Name: Richie Gonzalez
City: Norwalk, CT
Salon: Hair Lab Salon
234 East Avenue, Norwalk, CT 06855
THREE WORDS TO DESCRIBE RICHIE: Calm, Creative, Ambitious
Life hasn’t always been easy for Richie! He and his brothers were raised by a single mother who worked two jobs to provide for them. Richie and his brothers were on their own most of the time, which led him to get into trouble quite often. When he was 11 years old, his mother made him work with her. She worked at a high-end salon in Stamford. Richie would clean and sweep the floors as a punishment. He spent most of his days at this luxurious salon while going home to a neighborhood that didn’t have much. Riche felt like he was living two different lives most days. After a while of continuing to spend time at the salon, the owner became fond of him and eventually offered him a job.
Richie spent the next nine years sweeping, shampooing, and finally assisting. As time went by, he became sick of his career and ventured out to other opportunities leaving the salon behind. Fast forward a few years when Richie turned 19, was living on his own, waiting tables and working for a temp agency. Out of the blue, he received a phone call from a man he worked alongside at the salon. The man came to this country with nothing and had worked his way up to opening his salon. He wanted Richie to go to work for him as a receptionist and assistant. Richie agreed, and little did he know his life would soon change. His boss taught him everything he knows now about how to operate a salon. His boss came to him one day and asked, “What do you want to do with your life? Have you considred doing hair?” Richie laughed and replied, “me, do hair, no way.” Little by little, Richie worked his way through blow drys, haircuts, and styles. His boss helped him navigate haircutting techniques and how to properly blowdry hair. Six months later, he enrolled in cosmetology school.
Eventually, he found his way to another salon, which Allure magazine had listed as the country’s top 25 salons. It was there that he learned everything. He worked his way up from assisting to being a stylist and eventually being offered his first educational position as a teacher after hours every Wednesday night at the salon. It came as a surprise because he had significantly struggled in learning to cut hair. For Richie, cutting hair wasn’t easy, and he now had to teach someone? His boss saw something in him at the time. He was still young, had recently finished hairdressing school, and had fun and partied a lot. His boss asked him one day if he wanted this? Richie asked him if he believed he could be a successful hairdresser. Richie will never forget his face when his boss said, “I think you can be great, but I think you suck because you want to suck.” It was that moment that his boss lit a fire in him. Richie got his act together; He showed up to work early every day to practice cutting. He spent his days off in the salon, cutting and watching, absorbing. The day his boss asked him if he wanted to teach was shocking. Richie has since had the pleasures of training with Wella, Bumble and bumble, and Oribe. He even learned from Eiji Yamen. Eiji taught Richie dry cutting, which opened up a whole new door.
“I bought my very first dry cutting Mamba shear by Hatori Hanzo, and then the rest has been me in the making. I’ve loved watching this industry evolve and change. I remember around 1996 that everything was about having the best brands, the best watches, and flashiest shoes, but it all had to be black and white and uniform. Piercings had to be out, and tattoos had to be covered. Now it’s completely changed. It’s like the more trendy, the better. Self-expression is in, Tattoos, clothing of any color, and your hair no matter what color, shape, cut, or style! It’s incredible to see hairdressers branching out and wanting to learn how to barber and watch barbers evolve and want to learn how to become more of a cosmetologist. Today, not only am I the proud owner of the Hair Lab Salon, but I am also an international educator for babylisspro USA. I love the hair industry, and I love cutting hair. I am so grateful to be where I am and couldn’t imagine doing anything other than hair.” -Richie Gonzalez
Q & A With Richie
Who inspires you?
My children inspire me everyday, When there are moments I feel like giving up or when times get tough (we all know the stress and loss 2020 has brought to many of us) I think of my children and know I want to be the best I can so they can grow to be proud of me.
Favorite platform hairstylist?
One thing people wouldn’t guess about you?
I love late 60s to 90s rock music
If someone wrote a biography about you, what do you think the title should be?
The title would be from the streets to the stage
Who would you most like to share a cup of coffee or tea with? Alive or dead.
I wish I could share some coffee with Vidal Sasson, I always wanted to meet him.
The most exciting thing you’ve ever done?
I got to cut hair in front of 2000 people in bolivia at a hair show had the whole stage for 3 days straight i did 14 models each day