We had the good fortune of connecting with Seika Chanel Simon and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Seika Chanel, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
I knew it was the right decision to start my own business when I always seemed to fall into leadership roles in past job positions. My thought process behind starting my business was that of accountability. I find that today, there is little to no self-accountability in most aspects of life, especially in work environments. It is so easy to “pass the buck” and not take any responsibility for one’s choices and actions. As a sole proprietor/self-employed hair stylist, I am the one holding myself accountable. Being an independent contractor and working for myself, no one else is going to encourage me to come to the salon each day, and equally no one else is going to check-in with me to remind me to take some mental health time or a vacation. I have always found it easy to self-motivate – to tell myself that I can accomplish anything I set my mind to if I have a plan. I think that growing up as a ballerina really helped shaped my mentality on accountability. As a dancer, you are always striving to be better than you were the day before, you are only in competition with yourself. I have carried that discipline with me into starting my own business by pushing myself to be the best professional I can be. It is so easy to get consumed by insecurities, fear, and doubt about starting a business but I have always told myself that the reward is worth the risk.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
Initially, I struggled answering this question when it came to which category my business fits in because some might not think of me as an artist. When I was first starting out in this industry, I felt the same way – I actually felt like I was in the service industry (which I sort of am) but now I know that working with hair IS art. The same way a painter has brushes and paints, I have my own set of tools: my shears, combs, and hair color, but hair is my canvas. I think, with anything we have to learn the proper way to do something so then we are able to creatively adapt it as our own, basically you have to learn the rules to break the rules. Yes I went to school, yes I took an exam where I had to perform the correct way of “doing hair,” but if I have learned anything from being behind the chair for many years, it is that once you master your craft, there is no wrong way of doing it. The label I prefer to take on is Hair Artist. I get to mix custom hair color formulas, paint it on the hair, and then stand in awe at a finished result that is unlike anyone else’s. Everyday I am inspired by each head of hair I see, or a piece of artwork with an intriguing color palette that I want to translate into a unique formula for a client. What really sets me apart from other hair artists is that like art, no two clients are alike. All of my clients, from blondes to brunettes, to red heads, all have their own special color formula, and all of their haircuts will differ as well. Custom hair cutting and color really is an art. I am always aware of a client’s face shape, eye color, and underlying skin tones the same way a sculptor or photographer analyzes shapes, sizes, and proportions. My proudest moment of performing my art is ultimately how I make my guests feel. This business really allows me to contribute to someone’s overall well-being – when they feel good on the outside, they feel good on the inside too.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
To be honest, I don’t have many favorite spots in the city as I am such a homebody or a workaholic. The few places I do enjoy tend to have the theme of a relaxed atmosphere with great food and unique drinks. I live in a suburban town of Los Angeles, so the best spots take me a 20-30 minute drive into the city. One of my favorite spots is Castaway Burbank, situated atop the hills in Burbank just off the 5 freeway with a view to die for. The restaurant itself doesn’t require reservations but is recommended for the coveted outdoor patio tables or indoor booth spots with a fantastic window that guests have full control over. I love to order their charcuterie board that you can customize with any combination of meats and cheeses along with a selection of chef’s choice accoutrements. You can’t enjoy cheese without wine, Castaway have a rosé on draft that I find to be so unique to them, its nice to be able to order wine without having to order a whole bottle. Another favorite place is Black Market Liquor Bar in Studio City. Reservations are definitely recommended here as this spot is always busy! I think it’s safe to label this place as a gastropub, with specialty plates and one of a kind craft cocktails. My favorite cocktail to order here is called Red Hot and Bothered. I favor vodka as my go-to spirit and I can never turn down a jalepeño-infused one. With a hint of strawberry, blood orange, and topped with ginger beer, this drink feels like a special spicy take on a Moscow mule. It would be hard for me to narrow down my favorite items on their dinner menu, so I will choose my favorites from their weekend brunch menu. Growing up Jewish, I’m a sucker for a good smoked salmon on a bagel. Black Market’s gravlax comes with all the fixings on an everything bagel and some shaved fennel. Chilaquiles is my choice for Latin cuisine for breakfast and theirs is nothing short of amazing! The best part of Black Market Liquor Bar’s brunch is of course, their bottomless mimosas, and you get to choose the juices you’d like to enjoy them with. One of the best things about visiting LA, I would have to say is the people watching. Los Angeles is such an eclectic place with residents and visitors from all walks of life. Whether I’m sitting in traffic on the freeways, stuck at a stoplight in the middle of town, or sitting on a patio enjoying some great food, there will always be so many interesting faces to study. In my business, I tend to notice people’s hair before anything else – secretly giving them a complement or wondering what I can do differently. Another place I feel like I can really identify with is the Fashion District, which is also home to the Los Angeles Flower District. I love shopping at the specialty clothing boutiques in search of exclusive items that I wouldn’t normally find. If you’ve never been to the Flower District, it should be at the top of your list when visiting LA. As one can imagine, the aroma of the flowers is overwhelming, and the sight of the flowers neatly organized by color, size, and variation is just so aesthetically pleasing.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
First off, I absolutely have to thank my parents for their undying love and support in everything I do. They have always guided me to make the right choices, and even if I didn’t, their continued encouragement would still set me up for success. This brings me to my next shoutout: my Uncle Max and Aunt Sylvia. As a child, I would hang around their many salons sweeping up hair, chatting with clients, and watching in awe at their mastery behind the chair. I had an interest in hair but not the love for it I do now. My parents always wanted me to pick up hair dressing at a young age, reminding me that my aunt and uncle would help me in any way they could, but when you are young, you tend to steer away from your family’s recommendations in order to find your own identity. I started beauty school during my high school years to appease my family and dropped out shortly after. After high school, I went to college as a business major as yet another attempt to show my parents that I was making good choices for my future. When the first two years of college passed, I quickly realized that conventional schooling was not for me – I needed to be doing something more hands-on and creative. I completed beauty school, passed my licensing exam and earned myself a coveted hair stylist assistant position at a prominent salon in my hometown. My parents and Uncle Max and Aunt Sylvia could not be more proud of the path I was going down, thus taking me to my next shoutout: my mentor Tony Parks. I assisted Tony for what felt like forever, but ended up being about a year. He was a very well known and sought after hair stylist in my community and I felt so special to be working for him. Little did I know upon hiring, how grueling of a position I was about to undertake. I was glued to Tony’s side all day studying his every move, fetching coffee/water, and when I wasn’t doing that, I was sweeping hair, doing laundry, shampooing clients, and taking out the trash. I would say to myself “I thought I was supposed to be doing hair, how am I learning anything if I can’t get near a client with a pair of shears or a blow dryer?” Well hindsight is always 20/20, and now I can see how it was shaping me into the master hair stylist I am today. I pride myself on my professionalism, my skills, and my thoughtfulness when it comes to my clients. Every tiny detail from hanging around in my aunt and uncle’s salon and absorbing everything Tony said or did has stuck with me. A huge thank you goes out to Mark & Michelle Simon, Max Papier & Sylvia Slade, and Tony Parks.
All hair photos and logo photo: Seika Simon Portrait photo: Aj Apone