know because each time you do it you will get better. If you don’t practice you won’t. It’s been really fun to see that come together in 2014. We’ve got more classes in the Soho Academy and about 50% of those classes are Balayage. Almost all the time they are sold out, so I love that we are the preemptive company and that people come to to learn that technique. It helps that we are French and the technique is French, but we put a lot of hard work behind it. I close [choose?] the classes there’s only about three or four different classes so we want to make certain our beginners get what they really need. They learn dexterity and movement. The advanced people have played with it a little bit in the salon and they’re getting experience. Then we do a live class which I actually just did where we had 30 hairdressers for two days and did 60 models. It was a lot to manage but they did absolutely amazing gorgeous work, so it has been fun for me to see how that evolution of how it has grown. We also have a couple of creative classes when you get to go outside the box and I do some quick Balayage, including what the methods are there to section it.

Why is advanced education so important?

First of all, you really should go see the SOHO Academy it’s a beautiful facility.  When hairdressers are going to invest their money this is a truly the place they should be going, especially for you younger stylist. You get to experience New York City and meet great hairdressers from all over the country and find out what’s working for them and what’s not working for them. It’s a invaluable investment in your career.

How has being such a jet-setter throughout your career impacted your life and influenced you as a stylist.

Thank goodness I’m a good traveler. I do keep the clientele in New York as well as Los Angeles.  In New York I work with my clients at the Roy TeeLuck Salon.

Nancy Note: Roy and I actually worked together and opened Fekkai Salon in Beverly Hills. He was brought in from Paris and I came out from New York. We had an instant connection and were a the tag team together we. I’m sure we may of been married in another life, we just have a great natural respect for each other’s work. I know I can throw him anything and he’ll knock it right out of the park and he knows vice versa.

I try to get back at least once a month for my New York clients, so you know I’m certainly on and off those JFK flights. I also travel around the country a little bit for education for Loreal. It has become easier for me now since we have this great group of people who can go out and spread the word. It’s always good to have someone younger as well. When they get more Advanced then I can come in. So with my teams support I don’t have to go to super small towns anymore, but I’m always on the go and I like it. Obviously, it’s a lifestyle that I love or would not of done it i’ve been bicoastal for 15 years.

May 2013 Town & Country Magazine Cover of Gretchen Mol hair by Nancy Braun

 When did you discover Balayage?  When did you know that was your niche for our industry?

I wouldn’t say I knew it was my niche. There is a company by the name of Bruno Dissaush and we hired Brillstein to come with Lorielle because there was a hairdresser that did Bali. I wasn’t somebody and I was like, what is he doing with that saran wrap and cotton? I’m sure I probably had a scowel on my face and arms crossed very closed to the technique and thought it was just for show and stage work. Then when he took that plastic off and blew that hair dry I was like that is the most beautiful work of I have ever seen. We had launched a product by the name of Pure Patene. We launched it’s powder lightener so they were doing a lot of balayage promos for that.  The French hairdressers we’re launching a product with that has a good texture for being able to paint and comb pieces in. I said this is something I want to learn. This is when I was working closely with Frederick. I told them I had to master this, and just kind of fell love with it. I actually fell love with color when I started to work with Loreal[ or lorielle] before I used to only cut hair and knew nothing about color. I was terrified, but once I got a better sense of color and it made sense to me It became very passionate to me. So I saw this technique I was like, I need to check this out, but there’s nobody formally teaching this technique, nobody was formalized teaching it and I watch some of the greatest people that I had the opportunity to work with with Frederick do it constant. Hartnet, who is retired now but just a phenomenal colorist blueberry Cartier was one of the best painters just does the most beautiful hair. They each have different style, converted more chunky fatter better pieces. The French way Constance the delicate centerpieces such clients like Christie Brinkley, Kim Basinger, and Sigourney Weaver.  I took both versions,developed and created a version that works for me. What happened there was an amazing moment,I was at the International Haircolor Exchange in Vegas, a small organized group of small education. I had a crowd of people around me they basically lost their stage. I was on one of those little ones of platforms and everyone was really interested in what I was doing. I would say the audience was about 500-600 people. I knew then people wanted to learn this and so I called Loriell to do some classes and they were a little unsure about it. I still do free, see if we can generate some interest fast forward to now almost always selling out classes.

Taking them through step-by-step, how do you get products, what product works, how do you do all the whole head? People are never afraid to add a few pieces. When you’re doing entire head and your converting someone who has used foils to saran wrap how do you do it.


Where can you #NerdStalk Nancy Braun?

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