Interview With Tabatha Coffey 2008

Tabatha Coffey may not have made it to the end of the first season of Bravo’s Shear Genius — the out hairdresser and salon owner was cut at the end of Episode 6 — but the fan favorite made it in a different way. Soon after the season ended, Bravo approached her about doing her own reality series, Tabatha’s Salon Takeover.

The first season of the eight-episode series follows the straight-talking and brutally honest Coffey as she visits struggling salons in the New York and Los Angeles areas to make them over. Each episode takes place over a period of one week.

“A lot people feel like if you put a little bit of paint on the wall, the problem’s going to go away,” Coffey explained during a press conference in July. “Or if you change your outfit, the clients will come. That’s not the case in business. You need to manage your business. You need to lead by example. You need to have great work. You need to have fantastic customer service. You need to have an experience.”

Coffey’s directness is part of what made her so memorable on Shear Genius, but it’s also what makes some people uncomfortable — hence, the drama of her new show.

The Australian native took her first salon job at age 14, and went on to train in London for eight years. She has been working in the United States for 19 years and owns her own salon, Industrie Hair Gurus, in New Jersey, where she lives with her partner of 10 years. “When I’m home I’m part of it; every day I go to work,” she said in an interview with

Last month I sat down with Coffey in Los Angeles to talk about her new series, the challenges of being known as an assertive businesswoman, “lesbian hair,” and her dominatrix vibe. Did you ever think you’d be doing a series like this?
Tabatha Coffey:
Absolutely not. I never did imagine it, could have imagined it, would have imagined it. It’s brilliant. It has been really brilliant. I’m having a great time doing it.

AE: Your persona in Shear Genius is quite demanding and direct. How much of that translates into your everyday life? Are you like that in everyday life or is that just a job thing?
TC: It is me, you know, I’m not acting any way whatsoever. I am direct. I’m honest. I think I’m assertive, and it comes out when it needs to come out. Yes, it does come out at work a lot because I need to take charge of a situation, and it comes out personally when it needs to come out as well.

AE: Has that ever created any problems in your personal life?
TC: Look, when I’m honest, some people find they’re uncomfortable with it … [but] if you ask me for my honest opinion, I’m gonna give you my honest opinion. And it’s not to hurt people, it’s not to be rude, but I prefer to be honest with people and tell you what I really think, especially if you’re asking me that. But my friends know me. My friends, my family, they all know me, it’s who I am, so: no.

AE: Do you get this question a lot? Do you think it’s because you’re a woman in business as opposed to a man in business?
TC: Yeah, absolutely. I think unfortunately still there is a big difference between a woman and a man in business — or if they’re strong. It’s a shame, but I still think people are very quick to label a woman a bitch if she’s a strong, kind of forthright, honest woman. And I have a definition of what I think bitch stands for.

AE: What is that?
TC: It’s brave, intelligent, tenacious, courageous and honest. And if take those traits, I’m definitely a bitch, because I am all of those things. But I think you need to be to survive in business, and to be a woman in business you need to have those qualities, and people sometimes misinterpret it for meanness. It’s just taking care of yourself and doing what you need to do.

AE: I’ve met a lot of women in successful businesses and they often have those personalities, and I do think the perception that they’re mean is because of sexism.
TC: Yeah, absolutely. I think there’s definitely a stigma. … Sometimes if a guy does a certain thing, everyone’s like, “Ooh!” You know, “Great for him, he’s a go-getter.” And a woman does it and they’re like, “Ugh, she’s mean,” or she’s this or she’s that, and it’s unfortunate but it does still exist.

At the end of the day I need to make sure I take care of myself, and I’m honest with myself and take care of my business. They’re the important things to me.