Celebrity Hairstylist Adir Abergel on Creating Oscars Magic and Beyond

Photo:

Courtesy of Adir Abergel 

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Hair is more than just hair. It can tell a story. And hairstylist Adir Abergel is a master at the craft. Some of the world's most famous faces have sat in his chair, including Jennifer Garner, Anne Hathaway, Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon, and Kristen Stewart, who he has worked with since she was 15 (yes, during the Twilight days). Much of his talent and wizardry has been seen on the red carpet, especially at the Oscars, where he created hairstyles for around 20 Oscar-nominated women over his career.

Abergel is also the creative director for the biotech haircare brand Virtue Labs, where he helps with product development and innovation. Read on to learn about the evolution of his work with Stewart, his must-have styling product, and how he was able to create one of his client's favorite looks ever, even after his kit was lost while traveling. And for even more stories, Oscars behind the scenes, and styling tips for every hair type, make sure to tune in to this week's episode of Who What Wear With Hillary Kerr. 

Photo:

Courtesy of Adir Abergel 

You and Stewart have done so many incredible red carpet moments together. Can you tell me about some of your all-time favorite moments or favorite looks?

It's funny because there are so many evolutions that I love. Twilight-time Kristen was all about her hair being long and beautiful, warm, chocolatey brown… kind of undone. At a time when everyone in Hollywood was doing Hollywood glamour, we were doing almost like this deconstructed, effortless… Kristen is from California, so there was just this easiness to the way that we used to do her hair, and it used to drive everyone crazy, because they were like, "Can you wash your hair?" And I was like, "No, I love celebrating this part of her." So I was obsessed with that era. Then, there was the era when we basically would go—and I'm not kidding you—take garden scissors and a razor and take out half the hair off her head, shave the sides off, bleach it out, and keep it completely punk and almost like early '60s Chelsea girl. Just really rebellious-feeling kind of hair. And then there was, of course, the complete shaving of the head. During this last tour, we sat down together and pulled all of these images of Nastassja Kinski where it was all of this beautiful, luxurious, thick-looking hair. I cut her hair into a bob, and it was one length, and all of her hair had grown out, and it wasn't chopped anymore. We took it into this beautiful strawberry off-blonde color. I would say there are these four quadrants that I've loved during those periods. So it's not a particular look, but it's a particular feel that I enjoyed creating with her.

Photo:

Courtesy of Adir Abergel

I would love to talk about the fact that sometimes you have these moments that are super last minute, like cutting Saoirse [Ronan's] bangs the day of, and then in other times, there's planning ahead, and you have this idea that goes all the way to fruition. I'm wondering if you could tell me about a "happened right before walking out the door" moment that you love.

Okay, a moment that did not go as planned was when Jessica Biel and I were on a plane to Europe. We were all doing really well until we landed. … We needed to get from Heathrow to the hotel, and she had an hour and 20 minutes to get ready. My bags do not show up. No kit for this press tour. We get to the hotel, and I don't want to get her all riled up. So I'm thinking in my head, "Okay, dear. What can you do? What can you do? How is this gonna work?" So I literally told the publicist, "Did you bring any hair spray?" She was like, "I have hair spray." I was like, "Wonderful," then I asked the makeup artist, "Do you happen to have a round brush?" She was like, "I don't have a round brush, but I have a face brush." I was like, "Great. Give it to me." I called downstairs, and I was like, "Can you have a blow-dryer ready for me and some foil paper?" So they had foils from the kitchen. I said, "Can you also please have water for me and salt and a bottle of champagne?" I got to the room. I took the champagne, and I ended up using the champagne as a volumizer on the roots. I ended up using the salt with purifying water. I sprayed it everywhere to create texture in the hair. I then took the foils. I twisted them into sections. I wrap the hair around that. And then I use the blow-dryer to heat that. And at the end, she had the most beautiful curls you can imagine. We got it done perfectly, perfectly in time. And it's one of Jessica's favorite looks we've ever created.

Photo:

Courtesy of Adir Abergel

Is there a product that is your go-to in styling for the red carpet?

Oh, straight up, I do not start hair without using volumizer on the roots. I created a volumizing spray called Volumizing Primerand it was based off of 1950s/1960s setting lotion, but in a very modern way so it doesn't weigh down your hair. The problem is that we're all scared of putting a lot of product in our hair because we think that it's going to be too much. Well, with the volumizing primer, you have to use literally 25 pumps because it's incredibly lightweight. So [this is] what I would do if you have an issue with wanting to create more volume or even if you have volume but are trying to create memory: use it on your roots nonstop, saturate the roots, air-dry it, and then do your blowout. Air-dry, like almost 80%, and then use a round brush. And you're going to get memory, and that blowout is going to last for seven more days than you need to. You should probably wash your hair before that, but whatever. 

Photo:

Courtesy of Adir Abergel

I'm thinking about someone like Kristen, and then someone like Nicole Kidman, and the two of them both have texture, but it's extremely different. Could you tell us a little bit about how you think about styling hair that is so different? What sort of key products or techniques get the desired effect?

The first part of hair that you really want to tackle is the health of it, and getting your hair healthy enough that there is enough elasticity and enough moisture in the hair. Because when you remove all of the moisture, and when you remove the elasticity and if you over bleach it too quickly, and you blow up that cuticle, or you haven't gotten your hair cut enough, what happens is that you end up not getting the most out of your hair. It's kind of like working out, right. If you work out, you're going to get the most out of your body. If you're going to eat healthy, you're going to get the most out of it. And I think that hair has not gotten the same love that we give to our face, we will wash our face, we will put a mask on it. We will use a NuFace or a ZIIP on it, we will go and get facials, but we rarely do that for our hair. And I really believe that we should treat our hair the same way that we treat our face. So that's where it starts. And then it's really approaching it in a way of understanding your hair and not always fighting it.

I feel like pretty much everyone has that moment, like the straight-haired girls want curly hair, the curly girls want straight hair. Just like love on your real texture.

Yes, and celebrate your real texture and then enhance it with the right things. If you have super curly hair like Nicole does, you tend to want to use hydrators first. So, things that are going to hydrate the hair, give it shine, and give it more elasticity and then you're going to want to use a blow dryer. The secret with blow drying is tugging on it, but it's not the heat. It's letting it cool down. The cooldown is when you get everything to kind of stay in there, create the shine, create the movement, create the bounce, create the reflection in the hair. That's incredibly important, flattening the cuticle and then letting the cuticle cool down before you take it out. Someone like Kristen, who has wavy hair, but tends to need a good foundation at her roots—it's all about building the right architecture, the right foundation. So it's about using a volumizer on her root, and creating some memory there. It lifts, it holds, and then the rest of your hair can dance.

Photo:

Courtesy of Adir Abergel

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This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. Next up, check out our previous episode featuring our editors and the spring trends they're investing in.

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