An actress may have a thousand hairstyles over the years. Julia Roberts explains why hairstylist Serge Normant is her one and only.
I vividly remember the first time I met Serge Normant. It was 13 years ago. I was shooting The Pelican Brief in Louisiana, and I had a photo shoot with Herb Ritts, which was this big exciting deal. Herb brought Serge to do my hair and François Nars to do my makeup. It was so chic having these two Frenchmen getting me ready. But I was completely exhausted because I had been shooting all night. So I climbed into Serge’s chair, and you know how relaxing it is to have someone play with your hair? Well, I promptly fell asleep. Serge gently moved my head around and did my hair while I slept the whole time.
Then he woke me up and he said, “OK, bébé, you are done” in his French accent, and it just made my day. It’s a dream to go to sleep looking wretched and wake up looking beautiful. And that’s how I came to call in love with him.
I am not particularly fussy with my hair. Pre-Serge, I had a tendency to chop it all off from time to time. My hair is so curly, and when it’s short it has its own life force. But Serge is very protective of my hair—more protective than I am, I think. I’m kind of always wanting to cut it more and try more things, but he’ll say, “Oh, bébé, I don’t know about that.” One of the few times he cut it short—for The Mexican—I loved it. It was this cute little cut the color of cayenne pepper. It was so much fun.
We’ve worked together for so long, he understands me—what works on me and how much I’ll tolerate. I like it when my hair hangs straight at the sides of my face for whatever weird reason. By now, he doesn’t bother trying to pull those side pieces back anymore. Generally, I like simple. In 1998, Serge did my hair for the People’s Choice Awards. My hair was blonde at the time, and he put it up in this teased ponytail and made it look like this ’60s bouffant thing. It was so ladylike and yet incredibly simple and beautiful. I felt very princess-ly that evening.
It doesn’t always work so smoothly. There was one time before the premiere of America’s Sweethearts…. I will never forget this. I was already running late, and I do not like to be tardy. I was literally walking out the door, and Serge says, “Bébé I am so sorry, but you have to sit down. Zis is all wrong, wrong, wrong.” I thought he was going to be sick. He’d never done this before, so I had to take it very seriously. He sat me down and undid the tight chignon he had spent 45 minutes doing. We ended up with the same hairdo, essentially, but looser and more natural. It took a couple of minutes, and I loved it.
There are disasters. The other day, I dyed my hair at home. Then I went to Serge for a haircut and asked him, “Well, how’s my color?” And he said, “I was just going to tell you; it’s purple.” It was hilarious. I don’t know what went wrong. My hair was so purple, it was the color of a sweater. It was like I was a member of a girl band. He fixed it and made it brown with just a little bit of purple in it.
This probably sounds weird, but I can really separate myself from what Serge does, and I can say, “Wow, that’s a really great hairdo.” For instance, I recently did a video for Dave Matthews, and I thought that what Serge and Genevieve, the makeup artist, did was exquisite. My hair was in twists, sort of like clean dreads. My makeup was sparkly and clean, and the lighting was really beautiful in the video.
One of the tricks I’ve learned over the years is that I can milk a great style to the last possible second. Honestly, after he does my hair, I won’t do anything to it for—wait for it—two weeks. My hair doesn’t get greasy very fast, so I can go a good ten days without washing it. And watching him work his magic after all these years, I’ve gotten pretty good at a few things myself. I’m not half bad with hairpins now, but, of course, I can’t recreate The Serge. He’s a master.
When I was pregnant I let my hair go—I did nothing to it. And after having the babies, it fell out, which was incredibly weird. And with Serge so busy these days, and me not going to New York as much as I used to, there are times I have to go to the beauty shop in the town where I live and get a trim. But he can always tell. He understands that I have to cheat from time to time, but he’s sweet about it. He’ll just say, “I know, bébé. I can see someone else was here.”
The thing about Serge is that of course he does great hair, but he’s become more than a friend— he’s become part of my family. We’ve grown to know each other and trust each other over the years.
I think this is partly to do with the fact that I suffer from nerves horribly. I’m always really nervous before I go on David Letterman or to the Oscars or any big event. It doesn’t matter how pretty my hair looks. In those moments, I want to be with people who are kind and fun and easy and relaxing. And Serge is all those things.
I love being with him because he is a truly beautiful human being. He’s a gift in my life. I almost wish he would stop doing hair so we could spend more time together. He knows what I need and finds a way to do it. For instance, he’s not a colorist, but in a pinch he’ll color my hair. And it might not be absolutely perfect, but it’s better than being purple.
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Signature Hair: Serge Normant
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