By Jenny Rollins
BU News Service
On a Saturday morning, without warning, Stephanie Geib stops singing mid-song, puts down her paintbrush, grabs and holds up her phone with her purple-dyed hands, looks into the phone camera grinning, spins in a circle, and yells, “Good morning, Instagram!”
Then she laughs, puts down her phone and goes back to singing, cracking jokes, and painting her client’s hair a vibrant shade of purple. The only time she stops smiling is when she’s deadpanning following a particularly sarcastic remark. She doesn’t usually laugh too hard at her own jokes, even when her clients do.
“I really want to see people’s faces when they wake up late on a Saturday to a video like that,” Geib says, switching dye colors.
The half-purple-headed Sarah Lodato sits in a high black chair in front of the mirrors at Dellaria hair salon in Kenmore Square to get her hair dyed before heading to her friend’s wedding. Geib separates Lodato’s hair, then paints strands of it with bright, thick dyes with names like “Sea Glass,” “Powder” and “Lavender.”
Lodato is a long-time client of Geib’s. The stylist even did Lodato’s wedding hair in October 2016—a long, intricate brown braid. Then after her honeymoon, Lodato, as Geib puts it, “went full mermaid.”
“Mermaid,” in the hair world, refers to a mixture of aquas and blues and greens reminiscent of the deep ocean. “Unicorn” refers to opalescent rainbow colors, mostly shades of pinks, purples and blues. These kinds of color transformations can take around four hours and cost between $300 and $500.
“I’ve always just wanted to dye my hair,” Lodato said. “My mom wouldn’t let me when I was younger, so this was like a 25-year-old teenage rebellion.”
The 29-year-old hairstylist’s own hair is dark with a pop of “Aquatic,” a blueish green. And her personality is as bright as her vibrant hair dye and as bubbly as her go-to drink, champagne. You never really know what she is going to do or say next, but you know it’ll probably be hilarious.
Geib lives in a world of creative whimsy, full of unicorns and mermaids. People travel from all over the Northeast to visit this hair fairy godmother, so she can turn their drab, monochromatic hairstyles into dazzling works of Instagrammable art.
If you ask Stephanie Geib what she does for a living, she will tell you that she is a “vivid specialist,” a “balayage kween,” and, most importantly, a “professional BFF.”
On Instagram, Geib goes by @stephscissorhands without her last name, because she doesn’t like it. Her pictures of fashion coloring and wild braids have garnered over 47,000 followers in the past three years, and her work has won many awards and been published in popular magazines like “Modern Salon,” “Beauty Launchpad” and “Behind the Chair.” Though her real success is just how much her clients love and trust her.
Geib’s work station is packed with gifts from past and current clients: a unicorn piñata, a small glass peacock from India, and a collection of champagne tops, each marked with a name and a date, and a book of color ideas titled “The Diary of a Mad Colorist.”
Geib has a genuine, surreal way of putting people at ease with her quirky confidence and relatable sense of humor. She remembers her clients’ stories and details of their lives even after months of not seeing them. She jokes with them about her struggle to convince long-time girlfriend Britney Kain to “just go see ‘I, Tonya,’ because it’s supposed to be fabulous, and then go ice skating.”
Her clients are her best friends, as much as they can be, she says. She works with them through their engagements and divorces and still sends care packages to some of her closest clients that moved away.
Gina Campanini, a 19-year-old sophomore at Bridgewater State University, travels an hour every six months to her regular balayage appointment with Steph, and each time she feels like she’s visiting a friend.
“Even though it’s been so long, we catch up right where we left off,” Campanini said.
Her client spots are hard to get, and she is usually booked out two months. Right now, she’s almost already full for May. And her clients aren’t just the typical creative nuts or wannabe Instagram models. Her fans run from 8-year-olds fascinated by rainbow hair to her former pastor’s wife.
One night she even got a message from a young Australian girl asking for tickets to a concert. The girl’s mom messaged shortly after to apologize and say that her daughter had mistaken Geib for Katy Perry.
“I died,” Geib said, extending the vowel of the word and glancing up at the ceiling for dramatic effect. However, being Katy Perry is not far from the original career Geib had planned.
