When I get the opportunity to speak with a top hairstylist, I take it. And when Charles Baker Strahan -- the Celebrity Stylist for Herbal Essences and personal stylist to Gossip Girl star Leighton Meester -- said he was interested in participating in First Look Fridays, I was super excited. Read on to discover his all-time favorite Herbal Essences products, his number one tip for getting great hair and so much more.
Can you tell me a bit about yourself?
I was born in the small town of Alma, Michigan, and grew up there, Billings, Montana and Grand Rapids, Michigan before moving to NYC at 25. I have lived between there and Los Angeles for the last 10 years of my life. I have always been interested in hair -- if you went through my childhood pictures you would find several pictures where I had cut my own hair and after about 6th grade had colored my hair. My mother noticed just how many times as a little boy I had cut my own hair and we had a good laugh about it!
How did you first become interested in hairstyling, and what led you to become a hairstylist?
I think because I went to several different schools and was the new kid a lot I became aware quickly how your appearance gives people an impression of you. I began experimenting a lot with my look, which lead me to believe I was either going to act or do something with hair or fashion. When I told my mother at 17 I was going to run off to Hollywood she said, "Why don't you go to Cosmetology School first?" I will never forget the feeling I had after signing up at Excel Academies of Cosmetology in Grand Rapids. I think I knew even then this is what I [would] do.
What are some of the moments that have stood out as highlights in your career?
The day I signed with Timothy Priano because he truly saw me as an artist.
Signing with Herbal Essences as a spokesperson because I believe that beauty should be aspirational and accessible.
Meeting my clients who are my muses and those magic moments "that feeling" comes through you and you step back and say, "Where did that come from?"
How did you become involved with Herbal Essences, and what do you love about working with the line?
I was raised by a single mother, so we didn't always have a ton of money. It's incredibly important to me that I have products that really do the job and that everyone can afford. I did a makeover show for Lifetime TV that reintroduced me to Herbal Essences and after working in salons and trying everything, when it came down to it I was really impressed by Herbal. So when I was offered the chance to work with them I jumped at it!! I have been with them now for coming up to 2 years and I love sharing with them my ideas as much as working with the line altogether. It is a relationship I cherish and look to grow with!
I know you work with Gossip Girl star Leighton Meester. What makes this relationship special for you?
Leighton is such a dynamic person and she makes bold fashion choices. I do everything from her color and cutting to styling for the red carpets and magazines. We did a photo shoot for Elle Magazine with Davis Factor shooting and one photo literally brought tears to my eyes. It's hard to pick one look with her as we have been working together for 3 years and things keep getting better. She is one of those people where for me lightning keeps striking and I love her.
What are the Herbal Essences products you simply can't live without?
Some of my favorites:
Hydralicious shampoos and conditioners
Body Envy Volumizing Hairspray
Set Me Up Hairspray
Tousle Me Softly Tousling Spray Hair Gel
What are your top 3 hair tips?
1) Healthy hair that is gently colored and properly hydrated and conditioned always looks good.
2) Less is more! A little bit of product goes a long way, and we need to really ease back from all the overuse of extensions and overworked hair. Sometimes in my job it's about knowing what not to do!
3) Watch your hair when you style it ... use pictures as inspiration but watch out for something that may be better in the process of getting towards that goal and just play with it. You may discover something that is so much better than what you set out for.
Being a hairstylist must be fun -- but what do you do for fun in your spare time?
I love to travel! I love to go to other countries and just live like a local as much as I can. I love to watch people and their personal expressions. I love great food in wine and great restaurants, I have a couple places that are my sacred places where the rest of the world gets shut out. Just recently had dinner at The Wolseley on Piccadilly in London with a special someone and right now that tops my list.