The master behind Jennifer López and countless other celebrity hairstylist creations opens up as never before.
I heard him before I saw him.
The first time I met the legendary celebrity hairstylist Oribe (pronounced Or-BAY), I was walking across a cavernous sound stage where the magazine I edited had scheduled a top-secret photo shoot and cover story with a major star. As I rounded the corner to greet the reputedly difficult celeb at the hair/makeup bay, I heard someone excitedly saying, “Genius! It’s gee-niiuuus!” and I burst out laughing. “Who is that?” I asked my perplexed assistant.
I rounded the corner to see a strikingly handsome, muscular man with a rolled up white dress shirt revealing bronzed, full-sleeve tattooed arms standing behind the famous diva. I all but ignored the newly pampered celebrity as Oribe Canales and I became, in an instant, friends. We had so much in common—starting with our shared Cuban heritage as well as literally hundreds of mutual friends—that I frankly don’t remember much from that day except that I knew I had made a genuine connection for life. And I was right.
Oribe, who in another sure-fire sign of genuine fame is globally known only by his first name, is the universe’s single greatest, fiercest, coolest (insert your favorite over the top adjective here) celebrity hairstylist for myriad reasons, not the least of which is how he makes a famous woman not only look (amazing), but how he makes her feel (beautiful).
Oribe’s colossal talent is unquestioned as his thousands of celebrity clients can attest: Penélope Cruz, Lady Gaga, Naomi Campbell, Miley Cyrus, Kate Moss, Gloria Estefan, Scarlett Johansen, Sophia Loren, Cher and on and on. But what Oribe may be best known for was his near decade-long gig as Jennifer López’s on-call hair maestro. At the height of J.Lo’s career Oribe created every jaw-dropping coiffure masterpiece the superstar rocked day in, day out. And this particular hairstylist/diva collaboration is undeniably the best in history. Oribe and Jennifer López is the celebrity/hair equivalent of Thelma and Louise, Bert and Ernie, Laverne and Shirley; in a word, magic.
Oribe has also inevitably become a global hair and beauty brand with best-selling products that have further cemented his reputation as “best in class.” From his beautiful perch that is his Miami Beach-based white palace salon, the Cuban juggernaut has no plans on slowing down any time soon.
And, I, for one, think that’s gee-niiuuus!
What was your greatest moment as a hairstylist?
I’ve had so many amazing moments as a hairdresser. Not to sound like “Miss America,” but making someone feel good about themselves is always fantastic.
Tell me about your life changing relationship with Jennifer López.
She’s a very special friend and I cherish any time that I have spent with her. Jennifer is fearless, gorgeous and extremely wise. Our work together was always collaborative. I made things happen for her and she made things happen for me. She has incredible style but would be open to new ideas and would embrace any look. Wearing different styles requires a great sense of confidence and Jennifer was always breathtaking.
What’s the biggest mistake American women make with their hair?
Being trendy. Sometimes what everyone is wearing doesn’t necessarily look good on you. Both women and men should learn to wear what suits them.
The adage is, the older a woman gets the blonder she should go. Still true?
I’m a true believer in Mother Nature. In life, your hair starts to gray at a certain age. That same concept applies to going lighter. For the most part, going blonder does soften, but there are always exceptions of course. If black hair makes you feel better at 60, go for it. Severe can also be very chic.
Tell me about your favorite celebrity moments.
- Barbra Streisand didn’t like me. I liked her anyway. [Laughs]
- Sophia Loren was more spectacular in person than anyone I’ve ever met. She was super real and extremely warm. I remember her winking at me—it made me nuts! [Laughs]
- Seven incredible years with J.Lo 24/7—it was a movie-like dream, only better.
- Collaborating with Cher. I remember going through her wig collection and feeling intimidated. Not because Cher wasn’t amazing, but because she’s Cher. [Laughs]
- I loved meeting Miley Cyrus and falling in love with such a well-balanced young superstar. It’s rare that you meet young famous people with such finesse. We still text each other often and stay in touch. And It’s not me calling her, people. [Laughs]
- Lady Gaga wanted her pubic hair (yes, you read that right) to be pink so I created a wonderful cropped pink “piece.” It was truly beautiful but Gaga said, “No, I want it really full.” Lady Gaga was just incredible! The photograph by the amazing Mario Testino is one of my all-time favorites.
If every woman could only own one product from your Oribe collection, what would it be?
It would have to be Dry Texture Spray. It’s a non-sticky product that gives you volume where you want it. Most women can use a little volume at the crown.
Tell me old friend, what—if anything—is left to do?
You know, Richard, since I’m still very passionate about hair, there are quite a number of amazing projects I’m actively working on including a new concept salon project; a television show about fashion, hair and Miami. I’ll also continue to develop fantastic products and accessories and, as always, teach everything that I’ve learned in life to young hairdressers so that their dreams can come true as mine have.
Finish this sentence for me: Oribe is…
The same person as the day he started in this business: Always willing to please and make people happy. That’s exactly who Oribe is.