Tabatha Coffey: Hair Apparent
BY Brandon Voss
February 09 2011 5:00 AM ET
Tabatha Coffey, like hairstylists all over the world, has become a trusted therapist for clients at her intimate salon, Industrie Hair Gurus in Ridgewood, N.J., listening quietly to their problems and confessions as she trims their bangs or twists a mean chignon. But in Coffey’s new self-help memoir, It’s Not Really About the Hair, it’s her turn to unload.
“I don’t talk about myself at work, so even my clients and staff will be astounded by what they read,” she says. “Writing it was cathartic, but it is weird to put it all out there.”
Winner of the “fan favorite” award as a contestant on the first season of Bravo’s Shear Genius in 2007, Coffey now gives business makeovers to struggling salon owners as host of the network’s Tabatha’s Salon Takeover, currently in its third season. “She’s got a huge personality unlike anyone I’ve ever come across,” says Andy Cohen, Bravo’s executive vice president of original programming and development. “She’s unfiltered, totally disarming, laugh-out-loud funny, and an expert in her field, which makes her a bull’s-eye Bravolebrity.”
Coffey is not, however, forthcoming about her personal life, remarkably so considering she’s on a network celebrated for its table-flipping Housewives franchise. In fact, the 43-year-old lesbian says there have been only a few times she’s referenced her sexual orientation on her show.
“On TV you only see me in work mode, which is only one of my many layers,” Coffey explains. “It’s Not Really About the Hair probably isn’t the book that anyone expected me to write, but I was inspired by the emotional e-mails I get from fans.” The questions Coffey regularly receives are, as her book’s title implies, not really about the hair; viewers mainly inquire about her coming-out story and the root of her brash confidence. “I wanted to share some life lessons, especially in light of the recent bullying and gay teen suicides.”
Coffey’s book details how she was shaped by growing up among transgender performers — her “surrogate aunts”—in the strip clubs that her parents ran in Adelaide, Australia. She also reflects on the early influence of her mother’s hairdresser, a “flaming queen” whom Coffey says she viewed as a rock star. But some of the sharing proved to be a challenge. “It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done,” she says. “I’m big on self-evaluation, so when my father walked out on us, I dealt with it, I moved on, I’m over it. My botched boob job? I dealt with it, I moved on, I’m over it. Reflecting on those things [in the book] meant going through that emotional journey all over again.”