Pro Talk: Colorist Amanda George
“I grew up in the countryside of England, on the outskirts of London, and my mum used to grow loads of herbs and vegetables and flowers, and she would make bread and wine and jam. I was influenced by this early on and I would make potions and perfumes from all of the flowers and herbs. My grandma collected empty perfume bottles and every time we would go around there I would sneak a couple out. At Christmas, I would wrap them all up with the potions and perfumes and give them as gifts. Everyone would recognize the bottles and have a laugh, but that really impacted the roots of who I am. It was my start.
My father was in the movie business and when he was working at Pinewood Studios, which was close to where I lived, he would sometimes take me with him. I couldn’t really go on set so I would sit in the makeup van with all of the girls doing everyone’s makeup and hair. They’d let me play with the wigs and hold the pins… So I thought, ‘one day, I’m going to be a makeup artist and a hairdresser,’ and that’s all I really wanted to do.
So I left school and I went to a local college to get a City and Guild qualification for hair and beauty. I went for two years and when I finished, I realized that it was completely useless because to go into London and be a top hairdresser, I needed to go and do an apprenticeship, so I kind of had to start all over again.
I had decided that I didn’t want to go work on a movie set and be there at 4 a.m. because my life would be miserable, so I decided that the salon life was going to be for me. I started training with a group of salons outside of London; the guy was partners with Daniel Galvin and he trained me as a junior colorist. I then moved into London and worked at some of the top salons there, and started my career amongst the society ladies of London. At the time, I had a big love affair with London; the fashion, the music scene, Vivienne Westwood opened her store, it was all going on on King’s Road. It was really a fantastic time to be there.
In 1990, I had decided to open a salon-slash-health club with my friend who was in the gym world. It was a little cutting edge for the time as nobody was really doing it. We got a lease for a place in London, we had the plans drawn up, and then the ’90s recession hit really hard and I lost everything. So then I needed to get out of London and I moved to America with 500 dollars in my pocket. My friend who I was going to open the business with rented an apartment in Los Angeles and I decided to go with him.
I arrived, not thinking that I was going to stay, and I met someone; he was a hairdresser and he worked at Juan Juan in Beverly Hills. Within two months, I’d been offered a job there as a colorist, and Juan offered to sponsor me for my Green Card. I remember thinking that the two years in college was a complete waste of time because it was more geared towards doing the movie stuff, but it was the one thing that differentiated me from a lot of other people and helped me to get my Green Card. So, in the end there was a reason that I had done the schooling.
At this point, my career just took off; I had opportunity after opportunity, starting with working on a shoot with Oribe and doing a complete color change of Niki Taylor for the cover of Elle Magazine. I worked alongside Johnathan Gale, who was fabulous, and as soon as I had completed my five years for my Green Card, I was offered a position at the then Prive Salon on Melrose Place. I took the job, and I was surrounded by people like Andy LeCompte, who was 18-years-old when I started working there, Byron [Williams], Leanne [Citrone], Andy’s partner, Kim Vo, Laurent [Dufourg]… We were all young and just starting. It was a great time for me; I started doing color for so many celebrities, like Kate Hudson, Charlize Theron, Brittany Murphy, Rebecca Romijn.
Andy LeCompte left to go to Chris McMillan and I decided to go as well. At Chris McMillan, I met Neil [Weisberg] and that’s when I decided to open a salon with him, and we became Neil George, which was a really hot celebrity salon. We also started a product line, which was sort of a dream come true for me and a nightmare for him.
About five years ago, my friend and client Kelly Wearstler, who owned the Viceroy Hotel Group at the time, asked me if I would be interested in doing an amenity line for the hotels. The Neil George product line had already started, and I said yes and I developed a line for her within the Neil George portfolio. Simultaneously, the other part of my business – the product formulations – started to grow as well.
In 2012, Neil George disbanded and we discontinued the Neil George product line. I repartnered with Jonathan Antin, who is a reality TV show star and a hairdresser, and we started the Jonathan and George Salon. I am now procuring a new line for the Viceroy on my own called Roil. This is a lifestyle brand, not a haircare brand.
Even now, 30 years later, I never look at my job as work. I just love painting, and I’m never bored. I really love doing what I do. With products, I’m just in awe at how it always reinvents itself and how it’s always really new and exciting. I’m just thrilled to be a part of it.”
– Celebrity colorist Amanda George of the Jonathan and George Salon.