BY SHEILA POOLE
You may not know Neal Farinah’s name, but you know the hair.
Mary J. Blige.
Florence and the Machine.
He’s had his hands in the manes of some of music and fashion’s biggest celebrities.
The New York-based stylist will be in Atlanta this weekend for the 69th annual Bronner Bros. International Beauty Show, which will be held at the Georgia World Congress Center through Monday. The annual trade show, is expected to bring more than 35,000 professional stylists and beauty industry professionals to town for educational seminars and demonstrations. The show is open to licensed beauty industry professionals .
Farinah will talk about beauty trends during 2016 Trend Presentation in Atlanta. Sharing the stage will be Farinah, Sam Fine (Tyra Banks, Patti LaBelle, Iman), Takisha Sturdivant-Drew (Kerry Washington and Sanaa Lathan), Andre Walker (Oprah and Halle Berry) and Johnny Wright (First Lady Michelle Obama).
It’s hard to catch the jet-setting Farinah in one place for a telephone interview. One minute he’s in New York. Then he gets a last-minute call that he’s needed in Los Angeles for the Grammy awards.
He’s credited with creating some of Beyoncé’s most famous looks inlcuding the bed head, the beach wave and the long braids she sports in her latest video, “Formation .”
“I’ve done Beyoncé’s hair for nine years and I’ve never done a lot of press on it,” he said. “”I’ve never been into the fame and spotlight, I just wanted to work and keep inspiring people.”
He said Beyoncé and her mother, Tina Knowles Lawson, were thrilled when he told them he was coming to the Bronner show and would be honored as a trendsetter.
So, we had a few questions about his most famous clients.
How does he get Beyoncé’s hair to blow when it seems there’s no fan around. Could mini-fans be hidden in her long tresses or shoulder pads?
“It’s not about a fan blowing her hair,” he said. “If you walk down the street and you have a hairstyle that uses too much product the hair will be confined. It’ll just sit there. I try as a stylist not to use too much confining products because I want the hair to be free. On stage, there are fans all around.”
How involved is she in how her hair looks. Well, of course there are stylists who help determine the look on , say , a video, but the Queen Bey knows what she does and doesn’t like.
“I educate her, “he said. “I talk to her about what will look good and what will be more realistic for the shoot. Every shoot has a director and a creative team, but Beyonce is very involved in her everyday look and in everything she does. One of the things I love about her is she takes us out of our comfort zone. Over nine years, she’s always challenged me to always do something different and step out of the box.”
“When we’re not working, we sit around and talk together, like friends,” he said.
Solange, he said, is very fashionable and a big trendsetter. She likes her natural texture hair, so he might double twist it or enhance the waves with rods.
“They’re two different people all together,” he said of the famous sisters.
Farinah, who said he’s in his 40s, came to the U.S. 25 years ago from his native Trinidad and Tobago. He worked in salons around the city and began building a reputation for himself as a creative stylist who does it all - cut, color and styles.
“I wanted to do everything,” he said. “I didn’t want to feel like I was in a box.”
Is there anyone’s hair he’s dying to get his hands in?
“I just love doing hair,” he said. “I love working with the every day woman. When I go back to my salon, I work with the most amazing clients who have been with me for 15 or 18 years. I want to stay humble.”
These days, Farinah is working on expanding his brand.
He wants to launch a line of products and tools and perhaps education seminars.
Farinah also decided to share a few trends,
He loves bobs.
He expects to see more color. “I love playing around with color. We’ll see more earthy tones.”
He also loves the natural looks and expects to see more people play and embrace their natural hair.
“I love long hair, medium-length hair and I love short hair,” he said. “If a weave makes a woman feel beautiful - or a wig - whatever makes you beautiful, I want you to embrace that.”
His one pet peeve is the explosion of “how-to” videos on places like YouTube.
“Stop posting how to color or how to install a weave on social media without putting equal attention on the damages that can occur,” he warns . “ It can cause a lot of destruction if it’s not done right. “