Are you gaga for Gaga? Her master hair and wig stylist, Frederic Aspiras, shares all about his time working with the star
Frederic Aspiras has been Lady Gaga’s master hair and wig stylist for an astonishing 11 years. A member of the iconic creative squad The Haus of Gaga, his work has been featured in titles such as Harper’s Bazaar, Elle and Allure, he’s been nominated for multiple Emmys and received the Guild Award for his work on American Horror Story: Hotel. In an exclusive interview with Layered Online editor Amanda, he talks about how he first met Gaga, his favourite hair looks and ensuring she never misses her weekly JOICO hair treatment…
Q: Let’s start at the beginning – why hair?
A: I was introduced to the hair industry when I was 13 by my mother, who was a hairdresser. I was really blessed to have a mother who allowed me to live freely; she inspired me to delve into my own head and allow me to really be myself. She saw how I interacted with her clients on a daily basis, talking to people and helping them feel better, and something about that touched me. I started doing freelance work in San Francisco, until I moved to LA to pursue a career in entertainment. From being an actor, I understood creating characters, a story that goes with hair or make-up or wardrobe. It’s understanding a person’s story, whether it be a celebrity or pop star or a housewife with kids. There are no limitations when you think like that. There is no textbook.
Q: You’ve been working exclusively with Lady Gaga for 11 years now. Considering your background, it must feel like the stars aligned when you met…
A: It honestly does feel like that. We were both in worlds where no-one was doing what we were doing in creating a story. I don’t understand how we don’t kill each other but we don’t! I enjoy the process of creating something with her so much. And it’s something that an artist dreams about, because you’re given freedom to create something that is in your head, but through someone else’s creation. And what’s also scary about that is you’re given that freedom, right? It’s a double-edged thing! It felt like I was preparing for someone like this my entire career.
Q: How did it all begin with Gaga?
A: I was working with Paris Hilton, travelling the world and we had a really strong relationship but I thought: ‘Okay, what else am I going to do?’ I was laying in bed when I got a call from my agent who asked if I wanted to work with this new artist named Lady Gaga, who was going on a tour for two months. I was like: “who is Lady Gaga?” The next day, the MTV VMAs were on and she was on stage bleeding! And I was thinking: ‘Wow, she reminds me of Bowie.’ Nothing was like this on television, or in the world at that time. Nothing that was avant-garde or pushing the envelope or had a storyline or was really theatrical. I felt the spark and thought ‘Oh my God, I’ve got to deliver something amazing!’
That two-month theatre tour turned into the three-year Monster Ball tour! We travelled around the world about three times, it was crazy. All of a sudden, I was living like a rolling stone, always moving around, we were like gypsies on the road. It was new to us; there I was with someone who was only 22 years old and new to fame, and I was dealing with changes in my life, too. We were both transitioning from something and we were there for each other, personally and professionally.
Q: You’re a key member of the Haus of Gaga, the creative team behind the artist. What’s that experience like?
A: Through the years, as we found all the key members, we became a family that travelled together. We all share the same passion. Before every job we fill a room full of creative minds that lead each department – her wardrobe, her choreography, her make-up, nails, hair – and we tackle the big picture. It all stems from her ideas that she want to see come to fruition. It’s very interesting because you have Pop Star Gaga, Actor Gaga, Philanthropist and Activist Gaga. We have to create a look that is synonymous or identifies each world. It can’t be that you turn on the TV and you see Gaga singing for Joe Biden in a meat dress, you know what I mean?
Q: What’s the favourite hair look that you’ve ever created for her?
A: You might as well ask me what my tax returns are! That’s too hard! Normally what makes me like something is when she likes it the most, not because it looks beautiful, but it makes her feel beautiful. She felt so beautiful at the Grammys, wearing that Celine by Hedi Slimane dress and she had very casual hair, very natural. She felt so happy and free, and to me that felt more important than trying to top the last work, or trying to stay current with trends.
Another favourite was the look at the LA premiere of A Star is Born. She looked like a star in the sky. She’s wearing that capelet dress made of liquid silver on lace. It was such an inspiration, I coloured her hair with a chrome tone. She felt confident and regal.
Q: Which look, style or colour has been the most difficult to create?
A: My biggest fear is to see hair damaged by the process. That’s what I worry about before I sleep at night, I think: ‘Oh, I’ve got to colour her hair tomorrow morning and not have it all fall out’, because for the Oscars we coloured her hair the night before. People do this weeks ahead! We’ve been using JOICO to get her hair to grow. One incident happened after filming A Star is Born. She had coloured her hair dark brown for the movie with another colourist, and the process of removing it caused her hair to break. I wanted products to help repair damaged, bleached hair.
When you colour hair so much – we’ve done the spectrum – it needs help to get back to health. There is a wonderful product called Defy Damage Protective Masque that I get her to do once a week. Prior to heat styling we use the Defy Damage Protective Shield. Together, they protect her hair and if you keep it up you can have long, platinum hair.
Q: Do you worry you’ll ever run out of Ideas?
A: No! Not to be cheeky, but there’s so much inspiration in the world, and the reason why we don’t lose inspiration is because we don’t follow trends. For instance, for Gaga’s Chromatica album, we visited some of her old colours because there was a sense of almost coming full circle. If you listen to the album it’s about her story, her message of overcoming mental health issues, and also for me, it represents my journey as a hairdresser.
Q: So that begs the question, what comes next? What’s the next big project?
A: In terms of work, we have the Gucci movie coming up. That’s going to be fun again, more character work. We did a wonderful launch for Chromatica and we were in pop icon mode; now we’re back to film and I’m very excited to start the project. I’m excited to work again, we’ve been locked down. It was very difficult to work remotely, but we did our best. But who knows what will happen? I’m hopeful.
[Editor’s note: Frederic would like to clarify that this doesn’t mean the end of Gaga’s Chromatica era, merely the start of additional exciting new projects. Stay tuned…]