D.C. Hairstylists Luigi Parasmo And Javier Calvo Discuss The Politics of Love And Hair
BY Daniel Reynolds
December 04 2012 5:00 AM ET
Have you ever “lobbied” or made your political interests known, while a politician is in your chair?
Luigi: I’ve been in the beauty business long enough to know that you should respect every client’s religion, and politics should never be brought up. I never talk about my political view with a client unless I know that person extremely well, and even then, I whisper. I don’t want to offend anyone, and here in D.C. you have to be very careful.
How did each of you become hairstylists? What drew you to the profession?
Luigi: I knew I loved hair as a young child. At age 8, I would play with my friends’ hair. At just 14, I was enrolled in beauty school and working every day. I knew it was something I wanted to do and that’s how I discovered my passion for hair.
Javier: I’ve been in the hair industry for 43 years, and I started at the age of 14 at a family friend’s salon in Madrid. I discovered the passion for hair back then and continued working. I’ve always loved the challenge and meeting different people from all walks of life.
Tell us how you met and came to date. Was it instant chemistry? Or was there a courtship?
Luigi: We met 20 years ago on my first day working at the famous Watergate hotel’s hair salon, where Javier worked as well. He came to the salon on his day off, and I was instantly attracted. I asked him to show me a few D.C. gay venues around the city, and from that weekend on, it was instant chemistry. I then moved from Alexandria, Va. into his apartment building in D.C.. He had his own place and I had mine, but I used to spend more time at his apartment. Six months after moving, we thought it’d make sense to just live together. We’ve been together since then.
Some of our readers might be surprised to learn that Watergate has a hair salon. What was it like working in the most politically scandalous building in D.C.?
Luigi: The Watergate Salon opened in 1969 and was actually one of the very first hair salons in D.C.. Most of D.C.’s top hairstylists started there. The ambiance was a little pretentious and traditional. Since the salon catered to older and rich clientele, hairstyles were extremely old fashioned. I felt like a fish out of the water, having worked in Rome and Milan, the European capitals of fashion. Javier and I were able to build our own clientele, different from the usual customer.
You’ve been together, and worked together, for 20 years. Are there any hazards to mixing love and hair?
Luigi: Mixing love and hair is not an easy thing to do. I remember one time, we went home from work and had a huge fight (the only fight in 20 years believe it or not) over someone at work. We both realized that it wasn’t worth taking work back home and we needed to draw a line. Our agreement was and has been ever since: we have two lives, a working one and a personal one. Let’s not mix them together. We have been very successful in doing so.
Does it get competitive?
Luigi: There’s absolutely no competition between us as we’ve been each other’s biggest supporters.
How do you keep the passion alive?
Luigi: He’s always been there for me, and I for him. There’s nothing we wouldn’t do for each other. I guess what I mean to say is, anyone can keep the passion alive if they wake up every day and see the person they truly love next to them. Relationships are not easy, you must make it happen, negotiate and compromise every day to keep it alive. If someone is still able to give you butterflies in your stomach and make you laugh out loud after 20 years together, I guess we’ve found passion. Also, we’ve always been “relationship” kind-of-guys, so being in a relationship and working at it daily feels comfy.
Where do you live? Where are some good date spots in D.C.?
Luigi: We live in Arlington, Va. We like to explore Washington without necessarily thinking of any one place as a date spot. We usually dine at restaurants in Dupont Circle and Logan Circle. Some of our favorite spots include American restaurant Peacock Cafe, French restaurant Café Bonaparte, Spanish eatery Bodega, Middle Eastern restaurant Neyla and Italian restaurant Il Canale. We also like to stay in the historic and trendy Georgetown neighborhood, where our salon is located.
Tell us about the new salon. Is this your first time as a salon owner? What are some of the difficulties and surprises you’ve encountered in starting a new business together?
Luigi: Having my own salon was always my biggest dream. Because Javier has been in my life all these years, I wanted him to be part of it too as my business partner. After being in this business for 30 years, I just wanted to have my own signature style. I love working for myself and my new employees, who I call family. Witnessing a lack in customer service, poorly run establishments and unprofessional behavior were some of the many reasons why I wanted to go out on my own. I absolutely love having my own salon. The only difficulties we encountered were the construction and building surprises along the way. Gutting the space and watching it develop was very challenging.
Are you fans of the reality television show Tabitha’s Salon Takeover?
We adore Tabitha!
Did you learn anything from the show?
Luigi: I’m confident [that] everything the show teaches, I already know. It’s always good to have a reminder though.
Do you have any advice for people starting their own hair salons?
Luigi: When starting a business, you have to put together essential ingredients. These ingredients include professionalism, customer service, a 100% commitment to your clients, your employees and your business, and absolute dedication to performance. It’s not easy. You have to really believe in yourself and your craft, and you must be willing to make sacrifices.