Ruth talks about an unlikely and inspiring friend who is always a willing guinea pig for new techniques.

Looking back on my career, there are so many people who have been there for me. But there is one who has been there through thick and thin for the last 20 years, whether she liked it or not. Her name is Viola...and she is my mannequin.

Ruth Roche
Ruth Roche

Viola was created by Pivot Point as a learning tool, and, boy, has she been one. She lets us try out new cut and color techniques without fear of messing up on a real person. She's never in a hurry, never complains, never says no to any hairstyle and never gives you a weird look—although sometimes I wish she could put on a different facial expression. She is a vessel meant for inspiration. She can become a supermodel; she can become an assistant; she will become whatever those who use her need her to be. Oh, sure, I complain about her hairlines and growth patterns and the fact that her ears won't bend. But in the end, she has helped me learn, grow and achieve some very cool things.

When I was working with Trevor Sorbie in the '90s, Viola helped me to reach artistic-director status by being my "model" for a graduated bob. It had to be exactly like Trevor's, and Viola obliged. She was also a model for a hairpiece I had to make for the same training, and it ended up in a photo that won me a NAHA award!

Viola's worn many hairstyles, some good, some...not so good. She's let me shave her head, and she's worn a top hat, too. She's never minded when I stuffed her in a suitcase or put her on a stick. Above all, she has been a guinea pig for new techniques that we end up using on our clients, so she's helped us all—both directly and indirectly—make money.

I can think of many nights when the only sound was my comb running through the hair attached to her plastic head. She saw me through my years at Redken, and when I opened Rare, she was there. There were times when I felt like I was becoming Viola, and I even learned how to imitate her facial (non-) expression.

After all these years of dedication, I think Viola has earned a vacation! As always, though, her trip will inspire: I'm sending her on a three-stop world tour, where she will be entrusted in the hands of fellow stylists for an hour each. It'll be a great chance to see what's happening in hair around the world and to open up new creative possibilities. Her first stop? Sydney, Australia, where my friend and Redken National Artist Wayne Friend, at Form Haircutters, will take a crack at Viola's long locks. Stay tuned to see "...where in the world is Viola?"

E-mail Ruth at [email protected]. To find out more about RARE education with Ruth Roche, visit, or call 866-RARE-NYC.