10 Things We Learned From Sam Villa: Redken Global Artistic Ambassador

If you've stepped foot in a hair salon, chances are you've either used a Redken hair product or are familiar with the brand. And if you've ever had your hair cut at a professional hair salon, chances are that your hair dresser has learned a thing or two from Sam Villa, the Global Artistic Ambassador for Redken. Whether from his traveling, hands on classes or from his YouTube channel Sam Villa Hair, which boasts over half a million subscribers, Sam has had a hand in educating hair professionals for the past 30 years. 

1. It's never too late to chase your dream

From humble beginnings shining shoes and sweeping hair in his father's barbershop, to quitting college as a Phys Ed major to attend cosmetology school (and not doing so well), Sam says everything fell into place for him after his Dad took him to see a Vidal Sassoon hair show in 1976. 

"It was clear. I knew where I wanted to go and what I wanted to do, and that was to be a platform artist, but more importantly, to be a teacher." - Sam Villa

2. Teaching has always been in his blood

Being a Phys Ed major, my goal was to be a coach so I played in pretty much every sport you could imagine. I coached volleyball, wrestling, track, football - so I had teaching skills in me I guess you could say. When I watched Sassoon, I learned a lot, and started thinking ‘I really want to cut,’ because (cutting hair) was so technical...but I think I've always had it in me to coach or to teach people.

3. His biggest challenge is consistently reinventing himself and staying relevant

I really have chosen to be a teacher in the industry and not necessarily a celebrity stylist. My legacy is that I’m known as an educator and that’s something that I’ve always felt that I fit. As a teacher, I must never cease to learn - so I constantly research, research, research. I don’t claim to be an inventor but what I do claim to be is an educator for the hairdresser. I’m the hairdresser’s hairdresser. I go out there, I find it, I remix it, I make it easy to understand, and then I’m the messenger that goes out there and I share it. That’s my objective. 

4. Social media and the digital age has had a huge impact on the hair industry since Sam started his career 30 years ago

What social and digital has done is it’s really changed the industry in terms of more impact on the education and learning side. 

I got called out once where (I was told), 'You know, Sam, you’re awesome but why should I follow you when you’re hurting my business by teaching people on YouTube how to cut their hair?' I said, 'The person that’s going to YouTube to learn how to cut their hair, I guarantee you has probably never stepped into a salon in a year...If I were you, I wouldn’t worry about those people and I would worry about the people that are in your chair. There are hairdressers out there who can’t afford to go to a hair show...you know what I’m going to do? I’m going to help those people.' 

"I can’t tell you what the formula to success is but I will tell you that the formula for failure is trying to please everybody. I’m not going to please everybody, but I do believe in my heart that I’m doing what’s best for the industry and I’m going to continue to put it out there." - Sam Villa


One of my other messages out there for hairdressers is, don’t get caught behind the computer. Get yourself to shows and hands on workshops, because that’s where you are truly taught. Why? Because you can’t ask YouTube questions. At live events, you have the opportunity to participate by asking questions or you can attend hands on classes, and you network, and you meet people.

(Social and digital) has affected attendance in terms of shows. And that’s why one of my strong messages this year is brands supporting brands, artists supporting artists.

5. Sam's most memorable learning experience is how to become a better teacher, thanks to Redken.

Redken has made me who I am today. Before I got to Redken, I was a teacher - or at least I thought I was a teacher. When I got to Redken, the VP of Education at the time, Christine Schuster, brought in a man by the name of Blair Singer who was an educator in terms of he would teach people how to teach.

He basically taught us that it’s not about YOU, it’s about the people sitting in the audience. It’s not about how much information you deliver, it’s how you choose to interact with them. That really woke me up as a teacher - the process of teaching now and doing shows, is very interactive.

Interactive education was huge turning point in my career and that was introduced to me by Redken.

6. Short hair is going to make a big comeback this year

The haircut is back! It’s been about color, color, color and long hair because of ombre and balayage, but I told Redken, 'Guys, get ready…the shags are coming!'

A lot of people are going in salons and no matter how long their hair is or how short their hair is, they’re getting it layered. For me right now, the big thing that I see coming is layers and the way they’re being achieved is through detaching areas. It’s not about blending haircuts now.

7. And so is organic, easy, lived in waves



The next big trend that we’re going to see this year is we’re going to get back into this really lived in hair - this organic look. Why? Because it has become such a fast paced world. 

I just did Alec Baldwin’s daughter and she said she wanted something edgy. But when I listened to her during the consultation, she didn’t really want something edgy. What she wanted was something different, but her hair was a one length bob. What she really wanted was she just wanted it layered out softly so that when she gets up it’s got some movement to it.

8. You can achieve salon-worthy waves with this simple trick

Open the lip of the curling iron as wide as you can, slide the hair and wrap, but leave it on for a second or two - not very long. Wrap it around the barrel...don’t even close the lip. Then let out the hair and pull on it and stretch it, so as its cooling, it calms down and looks much more organic. Wrap random sections backward and forward, so it’s not done so systematically.

9. Hair extensions can be used as colourful accent pieces


Hair by: Bixie Colour

Most of the time I’m working with extensions are in shows or in photoshoots and the number one reason for me is to add length or bulk. I also believe now that extensions are an accent piece - like the great clip ons (Luxy Hair) make. Use those little (1 clip wefts)...use vivid or pastel coloured extensions and strategically place them in the hair. It gives the hair or any look a different attitude and a different character. 

Tip from Luxy Hair: Opt for our Ash Blonde shade, and have a professional hair colourist dye the 1 clip wefts to any vivid shade you wish, to achieve this look.

10. Sam's advice to new hairstylists is to never stop learning, always keep practising, and let go of your ego.

Never stop learning. I choose to stand in front of people motivated by the passion to teach, not motivated to say what’s right or what’s wrong. I’m not a visionary, I’m not a rockstar, I’m not a genius...I’m a hairdresser who chooses to be a teacher. It’s all about education, education, education.

Practice, practice, practice. With that will come creativity...with that will come speed. What these newbies try to do now is they try to do it and become frustrated because they don't get it right the first time. Every time you do it, you’re going to learn something different.

Let go of the ego. I don't worry too much now whether people like me - in the beginning I did. But now, I’m more concerned about what’s inside of me and am I getting it out the right way? Am I being authentic? Am I being honest and truthful? That’s what’s important to me.

One of the things my dad told me is, 'You need to be and remain humble. That's one of the most important things. Don’t you ever let your ego and your head get big, because if it does, that’s when you're going to hit a wall and you can’t fit through the door, and that’s when you start to go downhill.”

-As told to Luxy Hair.

All photos courtesy of www.samvilla.com and @samvilla.

Posted by
Azra Kassam

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