We love our Leonor Greyl ambassadors! In our occasional Q&A series, we introduce you to the haircare aficionados rocking LG products in their salons and behind the scenes for fashion shoots, celebrity red carpets, and runways.
So, let’s meet…
Ron Pernell: On His Start, His Love for LG, and Dealing with Industry Biases
Renowned hairstylist Ron Pernell is one of Leonor Greyl’s biggest fans, and we feel the same about him!
Ron has worked with celebrities, models, and the society set for more than 30 years. He splits his time between salons in San Francisco and Los Angeles. Ron also traveled worldwide for fashion shows and photoshoots before COVID-19 restrictions took effect. He’s looking forward to returning to his regular workflow, which includes styling actors on The Morning Show, the Apple TV drama starring Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon, and Steve Carell.
LG: What’s life like for a stylist in California, where salons were mostly shut down starting in March?
RP: I’ve been spending most of my time in San Francisco because there haven’t been filming or red carpets in LA. I turned my salon basically into my “lab.” I put together color kits and ship them to clients. And I do house calls.
I have a couple of clients on The Morning Show on Apple TV. They keep getting the green light to start production, but then the Governor of California shuts it down. It’s a lot of back and forth. Their target is to start in August.
Haircare was not Ron’s original career path. He grew up in a military family and lived all over Europe. When his family returned to California, Ron did hair to pay for college, where he studied accounting and international business. In fact, his first job in beauty and fashion wasn’t creating stunning styles for runway models; it was handling import-export business for Calvin Klein in New York.
LG: How did you go from being a business major to being a major stylist?
RP: When they (Calvin Klein) found out I did hair, they started asking me to help with fashion shows. After a few years, I left Calvin Klein and started doing hair in salons. It was a great experience. I worked at Oribe, Louis Licari, in Paris, at Fashion Week… But I got burned out on New York and wanted something slower. I decided to come to California.
LG: You’ve been exposed to hundreds of haircare brands over the years. Why did you become a Leonor Greyl specialist?
RP: 10 or 11 years ago, one of my clients was a black model. You know, black models have always had trouble with their hair in the industry.
Many hairstylists for photoshoots and runways aren’t trained to work with different hair textures. Until relatively recently, chemically straightened hair was more valued than natural hair. Yet years of applying relaxers take their toll on hair and scalp health.
RP: But this model’s hair was AMAZING. She had Leonor Greyl products with her and asked if I could use them when I did her hair. She explained she had been in Paris for Fashion Week and visited the L’Institut (Leonor Greyl) for a scalp and hair treatment.
The next time I was in Paris, I called (L’Institut) for a treatment. While I was waiting, I watched the way they were doing hair, and it was very interesting. The treatments were all about the scalp – that a healthy scalp creates beautiful hair. Whereas everybody else was all about beautiful hair is beautiful hair, and nobody was treating the scalp.
I also noticed how culturally diverse it was. The way they did relaxers and color on black hair. It was the most amazing thing I’d ever seen, and I’d been in the industry for a long time at this point. The technique was so above the standard. It was about treating the scalp.
LG: How is the Leonor Greyl relaxer technique different?
RP: Usually, when you do a relaxer on a black hair, it’s put right on the scalp. But what Leonor Greyl does is lay a board (between the scalp and hair) so the relaxer doesn’t touch the scalp at all.
I realized that my train of thought has to start from the beginning. I can mask damaged hair as much as possible with beautiful styling. But that’s not going to create healthy hair. Leonor Greyl’s philosophy is healthy hair starts where it’s born, and that is the scalp. Now I notice how easy it is to work with and manipulate hair when the client consistently uses Leonor Greyl products at home.
LG: What is your absolute favorite Leonor Greyl styling product?
RP: Eclat Naturel is a really beautiful product. I can manipulate it so well by how much I use. I can do a finger wave and roller set that is the most beautiful thing. You get Gel à l’hibiscus with no alcohol and the Eclat with shea butter and massage them together to create an amazing hair styling cream with hold.
LG: As you came up in the industry, did you face prejudices?
RP: I’m gay, but that’s no problem in this industry. As for the color of my skin, I had a situation when I came to San Francisco from New York. I sent my resume – back in the day when people actually mailed their resumes – to a well-known San Francisco salon. When I walked in for my interview, the owner looked at me and said dismissively, “You know, we really don’t have a large Black clientele.” I looked at her and said, “Did you read my resume?” She said, “I read your resume, but I still don’t think that we’d be able to feed you a large clientele that is Black.” She just couldn’t understand that I’m diverse at doing hair.
Sometime after Ron had made his mark in SF with elite clients and on the runway scene with Donna Karan, Oscar de la Renta, and the like, Ron said he ran into that salon owner at an exclusive Giorgio Armani party. Ron knew exactly who she was, but she didn’t remember interviewing him. So, he reminded her. Then he touched her arm and said, “I want to tell you thank you. I wouldn’t be where I’m at today if I had stayed at your salon.”
LG: Is the industry getting better at addressing the exclusion of ethnic hair talent and products?
RP: Let’s be honest, there are product lines and makeup lines that have not satisfied a certain group of people. But because of Black Lives Matters, companies are starting to realize they have to represent them. I’m seeing a little bit more of this, and I’ve been getting calls about it, about product lines.
What they have to understand is it’s not about just the product. Beauty is a cultural thing. You got to hire somebody of color. And when I say color, I mean from Asian to Latino to Black. You got to bring them on board and have them become part of your team.
You need to have a cultural understanding of beauty first.
For more about Ron and his hair inspiration, follow him on Instagram @ronpernellstudio.