© Rhonda Hayward photo
So who’s got the most grey hair: Pamela Anderson, Brigitte Nielson, Gwen Stefani or Brooke Shields?
Local hair stylist Marjorie Clarke isn’t telling.
Clarke, who owns and operates Hair Force Salon in Mount Pearl, has been a stylist to the stars since 2006, when she was approached by a New York agency that acts as a liaison between hair and make-up stylists and celebrities.
The previous year, Clarke had won the title of North American Hair Stylist of the Year in Las Vegas, which led to presentations — and attention — around the United States.
After participating as a hair stylist backstage at runway shows for New York Fashion Week, Clarke began working with celebrity stylist Danilo of “America’s Next Top Model” fame, and was invited by him to be part of an elite team of 12 stylists from around the world to work backstage each year at New York Fashion Week, and Life Ball.
Held in Vienna, Austria, Life Ball is organized by AIDS LIFE, and is the biggest charity event in Europe. Since 1993, it has raised funds for organizations assisting with people who are HIV-positive, and aims to raise awareness of HIV and AIDS.
After an opening ceremony in Vienna’s city hall square which includes speeches and a moment of silence for those who have died of AIDS, the ball is a massive star-studded event, including a gala concert and fashion show.
Each year there’s a different theme, a different theme song, and a different designer overseeing the fashion show,
It was at her first Life Ball that Clarke met Pamela Anderson.
“It was all about big, massive hair that year,” Clarke said, laughing.
“The runway was 20-feet wide and it was outdoors, and Pamela Anderson is such a small person, no more than five feet tall, so I knew I had to do something big. I used two wigs and extensions to make her hair look like a bobblehead!”
Over the different Life Balls, Clarke has styled the hair of famous models, European celebrities, Brooke Shields and Brigitte Nielsen, whom she says is “absolutely beautiful, like a goddess, and so endearing.” She has danced with Ivana Trump and rubbed shoulders with Elton John and Hilary Swank, among others.
Clarke is not long home from this year’s Life Ball, which took place May 25 with the theme 1001 Arabian Nights.
Singer Fergie was the host and Roberto Cavalli was this year’s guest fashion designer. The 2013 theme song, “Love Wins Over Glamour,” was performed by Adam Lambert, whom Clarke didn’t get to coiffe, but met.
“Before the models hit the runway, some stylists are there doing touch-ups, with their comb and brush in hand,” she said.
“I was kind of standing back, admiring our work, and I saw this man standing there in costume. I recognized who he was and I said, ‘Adam?’ He said, ‘Yes?” and we had a little conversation.
“He asked me where I was from, and I told him, and he said, ‘Oh, I’ve been to Newfoundland, several years ago.’ It was before he was on ‘American Idol.’ I asked him what his best memory of Newfoundland was, and he said, ‘The people were so warm and friendly.’”
Apart from the runway models, Clarke helped to style the hair of “I Dream of Jeannie” star Barbara Eden, who performed on stage.
Now 78, Eden wore her original midriff-baring costume from the show, and brought her original fez and long, blonde hair piece she wore on the sitcom, which aired from 1965-70.
“She was really concerned. She didn’t have a lot of confidence that it would hold, because it was so old,” Clarke explained.
“Danilo gathered us around , and in the end we made another blonde braid and wrapped it around the base so it would stay.”
Clarke, a fan of “I Dream of Jeannie” as a child, got to speak to Eden more in the airport.
“I grew up watching Barbara Eden. I wanted to be Barbara Eden,” she said.
“Usually I’m not starstruck, but when I saw her, I turned into a kid again. She asked me where I was from, if I had any children, that sort of thing.”
Clarke, who grew up one of 11 children in her family, has wanted to be a hair stylist ever since she was 17 and going to her high school graduation on Bell Island. She had her hair done professionally, marking the first time she had ever been in a salon.
“I remember the stylist was so busy, she was frantic, but when it was my turn, she took her time and I could really see that she cared about me,” Clarke said.
“When she turned me around in the mirror, that was the first time I ever felt as good as the neighbour’s kids; the first time I ever felt special. I said, this is what I’m going to do with my life — make people feel special. Most hairdressers are very caring individuals with very big hearts, and that’s why we do what we do.”
Clarke opened Hair Force in 1992 at age 25, and she and her team of stylists have received a number of international accolades ever since. She said she has also been told many stories of clients who have been impacted by her work like she was impacted by her stylist as a teenager. It’s what keeps her in the job, she said, celebrities clients or not.
That being said, there’s a certain celebrity she’d love to get her hands on.
“Hillary Rodham Clinton. As of late, she’s been wearing her hair much longer than she should, with it styles back a little too severely with what appears to be greying roots. I would cut it a little shorter, similar to (broadcast journalist) Dianne Sawyer’s style, but with less bang, and add more dimension to her colour. Both would soften her features, giving her more volume and a more youthful appearance.”