Growing up, Ricardo Dinis, Aveda Global Artistic Director for Haircutting, was a self-described creative: He counts ‘drama geek,’ creative writer and musician as several of his youthful pursuits. But when it came time to decide on a career, he was decidedly indecisive. Though he was clear about what he didn’t want to do – he cast-off the notion of a standard nine to five job – he was left uninspired when it came to choosing a path. Inadvertently, he stumbled upon hairdressing – and since that moment, he’s been steadfastly committed to the pursuit.
“When I was younger, I was brought up to believe that you weren’t supposed to like work – it was just a privilege to have a job. My parents were Portuguese immigrants living in Canada, and they were always humble. That’s something that I’m constantly aware of and keep close. I’m thankful for where I’m at, and the job that I have; you end up becoming something for someone to aspire to be. When students write and tell me that they want to ‘be me,’ my automatic response is: aim higher.”
Read on to discover how he’s worked diligently to achieve his goals, plus learn about his thoughts on humility and gratitude, in this up-close interview.
Q. You struggled to find a career path, but ultimately, decided on hairdressing. Can you describe your ‘aha!’ moment?
A. “I come from a poor background, so my father just worked day and night; we were also part of that, and we were brought up with a very strong work ethic. Even at that point, in my teen years (going to work with my Dad and doing some pretty heavy work), it was a deterrent for me, not to want to pursue anything like that.”
“In school, I always seemed to gravitate towards the arts. I was a drama kid – in fact, I wasn’t extremely popular in high school, I loved hanging out with my teachers – and I loved just doing all of the abnormal stuff; the art student kind of thing.”
“When I got into hair, it wasn’t necessarily an accidental class, but it was the only other class that I could take – I had too many English credits – and I just didn’t need anymore prerequisites. I didn’t know what I was going to do, and I was terrified of that fact. I ended up signing up for cosmetology, and I went into the class not really knowing what it was. I got lucky, because I had a teacher who inspired me [in regards to] what the industry is about. She took me to my very first hair show, and somehow, I found my way to the KMS booth. The guys were funny – they were telling jokes – so I sat there and listened. I remember feeling like I could relate to them. They invited me onstage as part of their show (thinking that I was a hairdresser), and told me I could cut a piece of hair anywhere on the model’s head, to use as a guide. So they gave me the scissors – and immediately they could see that I was holding them wrong, and they got it right there: this guy has no idea what he’s doing! I cut my first piece of hair onstage, which is a pretty crazy thing. I had this amazing feeling and experience, and I knew, that this is what I wanted to do.”
Q. How did you find your way to Aveda – and how is it that you came to be their ‘Global Artistic Director for Haircutting?’
A. “I started at Vidal Sassoon in Toronto, Canada, where I grew up. I was with Sassoon for eight years, and [during that time] I was an Art Director for them. I started to notice the work that Aveda was doing and I thought – the competition is definitely getting stronger.”
Ricardo knew that he wanted to work for Aveda – but because of the way the company was structured – he had to start out working as a distributor. He joined Aveda in Canada and worked with them for two years before departing to work for their Spanish headquarters in Madrid. The role in Spain was “an everything role,” says Ricardo. “They were opening in Spain for the first time, and the brand wasn’t recognized. It was a small, core group of people: I was heading up the salon, heading up education, doing public relations, I was a manager – I was doing everything at that point. Ultimately, Spanish Vogue named our salon one of the top-ten in the world. It was quite a success for Aveda, and for myself. Based off of that work, I ended up taking on a global position, which is what I’m doing right now.”
Q. What is hairdressing, to you?
A. “I think it started off as just haircutting, and then it moved into many different things: It’s a medium for me to teach, to get into peoples lives – sometimes it’s just a haircut, about making someone feel great. It’s definitely human fabric manipulation – it’s a Feng Shui of the human body. You’re physically changing space around someone, and when you do that, it changes things around them, as well: the way people are emotionally affected by how they see that person, and how they see themselves is also part of what you do. There are so many levels to what we do. Sometimes it’s not just a haircut; sometimes it’s about listening, or giving someone direction in their lives, or brining them back to a place that they forgot. There are a lot of things that happen.”
“I think our roles and what we do will be looked at differently, way in the future. I think people will understand that there are emotions and energy that come off of the hair – that hairdressers cutting and coloring (or manipulating) the hair have always been dealing with [those emotions]. When hairdressers are really in-tuned to themselves, they’re really in-tuned to their clients, and I think they can pick up sixth sense things that can come off of the hair. I’ve seen it happen; hairdressers that can pick up on things that cannot necessarily be seen [with the eyes].
Q. Do you still cut hair ‘behind the chair?’
A. “I don’t take clients, but I do still cut hair,” says Ricardo. This is because, in his spare time, he’s taken up photography. “I love approaching people and asking if I can do their hair; I take their picture as payment. That’s been my thing. I look for people who are cool and interesting – not necessarily a model or a great beauty.”
Q. What is beauty, to you?
A. “I think it’s something that just speaks to you. It could be a smell, it could be a personality, or the way someone carries himself or herself, which makes him or her beautiful. It could be an underlying confidence or insecurity. The weird thing is that when a camera comes out, people change. I love that experience, as well. I can understand why photographers get so into their job. There’s a different play that happens. I think [the way that someone reacts to a camera] is about you, and what you’re doing with that person; it’s about the experience, and how you find them. Sometimes it takes 200 pictures, but you can always get at least one image.”
Q. How do you recharge and unwind?
A. “I collect toys,” laughs Ricardo, “I paint little miniature toys, but I like basically anything from the ‘80’s; Anime, Voltron, Transformers, G.I. Joe’s. I’m a total geek. I read comic books, I play video games, and I ride my bike and go to the gym.”
“I meditate,” he adds. “I go to galleries, my wife is an artist. She occupies all of my free time with something interesting. She’s constantly making me better.”
Q. You mentioned meditation. How does that practice affect you personally and professionally?
A. “I’ve been trying to pursue meditation for years, and I could never quite get what I wanted or what I was looking for. Last year, I started something called Ho’Oponopono; it’s Hawaiian meditation. It’s based around four powerful phrases, which are: I love you, I’m sorry, forgive me and thank you. After I started practicing this, I just started smiling again.”
“I started brining this into classes, because I noticed that students were holding their breath – how can you cut hair if you’re not breathing? How are you going to remember any of [what I’m teaching] if you’re nervous and so scared? All of your fears come up in a class. So I do these meditations with my classes; it’s seven second breathing. I try to get people to pursue it after the class, but I make them aware that during their time with me, they need to breathe. I explain what happens when the brain doesn’t have oxygen, and how we react.”
“I find that unplugging allows you to plug in. The world is waking up, [and meditation] feels so right in hair. We’re constantly on the road to mastery. I don’t know if you can get there without having this aspect in your life. Whatever is blocking the mind will block the body from learning. It’s about being in a great state of mind. It’s a daily practice – and I’m a happier person for it.”
Q. What’s your advice for young or aspiring cosmetologists?
A. “I think that the hairdressers of today – I’m more interested in the young generation coming up – you can’t really know what’s coming up for them. Be in a constant state of flexibility – don’t plan out so much, because you don’t know how the industry is going to change. It’s really changing. Social media and technology is taking us to places that we don’t know – because we don’t know.”
“For the older generation, my advice is: catch up. Playing into social media and developing your eye as a photographer, it’s all part of the job, now.”
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