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Interview with Caterina DiBiase

Artistic Director & Service Trainer

Speaking to Artistic Director of Heading Out Salon and Australia’s number one hairdresser on a Monday morning was enlightening. I first thought that the interview was going to be a rush situation since Caterina had meetings lined up throughout the day. When we began the interview, I was impressed on many different levels. One; she is a very humble person, and two; after her many years as a hairdresser, she is still willing to learn new things.

Caterina took a hairdresser course at the age of 16 and received her diploma. “Once I completed my diploma I went to work for a hair salon as a trainee. So obviously, even though I was qualified, I worked in a salon, as a hairdresser, as a trainee, and this company was able to give me the extensive training to help me on my way. You know that was in the very, very early days.” It has taken her a lot of years of training and going to as many courses and seminars, as possible. Traveling at the age of 22, training even more in Italy, and taking a course at the Vidal Sassoon in the United States. She says; “The big turning point for me was at 22 when I went away, as a youngster I traveled the world, going on holiday, working on holiday around the world; I realized what I could do with hair dressing and where it could take me.” Caterina went back to Australia and continued with more ‘intense training’. “When I came back, that’s when I really, really put full attention into my career and worked very, very hard to be a master of my craft.”

Being only 43 and working in the industry for over 20 years, I’m always impressed with individual’s success. Last year Caterina won the Hairdresser of the Year Award. I told her I watched her on the video and seeing her cry as she received her award, I said to myself; I wonder how she must be feeling being acknowledged in Australia and named Australia’s number one hairdresser. I asked her how that makes you feel. Caterina's response; “Winning the Australia’s Hairdresser of the Year is the most rewarding thing for me, as you say.

Years and years of work and determination and working towards the goal because it’s something that you must work towards. It is the icing on the cake, with the cherry top. It is everything that I dreamed of being and doing, and it does take a lot of time and dedication to do that because you are number one, and it’s a lot of work before you actually get your title.” She continues to tell me why it’s so important to keep working hard and to keep the standards high for yourself and for your team. “The collection is a lot of years of work and inspiration, you’re working together and also when you’re putting a collection together like I’ve done in the last couple of years, each year you raise the bar because you push it a little bit further cause you have that little bit more confidence in your ability and where it’s going to go and you get to work with a great team of people, but to that, one of my thing is ‘raising the bar’ and raising the bar is really important.

One thing, being in Australia and two, being a female has so many obstacles in our way and I work very, very hard, as a female, to be at the top.” With all her stamina, one has to ask where this passion and inspiration comes from. “I work for a very, very powerful man who is very inspiring, who believes that everything must be perfect and number one and he doesn’t believe in losing. So that’s probably my mentor behind me. My inspiration comes from basically everything, but it’s the passion and the drive about wanting to be on top and staying in the game and just constantly looking and searching for something new and something better. It is just purely like an adrenaline flowing drug. Once you have won something, that adrenaline and that drug, it’s very, very hard not to want something all the time.

So the passion and drive are the number one thing that keeps me looking and aspiring, whether it comes from fashion or different things, but just life in general and also with my career, I had a little bit of travel around the world. Just seeing different things and what we have is where we get our energy and inspiration from.”

Caterina is involved with L’Oreal Melbourne Fashion Festival which is coming up March 14th – March 20th. She has worked on a number of parades and lots of different fashion events. “We have worked with L’Oreal over the years and obviously with winning the Australian hairdresser of the year, you basically have to earn your stripes so the more you do the more proof that you get. Like a little job that you do by yourself, and you do it impressive and the reports keep coming through and you just need to do that so you can say we’ve got a big job, can you handle it?” It’s not always just about doing good hair but it is about building a great reputation and being recognized in the fashion industry in its entirety. She explains; “It’s not just about L’Oreal; it’s also about the fashion industry.

Yes, I have to convince them, but I also have to convince a lot of other people. You have to have the reputation and the hours to receive that sort of job because basically, you’re doing the hair for different designers, so I had to earn the respect from the industry and outside the industry. It’s not just about the hairdressing world; it’s about the respect from editors and fashion people. That’s what’s really, really important.” Caterina will be directing the opening shows during fashion week. She will be working in the Vogue, Harpers Bazaar, and InStyle parades. The parades are sponsored by different designers and magazines.

Being the Artistic Director at Heading Out comes with power and responsibility. “All the photographic and artistic work that gets done within the company goes under my nose and is approved by me, so my role is a little bit different because it has to do with marketing; all the new recruits, my art team is all trained by me, and all the parades are directed by me. I might send people out, but I basically train and then direct out from there to make sure that the standard of work is kept to an impeccable high. The head trainer is the overseer of it all so that it keeps the standard of the brand high.”

Throughout my conversation with DiBiase, she has a very clear understanding of what hard work and dedication is all about. Her advice to the aspiring hairdressers/hairstylists is; that the most important thing is that you don’t know everything, and you have to keep learning and keep evolving. She tells me; “Keep changing, it's very important. You must keep pushing yourself and raising the bar to stay on top. To get to the top is one thing, to stay on the top is another. So you got to keep challenging yourself and setting yourself little challenges along the way. Don’t make too many big targets, but small ones along the way will help you go up the ladder.

Try to be involved in as many things as possible and try to volunteer yourself to learn from other people, if possible, is a great thing. Everyone has something to teach. ‘Education is the most important thing.’ The really important thing is that hard work really does pay off and if you love what you do it’s not hard work.” Caterina added, “There are short cuts, if you want a short career.” Continuing the interview, I asked her what she wants to be known for.

“I want to be known as Australia’s number one hairdresser and I want to be known as a business woman, because it’s not just about the glory of beautiful hair and fashion and all of that, which I love, it’s about fashion hair, cut and color, but it’s also about raising the standard of hairdressing in Australia and that’s one of my passions, also, the business side of it. It’s very, very passionate to me and that’s one of the things that I am known for; is that, I am a multi-task woman, like most women are. I want to be remembered as the number one hair person, but my biggest motto is, I never say ‘no’ and there is no such word as ‘no’ in my vocabulary, there’s always a way.”