Style Guyde: Coffey Talk

Written by Sean Krebs | Friday, 14 January 2011

(Tabatha Coffey by Ricky Middlesworth)

I missed my flight to Australia for Christmas. No, I’m not kidding. I wish I were. In the mad rush of getting four suitcases (one completely filled with just presents), three carry-on bags, my baby daughter (Paige), my boyfriend and I into the car to go to the airport—I forgot my passport. When I returned to the apartment to get it, I realized that I didn’t have my keys. And since we just moved in (and changed the locks), we hadn’t given the doormen a set yet (believe me, they have them now!). Thankfully, the supervisor on the other end of the phone at Qantas totally hooked me up, so I was still able to get to Sydney in time for Paige’s baptism (I arrived at 9 a.m. on Sunday morning and Paige’s baptism was at 1 p.m. that afternoon) and enjoy the rest of my vacation (below is a picture of Paige and I at Pebbly Beach in Ulladulla). The customer service at Qantas is unbeatable—the supervisor was incredibly helpful, sympathetic and pleasant. She totally embodied that classic friendly Aussie stereotype.

How glad am I that Tabatha Coffey doesn’t work at Qantas? You know her—she’s the bitch from Tabatha’s Salon Takeover (currently in its third season on Bravo) and Shear Genius (she was ousted in the sixth episode but still managed to be awarded $10,000 as the show’s Fan Favorite). After reading her book, It’s Not Really About The Hair (published by It Books, an imprint of HarperCollins), and speaking with her, Tabatha pointed out that there’s actually another Aussie stereotype—one where they are known to be honest, forthright and say what they think. Tabatha definitely falls under that category.

Tabatha was born and raised in Adelaide (the coastal state capital of South Australia) where her unconventional parents ran strip clubs. She first started doing hair at these clubs (think burlesque shows—not stripper poles), where the majority of the performers (“certainly the attractive ones,” remembers Tabatha) were transgender (or “transvestites” as Tabatha recalls they were known “in those days”). “It was an auspicious start to my long and eventful career as a hairstylist, showing me that how you make someone look on the outside has everything to do with how he or she feels on the inside,” Tabatha writes.

She doesn’t sound so bad—does she? Once I finished reading It’s Not Really About The Hair and interviewed Tabatha for this column, I discovered that I actually kind of like her and think we could even possibly be friends. Am I crazy? Keep reading below to see what Tabatha has to say for herself…

If it’s not about the hair, what is it about?

It is about sharing stories of my life, to hopefully help inspire, motivate and let people know it’s okay to be you and stand up for who and what you believe in and to follow your passions in life.

What was it like growing up in strip clubs?

It was an education that I wouldn’t change for anything. It taught me to be authentic, open minded and gave me some great hair tips!

Tell me about being a BITCH.

Many people, when they first saw me on TV, called me a bitch because of my honesty. I believe it’s also because there’s a lack of a better word for a woman that speaks her mind and stands up for herself. I decided to turn the negative of the word around and take ownership of it, so I made my own definition of the word: Brave Intelligent Tenacious Creative Honest.

What was the best advice you were ever given? Did you follow it?

I did. My Mother always told me to be true to myself and stand up and do what I believed in, no matter what anyone else said or thought. She always said the worst that can happen is if it doesn’t work, you pick yourself up, dust yourself off and try again.

What’s the best advice you could give someone?

Be true to yourself and follow your passion.

You devote an entire chapter to being fat. What made you decide to start exercising once you moved to America? Did you feel pressure to lose weight? And do you fear becoming fat again?

I did feel some pressure as the concept of “beauty” here is very much about being thin. I also decided it was time to get myself, my weight and my health under control. So, although it started because of the way people treat you when you’re heavy, it became a lifestyle decision, about me taking control and care of myself. My weight fluctuates, as most women’s does, but I don’t fear becoming “fat” again. I enjoy eating and truly don’t like to deprive myself. I have learned balance and moderation and how to listen to my body in order to stay healthy.

You’ve been out for years but people still say to you, “I didn’t know you were gay. You don’t look gay.” How do you react to that?

It always amuses me that people say I don’t look gay. I [have] yet to find the definition of what that look means!

What do you miss most about Australia?

I have family in Australia, so I miss out on many family things. I also miss some of the food. They’re the tastes that I grew up with.

Is outer beauty really all that important?

It is important because it’s what we show the world and what we see when we look in a mirror. But to me, inner beauty is the most important because when you feel comfortable and confident, that radiates for everyone to see. Many people can look beautiful on the outside but they have no substance and their beauty instantly fades.