Serge Normant doesn't like giving advice. After all, if he had listened to well-meaning colleagues early in his career, he wouldn't be where he is today. And where he is—as a top Hollywood stylist, salon owner, and creator of a luxe hair-care line—is pretty extraordinary.
"I was told I didn't have the right personality, the right look, that I was so shy," he says. "Maybe they were trying to protect me. They said, 'Maybe just work in a salon and you'll be fine.' But I wanted so much more."
Turns out his elegant, sincere presence has helped make him one of the industry's top talents for decades and the go-to pro for stars like Sarah Jessica Parker and Julia Roberts. "Serge has a beautiful energy and approach to creating style," says Roberts. "Hair is such an intrinsic basis of how we feel, and Serge loves to make everyone look their best. Our collaborative life together is special because we are such close friends."
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"Serge taught me to always have fun at work, the beauty of time-tested loyalty, and to never underestimate the need for a portable leaf blower." —Julia Roberts
Normant's first attraction to hair "was seeing women walk in and out of salons." After he showed interest, he and his mother visited the local spot where he would get his hair cut, and Normant became an apprentice there. Within months he had learned how to do cuts, perms, and highlights, and later he attended the L'Oréal school in Paris. "I did everything, and at the end of the day I'd clean the windows. It was the '80s; that's how it worked, and I loved every minute."
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Normant ventured to New York and maintained a freelance career before he eventually signed with an agency. As he was creating iconic looks and big hair moments into the '90s supermodel era, Normant's star got bigger, but his ego didn't. "I just wanted to be on a great team and create great images. I never cared about being known. I didn't even know it was possible."
"He brings unyielding enthusiasm, skill, and discipline, which have inspired a generation of hairstylists. He is a fierce collaborator but also my beloved and honored friend." —Sarah Jessica Parker
He remained in demand, styling Parker's hair for her 2000 MTV Movie Awards hosting gig ("I was so sick. I had to throw up every place I could. Now we laugh about what happened," he recalls). And three years ago he opened the Serge Normant at John Frieda salon in Manhattan's Chelsea district.
Inside the Serge Normant at John Frieda salon in Chelsea
But whether he's tousling SJP's waves or reinventing a working mom's lob in his atelier, Normant stays true to himself and connects while he creates. "I see Julia married with three amazing kids. We've known each other over 25 years. It's the same thing with Sarah. How gorgeous it is for me to still be working with people I've known for that long. That's called friendship. That's called life. And I'm inspired by that."