I Got My Hair Styled Like an Olympic Athlete in Rio

After 20 hours of international travel, I was happy to head to the P&G Family Home Salon in Rio de Janeiro for a refreshing makeover — a perfect way to make my Olympic debut in this beautiful Brazilian city. The lush, laid-back salon is set up in the chic beachfront Hotel Royal Tulip Rio São Conrado, where Olympians and family members can visit to get a slew of complimentary beauty services ranging from hair, makeup, and manicures to fresh cuts and shaves. Athletes from every country can find an exclusive extension of this pop-up spa called the P&G Olympic Village Salon — a cool new amenity added at the 2012 London Games — in the Olympic Village, not far from the McDonald’s.

I’m no Olympian, so instead I climb into the styling chair at the Family Home Salon, where I am joined by world-class athletes and their moms quietly getting dolled up without interruption from the press or fans. When I arrived on Aug. 14, both salons had already performed some 1,000 treatments to athletes and 100 to mothers, including the most decorated female track star, Allyson Felix, and her mom, Marlean.

Miami-based celebrity stylist Gabriel Samra created six popular hairstyles for the salons: Going for the Gold cascade waves, A Perfect Ten updo, Braided Topknot, Braided Fishtail, and Beach Waves. I’m told Going for the Gold, which includes a braided crown and cascading curls, is one of the most popular services. I’m curious to see if I can pull it off with my unwashed airplane hair. Lead stylist Betsy Pourvakil, who hails from Ohio, assures me that this look works well on all types of hair, including superfine, day-old tresses like mine.


U.S. basketball player Elena Delle Donne sporting her Olympic ’do. (Photo: P&G)

“A lot of the women have really liked this look because it feels glamorous. It makes them feel pretty and feminine. I’ve even had athletes who don’t speak English say words like ‘goddessa’ as a way to express how good they feel afterward,” says Pourvakil, who whips out her iPhone to show me a recent photo of basketball star Elena Delle Donne (pictured above) rocking the waterfall waves. Feeling the opposite of pretty after traveling from Spain, where I was visiting family, and taking trains, buses, and taxis to get around Rio, I can definitely use some primping and pampering. Apparently, a lot of athletes can relate.

“My experience with each of the athletes when they come in … you know, they’ve trained really hard and a lot of them have been away from home for a long time. They seem to really just let loose. They say things like, 'It feels so good to let someone just pamper me.’ And they like to look good even when they are training,” Pourvakil says.

As Pourvakil spritzes my locks with Pantene Smooth Heat Protecting Spray and applies Pantene Smooth Frizz Fixing Serum (necessary for the humidity down here), she begins sharing a little about what the salons mean to the athletes. She cites how one athlete in particular remarked how lovely it felt to have someone touch her. When you’re working as hard as these folks to reach the highest level of physical excellence, things like a kind human caress can fall to the wayside.

Pourvakil styles my hair so effortlessly and fast that she has plenty of time to move onto my face (a pleasant surprise!). She goes for the Brazilian Summer look — a service also offered at the salons — using CoverGirl Clean Matte Liquid Foundation 560, TruBlend Bronzer, TruBlend Blush, and Eye Shadow Quads to even my skin tone and make me look more awake.


Red, white, and blue nail art that’s Olympics-inspired. (Photo: Cristina Goyanes)

To complete my makeover, I get an impromptu Proudly Patriotic manicure — another popular service at the salons — featuring red, white, and blue stripes using CoverGirl’s Outlast Stay Brilliant Nail Gloss collection.

I walk out of the Family Home Salon maybe an hour and a half later feeling like a new woman who’s ready to tackle her first-ever Olympic Games. If you’re curious to try this superfun hairstyle, follow Pourvakil’s three-step instructions below to get the Going for the Gold look.

Step 1: Separate hair into sections.

Start on the side with the most hair. Example: If your part is on the left, you want to start on the right. You can part it in the middle, but it looks better if you do it slightly off center. Separate three sections of hair, leaving a few loose pieces in the front to frame your face. (Personally, I opted against the wispy strands, since Rio’s humidity and heat would have matted them down eventually.)


Braided crown and cascading waves make up this hot hairdo. (Photo: Cristina Goyanes)

Step 2: Braid the crown of the head.

Bring the top section over the middle section, then bring the bottom section over the middle section and drop out the top section. Pick up from behind the part that you dropped out, separate it, and bring it back over the top. Each time you grab a section from the top, add hair to it, take it over the middle, and drop it out. Continue this process along your crown. You can take it all the way around if you have a lot of hair. For finer hair, end it just a little past the center to add volume to the cascading curls to come. Secure the braid with a hair elastic and a bobby pin to hold it down to your head. Cover the band with a piece of hair. Tip: Lightly pull at sections of the braid to loosen it for a more casual look.


Sporting my Going for the Gold hairstyle. (Photo: Cristina Goyanes)

Step 3: Curl locks into loose waves.

Take the pieces that drop off from the braid and wrap them around the curling iron or wand right at the base. This will help separate each curl to create more definition so you can really see the cascade. Then you can do soft waves on the rest of your hair, below the braid. The thicker the hair, the more obvious the cascade. With thinner hair, you have to be a little more dramatic with the curls so they show up. Set the look with Pantene Airspray Flexible Hold Hairspray.

Have a beauty story you’d like to share with us? Email YStyleBeauty@yahoo.com.