Note from the KeraGirls: This is the first in an occasional series of KC Pro posts that provide career insights and advice from some of Keratin Complex’s most experienced and accomplished stylists.
Paul Orlandi, a longtime hairstylist and a member of the Keratin Complex Inspiration Team, has had an interesting career arc that took him to the heights as a busy salon owner and back again to being a one-man shop. Along the way, he has always strived to learn and grow in this industry that he loves.
Paul was recently featured in a Modern Salon profile, describing his decision to become a booth-renter after years of being an educator and then a salon owner with multiple employees. We chatted with Paul about his entire career and the lessons he’s learned along the way.
‘Whatever you do, have passion for it.
If you don’t love what you do, find something else to do.’
Hometown: Mayfield Heights, OH
Salon name: Meraki Hair Studio @ Salon Lofts, Mayfield Heights
Years of experience: 30
Training/education: Graduated top of cosmetology class from Mayfield High School vocational education
Hairstyling specialties: Smoothing treatments, corrective hair color, men’s haircuts
Q&A with Paul Orlandi: His career
Q. When did you know that you wanted to become a stylist?
A. I can’t pinpoint exactly when, but I can remember as a child looking at people’s hair and being fascinated with it. I grew up in the 70s and 80s. There was some pretty impressive hair then!
Q. Who and/or what inspires you?
A. People with passion inspire me. Whatever you do, have passion for it. If you don’t love what you do, find something else to do. You’re cheating yourself out of a wonderful life.
Q. Describe your general career path.
A. I started pretty much like most people, shampooing at a salon while still in school. Then I moved up to being an apprentice, but was hungry to get on the floor and get my hands in some hair! I went to a chain salon where they just threw people at you. I am pretty horrified when I think of some of the hair I sent out—and then those people came back to me!
Early in my career, I moved around a lot due to salons closing or being sold. I decided to go to work in a corporate environment while still building a private clientele on my own. Once I felt I had a good base, I opened my first salon. The rest is history!
Q. What do you love most about working in the salon and/or beauty industry?
A. The thing I love most about working in a salon is that I never have the same day twice and I never know how my day is going to turn out. I love the unknown ... not knowing who I will see or what challenge we’re going to tackle.
What I love most about this industry is that it is always changing. What’s old is new again, as the saying goes. I love to see old trends come back with a new spin, and to see new stylists look at it for the first time and think it’s never been done before. Admittedly, I’ve been that new stylist.
Q. Describe the most thrilling moment of your career.
A. I would have to say the most thrilling moment of my career so far was being invited to work backstage at New York Fashion Week last fall.
Paul works on a model during Style Fashion Week, a high point of his career.
Q. What are the most rewarding aspects of your job?
A. It is always so rewarding when a client looks at their new haircut and just can’t keep from looking in the mirror. That makes every moment worth it.
Q. The least?
A. When clients don’t understand that there are limits to what I can do to their hair. Celebrities are fabulous to watch and admire, but a lot of their looks are created with hairpieces or over a period of time.
Even social media gives the public a false sense of what can be achieved. Most of those Instagram pictures are Photoshopped; and even if they’re not, that look may take me hours upon hours, even multiple visits and hundreds of dollars to create. It can’t always be done in a one-hour appointment.
Q. Where do you see yourself in five years?
A. Hopefully in five years I will be working more backstage at shows and seeing my work in print and film. I would love to be onstage motivating other industry professionals to follow their dreams and succeed.
Q. In 10 years or longer?
A. I hope that in 10 years or more that I am leaving an imprint on the industry. I’m not sure how, but I want to inspire people to follow their dreams and pursue the life they want.
For Paul’s career advice, check out Part 2, coming next week!