Ever since Julia Roberts’ breakout role as a vivacious redhead in Pretty Women, people have been bringing pictures of the actress to her longtime hairstylist, Serge Normant, to get the same treatment. From rich auburn updos to buttery blonde waves, Normant has been there through it all — and then some. Here, he opens up to Refinery29 about how his styling career took off, his one secret to great hair, and what Julia Roberts is really like to work with. The following interview was told to Megan Decker and edited for length and clarity.
It All Started In Paris
My career as a stylist began in France, where I was fortunate enough to work with Bruno Pittini. When I was hired to work in his salons, that was it for me; I was in Paris, the fashion capital of the world, and working with hair, which was always my dream. While I was there, I [did] a photoshoot for French Elle. The photos were at the back of the book and it wasn’t my best work, but that was the first time I was truly part of a creative process and it changed the way I looked at hair forever.
Then in ’89, I moved from Paris to New York, and I actually lived with [makeup artist] Laura Mercier. She introduced me to the editorial fashion and beauty world in America. I say that my big break, of sorts, came about because of the doors she opened for me in the industry. Through her, I met Steven Meisel, and worked with him on the Dolce & Gabbana campaign in ’91, and then in photo spreads in Italian Vogue and Glamour.
I was asked to work on a photoshoot for Vanity Fair with Herb Ritts, the iconic fashion photographer, and Julia Roberts was the cover star. At the time, she was working on The Pelican Brief, and Herb wanted to shoot her in Louisiana at this huge Victorian mansion. She was in the middle of shooting the movie, so she had been up all night filming, and we hit it off immediately. I wan’t expecting it at all, but our energies were so in sync.
I remember that Vanity Fair shoot like it was yesterday. We were at this big, old house in Louisiana; it was a little run-down and abandoned, but the property was exquisite. Julia arrived and was so gorgeous, even though she hadn’t slept, with this incredible mane of hair. I remember Julia’s big fluffy dress, her sprawled across the grass in the front yard, with this intricate updo. I’ve been working with Julia ever since that day.
The Julia Effect
There’s no doubt that Julia’s hair is iconic. After her breakout role in Pretty Woman in the early ’90s, everyone wanted that curly, wavy red hair — it was emblematic of the decade. So, of course, when I started working with her regularly, my other clients asked me to give them “Julia Roberts” hair. She’s been a brunette, a redhead, a blonde, and has had long hair and short cuts — she’s not afraid to experiment. Her hairstyle has to be something that’s easy and effortless, not contrived.
A post shared by Serge Normant (@sergenormant) on May 17, 2018 at 11:21am PDT
The magic of Julia’s hair is that people catch a feeling from it. They look at a picture of her — whether it’s bright blonde and sleek or messy and held up with a claw clip — and there’s something that people identify with. It’s her glow, and it’s infectious. You might love her blonde and think that the color is amazing, but then the next day she could be back to red and you forget about the blonde. She’s magical that way.
It’s All In The Prep
I always say that good hair starts with a good haircut. You need a style that suits you and works with your natural texture. You have to have a good rapport with your stylist, because they’re the expert and can help you find the right products for your hair cut and texture. Always bring photos to your stylist, because it will give them a vision of what you’re looking for. Even if they can’t achieve the exact look on your hair, a photo can convey a feeling and that feeling is so important.
A post shared by Serge Normant (@sergenormant) on Sep 7, 2018 at 9:44am PDT
For Julia’s hair, and on almost all of my clients, I’ll use my hair repair treatment. I think of hair treatments like moisturizer for the skin: They help your hair regain any lost elasticity and rehab any dryness. Then, there’s the volumizing mousse, which doesn’t dry hard so you can use it on hair that you’re air drying or blow drying to elevate the volume. I always use the spray from my Dream Big line — it gives your hair a little extra texture and hold. Then, I finish with either a dry oil for some extra shine or some hairspray. I always advise not to use too many products, and to layer them very lightly. It’s really easy to have great hair — it’s all about how you wear it.
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