Celebrity hairstylist Ted Gibson doesn’t get nervous when he greets the famous faces at his Zen-like New York City salon. The Texas native says he’s long past developing jitters, as he regularly coifs the manes of Angelina Jolie, Anne Hathaway, Ashley Greene, and Gabrielle Union, among other stars. That may all change this coming week, when Gibson adds one more famous name to his already crowded roster of fabulous tresses: Gabrielle Douglas.
Douglas made history during the London Olympics by becoming only the third U.S. athlete and the first African-American to win the all-around title in gymnastics. The 16-year-old also helped the U.S. team win gold in women’s gymnastics. But as Douglas was busy rewriting the sports history books, others were taking her to task via Twitter and Facebook over the state of her hair.
Douglas’s hairdo—a ponytail made with human hair, plus her own hair securely slicked down with heavy gel to keep in it place while she performs—became a topic of international conversation as people, mostly women, began attacking the teenager for hair they felt was unbecoming of an Olympic champion. Gibson says he was completely floored by the criticism of Douglas’s appearance and stunned by the mean-spirited nature of the comments, directed as they were at a teenager.
“I couldn’t believe it and still can’t,’’ says Gibson. “You have this young girl doing amazing things, and the conversation becomes about her hair? It was ridiculous and shameful.”
Gibson also notes that the majority of the women lashing out at Douglas and her hair were African-Americans, many of whom often have a love-hate relationship with their locks.
“Women of color spend millions and millions of dollars on their hair to look good, so we know how seriously we take the issue of hair,” he says. “Oprah Winfrey told me once when I was on her show that ‘our hair is our crowning glory.’ I have to say I agree with Oprah.”
Clearly so do Douglas and her team of agents and managers, who reached out to Gibson last week with the hope of using his high-profile hair expertise to squash talk about the petite dynamo’s mane once and for all. Gibson, who charges $950 for a cut and style in his salon, says that while he rarely has the chance to work with teenagers—though he has done Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt’s 7-year-old daughter Zahara’s hair in the past—Douglas’s position as an international sports hero and role model makes her particularly enticing to style.
“It’s tricky because Gabby is 16 and I don’t want to do anything to make her look 25 years old,’’ says Gibson. “Together with her vision, I hope we can create something that’s easy and looks great no matter what she’s doing or where she is. I hope to create something that makes her feel good about herself as well. That’s so important and a big part of what I do for all the women I work with.”
“I believe all that talk had to take a toll on her. How could it not? You’ve worked so hard for something and then people tear you apart for little or nothing.”
Douglas faired poorly in her later performances at the Olympics and even fell during her balance-beam routine before the games ended. Gibson says he believes the teenager was completely overwhelmed by the negative press about her appearance and, as a result, lost the concentration she needed to win again.
“I believe all that talk had to take a toll on her,’’ he says. “How could it not? You’ve worked so hard for something and then people tear you apart for little or nothing. My job in working with all women from all walks of life is to not only to give them this amazing look but to also work with them to feel good about being in their own skin. Women know coming to me is a soothing and nurturing experience that compliments the styles I give them. It’s about the hair, and then it’s about much more.”
Gabby Douglas and Michelle Obama on "The Tonight Show"
Gibson’s pricey signature service offers clients like Jolie and Union a relaxing scalp and hand massage as well as upbeat conversation and the perk celebrities often value most: privacy. His salon also provides his own hair-care line and services by his trained staff for similar looks at much lower prices. But it is for Gibson’s talented hands that stars flock to his Flatiron district salon in New York and now at the W hotel in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Gibson is known for his smooth, glossy, and easy cuts, and his work often appears in Vanity Fair, Vogue, Marie Claire, and W, as well as the TLC makeover show What Not to Wear.
“It’s exciting to work with the young starlets like Ashley Greene, who is doing so many things, but I also love my longtime clients like Angelina Jolie, too. I met her on a day where she was shooting covers for both Marie Claire and Cosmopolitan more than five years ago,’’ Gibson recalls. “It was a crazy day with a lot going on, but we bonded quickly and got it all done. She’s such a generous spirit and kind person. She was exactly what and who I thought she’d be.”
Gibson has the same high hopes of a developing a strong connection with and providing spectacular results for Gabby Douglas as she continues her whirlwind tour of popular television talk shows and commercial endorsements. On Monday night, the two-time gold-medal winner appeared on The Tonight Show with first lady Michelle Obama. She’ll appear on Oprah Winfrey’s Next Chapter on Aug. 26.
“I’m excited because she’s so young and I have a chance for input in the brand of Gabby,’’ says Gibson. “There are so many opportunities for someone like her to shine, and I get to be part of that on the ground floor. It’s pretty cool.’’