Ricardo lazily peers up from his perch on the reception area’s couch and takes in the shapeless mop of hair I’m currently calling my “style.” Tellingly, he sinks his head back down as if to confirm the hopeless situation I’ve just walked in with.
Ricardo is a Chihuahua, by the way.
His human: Sheenon Olson, the celebrity hairstylist/owner of Miami’s new hair mecca Atma. Tucked into what appears to be a sliver of space in the tony Sunset Harbour neighborhood of South Beach, the inside is something akin to an austere religious temple. A 7,000 square-foot one, at that. Bathed in white and concrete with lofty 30-foot ceilings, where heads of hair, not deities, are worshipped.
Counting Alessandra Ambrosio, Chris Colfer, Elizabeth Olson and even Rachel Roy (“Becky With the Good Hair,” anyone?) as clients, Olson, for his part, remains nonplussed. He’s a refreshingly down-to-earth sort, with just enough humorous wit to keep his clients on their toes.
When he’s not taming Miami’s voluminous manes, he’s indulging his passion for the camera lens. To wit, he’s installed a completely functioning photo studio on the second floor of his space where he shares real estate with a rotating roster of big names in the industry (Johnny Ramirez was a recent stand-in). He also flies back to his previous digs in L.A. somewhat frequently to keep his fingers on the pulse of the scene.
I sat down with Olson to find out what makes him tick—and with the hopes that he might make something out of my forlorn locks yet.
‘Miami is changing—there’s a lot more of the big, sexy Victoria’s Secret-esque hair.’
What inspired you to become a hairstylist? It was something that I actually happened into. I have always been involved in art to some degree and this just worked out really well. It helped feed that creative side in me.
What iconic hairstyle do you love? I love natural texture. Something about letting your hair really embrace the elements. Hair is so fluid that trying to tame it into a perfect coif is like trying to tame nature. Plus, there is just a certain amount of sexy confidence that it displays.
Who inspires you? I am inspired by so much, but I would say the team of people that works at Atma most. It is inspiring to see fellow hairstylists getting inspired by what we have created. It really doesn’t work unless you have everyone on board and to have so many people who share the same vision is truly inspiring.
You spent time at Oribe here in Miami before heading out to L.A.—what did you take away from your experience at Oribe? Why the move to L.A.? Oribe is truly a special person. He is such an amazing hairstylist and I was lucky enough to learn from him. I always feel that if you want to get great at something, surround yourself with the best. Your standard is forced to be better. Working at Oribe helped raise my standard. I moved to L.A. to be closer to my family and to push my career further. It was that or NYC, and the fact that L.A. is closer to nature just resonated more with me.
What was your experience in L.A.? How long were you there? I lived in Venice for four years. I was working at 901 Salon, which has quickly become one of the best salons in L.A., if not the U.S. L.A. has so much to offer and learn from with so many talented people, I feel that you are forced to become better or you just won’t do very well there.
One word that describes L.A.: ______. One word that describes Miami: ____. L.A.: Bohemian. Miami: Sexy.
Any favorite celeb heads you’ve worked on? What’s your most memorable celeb hair styling moment? Alessandra Ambrosio is such a genuinely sweet person. I am always impressed by people who have remained grounded within all of the craziness.
Why the move back to Miami? Miami has so much potential for growth. Even when I moved to LA I continued to visit Miami. I have seen Miami grow a lot in the last four years. With the space we have in Sunset Harbour it was pretty much a no brainer
What makes Atma stand out from the well-established cadre of Miami salons? With Atma, I really wanted to create something that is completely original. I wanted people to feel welcome and comfortable but to also expect the quality of work that you get in NYC and L.A. Photography is also a large part of what I do creatively, and so Atma has its own photo studio, along with hair, nail and spray tan services. We are really striving to create a complete experience here.
Let’s talk tresses. What’s hot in L.A. right now versus what’s hot in Miami? L.A. is all about natural sun-kissed hair, rooted blonde, and the perfectly styled hair made to intentionally look undone. Miami is changing—there’s a lot more of the big, sexy Victoria’s Secret-esque hair. I think the blending of the two makes a perfect combination for Atma.
Given the beach air and omnipresent humidity here, what are some of your favorite styles to help tame (or play up) the effect on our hair? It’s all about adding texture and defining it. Depending on the type of hair you have wearing it up or down and then to accentuate your natural texture to make it look more deliberate and less like you got caught in a tropical storm
What are three hair products you need in your arsenal at all times? For me: Apres Beach by Oribe, Badlands by R+Co and Gel Serum by Oribe. For the client: Apres Beach, Supershine Light by Oribe and and Death Valley Dry Shampoo by R+Co.
Best piece of advice: Don’t sweat the small stuff.