Anya Grottel-Brown is a recent transplant to LA from the East Coast. Her series, The Newcomer Journals, is about all things local that are new, different and same.
Sue Ann Jewers twirls a piece of my hair meditatively in her fingers, then takes the scissors and snips off a bit. The hair bounces back. “That’s it,” she says. “This is a pretty good cut.” I had popped in for a free check-up, a service Sue Ann offers to all her clients within a couple of weeks of the haircut. She was right about my cut; my hair and I have never been happier.
When we moved to LA, I was forced to part ways with my long-time New York hairdresser, an experience so traumatic I doubted I would ever cut or color my hair again. When something finally had to be done, I posted a query on myfavoritethingsLA, the online Yahoo group where members swap recommendations for everything from crock pots to car mechanics. There were several enthusiastic endorsements of Sue Ann as someone who really gets curly hair. I decided to take the plunge.
Sue Ann works out of her house in West Adams; the rooms are filled with paintings and interesting pieces of furniture and her one-room salon in the back is watched over by Minoki, a large, melancholy-looking Siberian husky. Every haircut is preceded by an offer of tea, with cookies available for the asking.
Sue Ann grew up in Chicago and started cutting hair when she was 28. “I studied art my whole life,” she explains. “I wanted art to meet commerce in a way that would allow me to be a stay-at-home mom.” She focused on curly hair, since she was born with a head of curly hair herself and had had every bad haircut known to man. “Cutting curly hair is like working on a sculpture. My work is three-dimensional: it needs to stand up from the front, top and sides.”
She still maintains an artist’s perspective: First, everyone’s hair has a favorite place to live. Second, whatever the look, it should involve a minimum amount of damage when it comes to color. She has an all-natural color approach (hair should be pretty and realistic-looking) and adjusts the formulas depending on skin tone, seasons and the amount of grey a woman has. She has designed her own product line, called “Simply This.” And she lets hair do its thing, instead of forcing it within cut and product-defined confines.
“It’s my job to ask questions,” she says. “What you like and don’t like about your hair, what your lifestyle is, what kind of work you do. I can always change what’s not working and make you happier.” Not just me, but my hair. It’s definitely happier than it used to be.
Ms.Jewers can be reached via email.