‘It’s Not Really About the Hair’ by Tabatha Coffey

When I told friends I was reviewing It’s Not Really About the Hair (It Books) for LLF, most responded in the same general way, “She scares me, but I love her!”

And that is how I thought of her before reading this book.

Like most people, I was introduced to Tabatha on the first season of Bravo’s “Shear Genius,” the reality-competition show that pits hairstylists against each other.

Though she tied for fifth place, Bravo recognized the gold mine they had in her. Now in its third season, “Tabatha’s Salon Takeover” features Tabatha’s attempts to work with salon owners across the country to transform bad business practices into successful enterprises.  It is easy to apply a lot of clichéd labels to Tabatha, from outspoken to confrontational to bitch.

In her just-released book, which the publishers describe as “part memoir, part business manual, and part coaching guide on achieving self-acceptance and love,” Tabatha describes the background behind her steely gaze and her journey from the strip clubs of Adelaide, Australia, to American reality-television star.

At the start, Tabatha confronts the bitch label by saying she is a bitch, which she defines as someone brave, intelligent, tenacious, creative, and honest.

Then, she starts at the beginning by describing what she learned from the transgender women who performed at the strip clubs her parents owned, to what her life was like when her father abandoned her family, to what inspired her to become a hairdresser.

Readers of LLF will perhaps be most interested in chapter five, “Fuck Flying the Flag,” where she describes her first “lesbian U-haul” relationship and the path she followed to accepting her lesbian identity, which included a stint as the girlfriend of a member of the NFL’s New York Giants.

Not surprisingly, Tabatha is not a fan of labels.  She writes, “There are rules, and to be a ‘good gay’ one learns the rules.  But let’s face it, I don’t like rules or conformity.”  She gives her reasons for being cautious about mainstream lesbian and gay community, which will cause some reads to nod along while others roll their eyes.

She admits, though, that watching her partner become a part of her family has softened her feelings about the communal fight for marriage and other LGBT rights. As she puts it, “So, even though I am not a gay parade kind of girl, I am all for a good public protest when we need to get something done.”

Celebrity memoirs often get lambasted as attempts to extort money from readers, efforts to build on already shaky fame.  It may seem like that to readers who are not fans.

However, to those who have seen Tabatha on television and found her to be as fascinating or scary as many have, It’s Not Really About The Hair will prove to be a treat, providing insight into the background that led to the creation of a reality-television star who truly has the talent to back up what we see on screen.

The business practices she promotes on her show come from a long history of working around the world in local salons to the Sassoon Academy to Toni & Guy, a history that includes realizing how the work she does with hair is more than about surface appearances after working with an woman who was abused by her husband and looking for new hair to go with her new life.  That’s why, as the title says, it’s not really about the hair.

Tabatha actually finds it “bloody annoying” when people call her scary, and she is right to feel that way.  She is not a television personality but a person with a rich history as a professional.  Oh, I will still watch and be glad I am not the target of her criticisms, but I will know she has the goods to back them up, which her book makes perfectly clear.
The Honest Truth About Life, Love, and the Business of Beauty
by Tabatha Coffey with Richard Buskin
It Books/Harper Collins
Hardcover, 9780062023100, 224pp.
January 2011