Geib is a buzzing, energetic, born entertainer, to the point that it’s impossible to imagine someone being bored around her. She was a musical theatre major growing up and her life-long dream was to be on Broadway.
The stylist grew up in Sarasota, Florida, where she went to Booker High School as part of a competitive visual and performing arts magnet program. She majored in vocal performance and spent a lot of time in classes like dance and theater.
“It was kind of like being in a fake high school,” Geib said.
After she graduated, she came to the conclusion that college would just be more of the same experience she already had and wasn’t for her. So, on a whim, she and her best friend packed up and moved to Boston.
Coming from Florida, Geib finds Boston a bit fancier than she’s used to, but in an almost endearing kind of way.
“It’s very Vineyard Vines here. It’s very Cape-y,” Geib said. Maybe even a little bourgeois, or “bougie,” as she puts it. “But I love bougie, don’t get me twisted.”
These “bougie” residents make for slightly less adventurous clients because they still want to appear professional, Geib explained. Though the unicorn and mermaid styles have been popular for a couple years now, the new national trends are subtler. Blondes will ask to tone their hair with lavender or rose gold. Brunettes will ask for darker colors like maroon or blue.
She began working part-time as an assistant at Dellaria, doing laundry and helping with shampoos while she looked for a job performing in Boston. It took her months to get used to touching someone’s head, but then she thought, “you know, I could do this.”
After working her way through hair school and the first few rough years as a stylist, Geib turned her side hustle into an influential career. Rather than singing on a stage, she sings and dances along to P!nk and pop artists as she paints her clients’ hair. She chats and gossips with her clients, laughing at the right times and responding with a whip-quick wit.
Geib is out to convince people that fashion color can be a form of art, though she admits that sometimes art doesn’t turn out well. At one point in hair school, she dyed her hair cheetah print using a stencil. It did not go well, but she took it in stride.
“Everyone deserves to be a bad stylist sometimes, but I’ve come a long way since then,” she said.
Geib once showed her work to her grandmother who, though at first apprehensive, admitted that she thought that her granddaughter’s hair coloring was actually pretty classy. That gave Geib a new motto: “I want to make hair that even your grandmother would love.”
She travels around the country for Pulp Riot, a popular fashion color brand that sponsors her, educating stylists and doing hair shows, demonstrating how to do fashion coloring, style updos, and take that perfect Instagram shot of the finished product.
“I’m usually the teacher that has a bucket full of mimosas,” Geib said.
Geib has created a wildly successful career in less than a decade of work, but she doesn’t let it go to her head. She believes in working on fashion color with other people and learning from the hair stylists around her, even if they’re just beginning.
“In the industry, you’re either looking up to someone or looking down on someone, and I don’t really like that,” Geib said. “I think that we can all be on an even playing field, which is why I like to collaborate, because both of us are artists. Both of us are bringing something to the table.”
She is part of the #communityovercompetition movement on Instagram. The hashtag has been used in almost 2 million posts on Instagram alone to promote unity and collaboration, especially among female professionals. These users frequently promote the work of other women in their field and work in groups to create joint Instagram content.
“There’s a stereotype that women in the beauty industry can be catty,” Geib said. “In this industry, especially in Boston, people tend to put competition over community. And I think it’s time we flip that.”
Geib is working on collaboration with other stylists to create new ways of coloring and styling hair by getting and giving feedback about coloring ideas and techniques. A social media networking on called Thousand or Bust has helped her to create an Instagram group of fellow fashion colorists that all take turns doing shout outs to each other on social media and exchanging different ideas about each other’s work.
The only competition Geib is catty about is an actual cat.
A couple years ago, a client came to Geib and admitted that she scheduled a hair appointment just so she could ask Geib how to increase her cat’s Instagram following. Geib gave her some tips and it worked. The cat now has more followers than she does. Because she unfollowed the cat, she does not remember how many followers it has, though she notes that it was much higher than her personal 47,000 followers. Geib would not reveal the name or breed of the cat in fear of further increasing its following.
“I’m like, that cat lives the life I want and has the follower count I want. And I work really hard and don’t have nearly as many followers,” she said, sighing a melodramatic, shoulder-raising sigh. She waved her hand in a dismissive gesture. “It’s fine. Social media comes really easy to cats.”