‘It’s Not About the Cut’: Hair Help From J. Lo’s Guy

When she said, “People have too many clothes …. I think you should go two or three years without buying anything. But maybe you need a new haircut,” Diana Vreeland was obviously having a retail-unfriendly mood swing. But for those of you with a solid archive of timeless garments–and a dusty coiffure–she was also offering some good advice. If you are one of said chicks and you decide to gamble the season on a brand new ‘do, just make sure you pick a really good hairdresser: e.g., Oribe.

Who better to prescribe and execute your new spring look than Jennifer Lopez’s chosen fave? O.K., so you’re not as gorgeous as Ms. Lopez, but if Oribe can make Celine Dion look good, he can certainly do something with you.

And he’s still hot.

Yes, the illustrious Cuban-born coiffeur has weathered the 80’s and 90’s remarkably well. While the supermodels–with whose follicles Oribe was once so heavily identified–are grudgingly entering their sunset years, their hairdresser is doing a total “Proud Mary.”

I recently caught up with the tattooed teaser in L.A., where he was making a pit stop before heading to Las Vegas. “I’m here doing Jennifer for her new fragrance, Celine for the Grammys and Milla for L’Oréal,” said the North Carolina-raised 45-year-old, tossing first names to the floor like so many snipped locks. “I’m giving Celine more volume than she usually has–it will make her look more powerful,” added Oribe, who has coiffed zillions of celebs but still seems to get a kick out of it.

Putting the endearingly naff French Canadian songstress aside for one moment, I asked Oribe to recommend three au courant cuts for spring. He surprised me with his response. “It’s not about a cut right now–geometrics are totally out. Think about Jennifer; think about the Dolce & Gabbana ads,” he said, referring to Steven Meisel’s Zabriskie Point -ish images of a hot, dusty and tressy Gisele Bundchen. “Let your hair grow, and let it find its natural texture with the climate that you’re living in.”

Once you’ve grown your hair, make an appointment with Oribe. For the totally reasonable price (if you compare it with the average cost of a designer blouse) of $400, Oribe himself will “customize” your ‘do. “I will layer it and give some cuts to the jaw-line. This will individualize your hair.” Next comes a few highlights. Then he’ll show you all the different ways you can wear your versatile, free-form, hippie-ish tresses, including–his specialty–the lioness look. Make a date with Oribe for six weeks from now and start growing that hair (691 Fifth Avenue, 319-3910).

Oribe also has some good tips on getting clean, having successfully gone through rehab in the 90’s. Does he regret going public with his 12-stepping days? “I don’t regret being truthful,” he said. “I have a contract with L’Oréal, so I took a major risk. But everyone was supportive.”

Here’s how he did it: “Stay very positive. Things can only get better, because life is kind. The most important thing is to know you have a problem. Keep your mind busy. Think about all the things you want to do in your life. For me, I just wanted to be fabulous–but without drugs.”

Any advice for tweaking fashionistas who are contemplating rehab? “You change when you’re ready. Some people are never ready, and maybe they can function in a different way. It’s personal.”

Music for rehab? “I love Latin music: soothing, romantic stuff like Marc Anthony, Tony Vega, Rocio Jurado and Isabel Pantoja–she’s the chick whose husband was killed in the bull ring. And I love La Lupe.” (Me, too.)

But who is La Lupe? Susan Sontag, in her 1964 “Notes on Camp,” puts the legendary La Lupe on her random list of items that are part of the canon of camp. Cuban-born La Lupe was also an important player in the New York Latin-music scene of the 1960’s and 1970’s, recording over 30 albums. But she was best known for her fiery, demented live performances, during which she might tear off her wig and jewelry and fling them at the audience. She made Shirley Bassey look like Enya. Her demonically possessed vocal style included the Santería-inspired shrieks that gave rise to her nickname, “La Yiyiyi.”

In 1984, she fell off a ladder while hanging curtains in her Bronx apartment on 140th Street, found God and became a Christian minister. She died in obscurity 10 years ago last month. Her 1960’s recordings are the best. My faves: Mongo Introduces La Lupe and any CD with her version of “Fever.”

P.S.: Here’s a haunting coincidence. As you may recall from last week’s column, the above Vreeland quote was extracted by moi from Marisa Berenson’s 1984 self-help manual, entitled Dressing Up–How to Look and Feel Absolutely Perfect for Any Social Occasion . Guess who tended La Berenson’s voluminous frizz for the book’s cover photo 18 years ago? A young and untattooed Oribe.

‘It’s Not About the Cut’: Hair Help From J. Lo’s Guy