She’s tough, she’s talented, and she might be taking over a salon — or a gay nightclub — near you. Winner of the “fan favorite” award on season 1 of Shear Genius, Tabatha Coffey now gives business makeovers to struggling salon owners as host of Tabatha’s Salon Takeover on Bravo, which airs the show’s second season finale on January 12. Preparing for a special appearance January 7 at New York’s Splash, the Australia-born Coffey called from her own salon, Industrie Hair Gurus in Ridgewood, N.J., to cut up with Advocate.com about stereotypical gay stylists, unsolicited sperm donors, and the Boystown salon that brought out her militant lesbian claws.
Advocate.com: Congrats on another terrific season, Tabatha, but don’t you ever get tired of hearing people call you a bitch?
Tabatha Coffey: [Laughs] I guess I don’t get tired of it, but that doesn’t mean that I like it. I have my own definition for “bitch,” because I just think people don’t know what else to call a strong female. So when people call me a bitch, I think of my own definition: It doesn’t mean that I’m being catty and mean, it just means I’m being strong and honest.
You throw out the b word and much worse, which often gets you bleeped more than the salon staffers. Have you ever thought of getting one of those swear jars where you have to put a quarter in every time you curse?
No, but that’s a really good idea. I do swear in my everyday life. When I get frustrated with the people I’m dealing with, that’s when those words start to fly.
In my favorite episode this season you visited Chicago Male, a men-only salon in Chicago’s Boystown neighborhood, and called the staff “gay deer in headlights.”
Well, they were! [Laughs] But I feel I sucked the gay out of them when I went in there.
You obviously have to deal with a lot of gay male stylists. Are they all whiny divas like your show suggests?
No, I can’t say they all are, because I’ve worked with many that are not, but there are a lot of prima donnas out there for sure.
Why do you think gay men are so visible in the hair industry?
Because there is an artistic flair to it. If you have creativity, going into something like graphic design or interior design might not be for you if you don’t have that natural ability, but learning how to do hair is always great. Let’s face it: What gay man doesn’t love to dress up a woman or make her look pretty?
From what I’ve gathered from various lesbian websites, the ladies are happy you’re helping quash the stereotype that all lesbians wear flannel and rock mullets. Are you proud to show America that lesbians do have style?
I am, actually, so I embrace that support. I once had someone tell me that they didn’t know I was a lesbian because I was so fashionable.
While watching the Chicago Male episode with a large group of gay guys, I was surprised at how many of them didn’t know you were a lesbian either. At one point in the episode you talked about being a part of the gay community, which was the first time I could remember you addressing your sexuality on the show.
I have never, ever hidden my sexuality, because to me being a lesbian is like having blue eyes. I just don’t feel like talking about my personal life is appropriate on my show, because I’m there to help other people’s businesses. So it was probably the first time I addressed it only because the situation had come up where the owner, Scott, kept talking about his community and having a salon in Boystown. He was negating my community, which is the lesbian community, and he was also negating females in general, so it was a double whammy to me. I was really pissed off at him.
Your sexuality was never addressed on Shear Genius, yet you were out in the press while promoting the show. Were those conscious decisions on your part?
I always live truthfully. No, it didn’t come up on Shear Genius because it doesn’t pertain to the business or competitive situation. I didn’t need to walk around the competition every two seconds, going, “Look at me! I’m a lesbian!” And I never made a conscious decision to come out to the press because that’s just who I am. If people asked me a question, I’d just try to answer it honestly and to the best of my ability.