Roswell, N.M. The site of the supposed 1947 UFO crash. It is also the town where creative colorist Melanie Efird set out to blossom into the artist she's become today.
Recalling the first time she experimented with hair color, Efird said she just "took off with it."
"When I was around 12 or 13, I wanted green hair cause I had seen a girl in a Delia's catalog who had her hair bleached out and the front of it was green," she laughed. "I didn't know how to dye my hair green so I used food coloring and Roswell's the desert so it'd get hot and I'd sweat and have green melting down my face because I didn't really know what I was doing."
Fast forward a few years later, she's in her kitchen with a pair of clippers.
"One of my friends wanted a mohawk and we just took a pair of awful dog grooming clippers," she said. "And I shaved him a mohawk in my kitchen. It was the first time I cut hair and I was like 'Oh yeah, looks great!' It probably looked horrible, but there's a first time for everything."
Continuing with helping friends who had dreadful hair experiences, she began the path to an art degree and soon after left the rhythm of a four-year college. With support from her mother who also once had dreamed of going into the field, she began beauty school.
"So I went into beauty school with a poorly dyed black mohawk and what was probably leftover eyeliner. I didn't know what I was getting myself into. I walk in and (there were) all these girls. I grew up in Roswell, and it was predominantly Hispanic. So we had a lot of 'Chola' girls and they had cool eyebrows and cool hair. And we had a whole lot of these 'Glamazon' type girls and I was like, 'Oh God, where am I going to fit in with this? How do I fit into this mold?' And I didn't, which was dope, because people just kind of liked me for me ... I understood it more as a hands-on learner and it worked way better for me than college."
Efird knew that hairstyling was the route she wanted to embark on.
"I was always passionate about coloring hair," she said. "That was my main goal. I went in and I said 'I'm going to be a colorist.' And they were like, 'That might not be your niche.' And that was bull. It was color. From having (an) art background, it just made sense to me -- the pigments, the color wheel, the way it goes together, mixing. It just made sense."
After working at J.C. Penney and gaining a steady client base that features both people who prefer a less bold approach to people who sample the whole color wheel, Efird strutted into Curl Up 'N Dye a few years later with green hair, torn up pantyhose, Doc Martens and a Misfits shirt. She found the place where she's been since 2014 and retained many of her original clients in Hot Springs.
"When I first moved here, there weren't any hairdressers I knew that did the colors I did in the way that I did them. They did vivid colors but it was a single color or a chunk of color. They didn't bleach out your entire head and make it a rainbow or melt the color down from one color to the next. The whole scene fashion was a big thing when I moved here. There were kids doing coontails in their bathroom and they weren't looking as good as the ones who came and paid me to do it the way I did it. I still encouraged them to do it themselves because that's how I started," she said.
"And when I left the mall, I still carried that clientele and it was all word-of-mouth and it was so bizarre. I'll do somebody with holographic rainbow hair or ombre color melt that's all vivids and then my next client is a 75-year-old woman that just wants a trim up. Once I went to Curl Up, there was a tidal wave of hairdressers on Instagram that started getting credibility for their work because you could post real-time what you just did, you know? And I think I gained quite a few followers from that. And one of my friends, Sherry, who's internet famous, gassed up me all the time so people just started being like 'Hey, I saw your work on Instagram or Facebook' or 'This girl I know said you did her hair.' And like I said, I have a wide, crazy range of clients. It's not all just vivids."
Efird explained part of her process and experiences of helping clients pick the color they want.
"Vivids are like paints. You can do more with them creatively than regular hair color. It's like having a pallet. Make you I pick up basic colors and mix them. Kind of like you mix paints to make the shade. So it's completely customized. A lot of people who want vivid colors already have color in their hair so it's not like you have a completely virgin base of hair. You have to figure out 'How am I going to remove this old hair dye and still make it look cool?' I really enjoy formulating types of things," she said.
"I just kind of work with them. A lot of the time it's usually cost and time. I can do something off Pinterest, absolutely. But it might take me all day so you'll have to be able to accommodate me for six, eight hours of work and all of the products used. So a lot of times when people figure that out, they're like 'Oh, that's not what I wanna do. Here's my budget.' And I basically work off their budget and say 'What do you think about this? And then your next session, we'll get it closer.' It's not a one size fits all, you know? Sometimes you have to work to get what you want. It doesn't always happen all at once," she said.
A great moment throughout her career that has stood out above many others was when a former mentor came to Efird for advice.
"She messaged me and asked me for a color formula for her hair," she said. "And that was like 'You're asking me?' She asked me for help and she loved what I came up with. I very much felt like I wasn't a padawan anymore. Like Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon Jinn," she said
And as she reminisced about her walk of life, she mentioned how rewarding it can feel to help clients and new stylists.
"I'm really proud of meeting people and influencing them," she said. "I had a client and friend, Maddi, and when I met her, she was about 14 and kind of shy, soft-spoken. And we started doing her hair, doing all kinds of different colors and I could see her confidence boom afterward," she said.
"And teaching new stylists -- I had so many people that helped me and pushed me. I love being able to help people in my profession. It's always good to feel good and looking back on it, I'd say that's pretty rad," she said.
Go Magazine on 01/15/2020
Print Headline: Wizard of Colors