MandyZelinka // A top hairstylist’s lifestyle and travel blog.

The Oregonian

The Oregonian Staff
December 13, 2008

Mandy Zelinka is hard at play.”When I first met my stepson, he laughed and said, ‘You play with hair for a living,’ ” the Portland hairstylist says. “I thought, yeah, I guess I do.”On a recent Sunday at her Pearl District salon, Salon 77, Zelinka glams up two longtime clients to demonstrate that dramatic looks don’t necessarily require permanent commitment. Jennifer Hall, a singer, likes to change her stage look and Megan Coughlin, a student, wants to dress up her style for holiday events. Zelinka uses clip-on hairpieces and stitch-styling techniques for temporary allure.”I kind of grew up in salons,” Zelinka says. Her mother was a hairdresser and her best friend’s mother owned a salon. “I was the kid who cut off all her Barbie’s hair.”Many of Zelinka’s first customers are still with her 10 years later. Some trust her to make decisions about what they need, while others come with specific directions. And when a painfully predictable client suddenly insists on a completely different look, Zelinka has learned to approach with caution.”People usually take out issues on their hair,” she says.Zelinka stays up on the latest techniques but has grown weary of the often-gimmicky demonstrations at hair shows, such as the time a stylist stuck wires all over a model’s head and then dangled baby shoes from her hair.”I like all that art for your head,” she says, “but I love that we’re coming back to hairdressing.”At Salon 77, Zelinka has 13 stylists, two aestheticians who lease space and two people booking appointments. She also writes a regular column that appears in hair-trade publications.Here’s a look at those two recent makeovers.* Not to gossip, but Jennifer Hall is two-faced. By day she presents a corporate facade and businesslike smile; come night, she’s a sultry siren. Such splits call for a good therapist. Or a great hairstylist. Hall opted for Zelinka.”I’m trying to grow my hair out,” Hall says. “Mandy’s showing me how to use extensions for the in-between stage.”As the lead vocalist for Jenn and Tonic, Hall often performs wearing vintage cocktail dresses and evening gowns to suit the smoky jazz melodies she favors, but her bob wasn’t cutting it.Zelinka dyes Hall’s hair a rich, dark brown and blows it dry. She pulls out a hairpiece from the Jessica Simpson collection that looks something like a little hairy hula skirt laid flat. In the 1960s, women who wanted longer hair instantly got falls that sat atop the head like a wig; today’s extensions clip beneath the hair for a more natural look.”But,” Zelinka cautions, “it will look like a mullet unless you take it to your hairstylist and have them add layers.”She forms a top knot with about one-quarter of Hall’s hair at the crown. Maybe three inches below that, Zelinka wraps rubber bands around a half-dozen small shanks of hair for pigtails, on which she secures the artificial hair. The extensions reach below Hall’s shoulder blades.Once they’re in place, Zelinka snips dozens of layers into them, shortening them several inches. Hall’s bob is transformed beyond recognition.”I just sexified you!” Zelinka declares. “Mee-ow!”Hall laughs.”As a performer, I can show up for a gig as whatever mood,” she says. “I get to be a different version of myself.”*


Megan Coughlin, 19, has put her head in Zelinka’s care for 10 years.”My older sister was coming to her and then we brought in the whole family and everyone we knew,” Coughlin says. “Cousins, friends, neighbors.”Schools have room mothers. Scouts have den mothers. “She’s our hair mother,” Coughlin jokes.On this day, the Oregon State University sophomore wants to keep her hair long. So Zelinka just trims it and demonstrates how to curl the ends and pull it up for special occasions using a technique she learned from Kevin Murphy, an Australian stylist whose natural hair-care products she favors.She holds up a dull, thick, plastic darning needle and says, “It’s from the sewing shop.” She threads it with fishing line.She pulls Coughlin’s hair into a high ponytail and, within minutes, creates a tousled French roll, loosely twisting and looping bits of hair and stitching them back to the ponytail.The style is great for brides or special nights out “because you just do this,” Zelinka says, pulling the end of the thread. In one swift move, Coughlin’s hair tumbles down, like in those old movies with the prim secretary-cum-femme fatale. Zelinka also pulls Coughlin’s hair into a low ponytail at the nape of her neck and twists, loops and stitches it into a mussy chignon. She makes it look easy; she says anyone can achieve a similar look at home with friends and even use colored thread for show.* Makeup artist Madeline Roosevelt creates soft looks for Coughlin and Hall with an airbrush application of mineral makeup, further blending it with a sponge applicator.”It’s quick and flawless,” she says, “and stays on for eight to 10 hours.”A freelancer, Roosevelt works on a variety of jobs, including bridal shoots for Jasmine Photography in Portland, Shape and More magazines and MTV’s total makeover show, “Made.” Her line of custom-blend cosmetics, Madi Cosmetics, will be available next month at her studio, 2505 S.E. 11th Ave., #268, Portland, and online at also applies false lashes to Hall and Coughlin, in small clusters on the outer edge of the eye for a natural look. She uses pencil liner softened with a brush to avoid a harsh line.”The biggest mistake people make,” she says, “is not matching foundation to their skin tone.”If you don’t have an eye for color, rely on someone who does and “always,” she says, “check it in natural light.”Vivian McInerny: 503-294-4076;

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