Hollywood’s most sought-after colorist and co-creator of “The Rachel,” Michael Canalé, has revitalized Jennifer Aniston’s look. Best known for being Jennifer Aniston’s longtime colorist (he, along with stylist Chris McMillan, created the coif that later became known simply as the “Rachel”), Canalé is frequently called upon by celebs, models, and industry elite for his innovative technique and keen eye. Highly regarded for his corrective color method, he focuses on the natural beauty of hair, making sure to protect and prevent damage. Since the beginning of his career, Canalé has been a true pioneer of his style, leaving clients with hair that is healthy as it is gorgeous.
In addition to Jennifer Aniston, Michael Canalé has been working with the blonde beauty, Kate Hudson to create and maintain her golden locks throughout her pregnancy and life as a new mom during her campaigns for Fabletics and WeightWatchers.
With over 30 years’ experience, Michael Canalé is a rare talent and truly among the best in the industry; his work has been published in Allure, Vogue, Vanity Fair, Women’s Health, Elle, Marie Claire, Redbook, Glamour, and New Beauty, to name a few.
StarCentral Magazine recently caught up with Michael to discuss his groundbreaking career and new product line and here’s what went down:
Could you please provide background about yourself and how were you actually ‘discovered’?
In my early years as a hairdresser, I was a technician working in the chemical world of permanent waves and color theory (and yes, permanents were a big thing in the 80s – you can look it up!) I’d moved from the San Fernando Valley to Beverly Hills, as I knew that to be the best, I needed to work with the best. I was working in a higher-end salon, watching and learning. One day, the colorist did not show up to work. The make-up artist pulled me aside and told me that today, I needed to step it up. I genuinely wasn’t scared. I knew I could do it. That was my moment of “discovery,” and 30 years later, I’ve never looked back, working in six cities around the country. I’m having a blast.
What do you like most about coloring?
I draw inspiration from the people who walk through my door and sit in my chair. They’re all different – some very famous, and most not – but I honestly see the beauty in all of them. I love to start and end with creating a natural look for each woman – and I can see it before I start working on each client.
What sort of person usually requests your services?
I have been in this business for more than 30 years, and I have all types of clients. The majority of my clients are with me either through word of mouth and referrals, or they’ve seen my work in print or on social media. I have been doing Jennifer Aniston’s hair now for more than 25 years and gave her her signature “Rachel” style. So, my work and reputation, and work with a lot of other celebrities, has helped to drive my business. But my clients are all incredibly loyal – and they are also moms, lawyers, lobbyists, and philanthropists. They are savvy, hard-working, and kind – I can’t abide by unkind people.
What’s the biggest challenge in coloring?
My challenges are mostly self-imposed, as I never really stop working. Every month, I travel from my home salons in Beverly Hills and Pacific Palisades to Rancho Santa Fe and San Francisco – and then to New York, Washington, DC, and Dallas. Most people would consider traveling challenging, but I don’t – it’s a gift! Specifically, around coloring, the challenge is around staying relevant and interesting without going overboard. I think I’ve been successful because I don’t follow trends – I stay classic.
Have you always wanted to be in the entertainment industry?
I don’t really consider myself in the “entertainment” industry, but rather, I sit in a catbird seat, just watching in. I was born and raised in LA, so it’s just a part of who I am, and I have been lucky enough to have many members of the entertainment industry as clients – mainly because of the city I live in versus having sought it out. When I was first starting out in this business, I knew just two things: one, that I wanted to be the best, and two, that I was talented enough to be the best. So whether my clients are celebrities or the people who work in the industry, that’s as close as I want to be to the entertainment industry!
What’s your personal mission in life?
I love what I do and the relationships I have with my hundreds of clients. I’ve learned that life has so many dimensions and chapters, and I’ve made so many friendships along the way. I’ve also learned that I want to give back because I am now in a position to do so. I support charities and causes I care about when I’m not in the salon. I have focused on education, the challenge of homelessness, and creating more peace in the world – the latter of which means I’ve supported the practice of NAAM yoga, which has taught me the importance of breath, of taking time for myself, and how to use my body and mind for self-healing and revitalization.
Some of the most influential philanthropists can be found in my salon at any moment in any city at any time. So, after three decades in this business, I am now in a position to help these amazing people connect with one another all over the world to create change – so I do that through the chairs in my salon. I’ve introduced Cabinet secretaries to non-profit leaders, and homemakers to entrepreneurs – there are connections out there every day! I genuinely believe that those of us lucky enough to give back should do so to address the challenges we as a society face.
What has been the most memorable experience of your career so far?
There isn’t just one memorable experience, but it’s more like a journey I’ve been lucky enough to be on. When I was just starting out, I worked in Switzerland and New York, then I moved back to LA. Along that entire journey of 30 plus years, I have been blessed to meet some truly memorable clients. I have one client who served as a top Army commander in Iraq, many who have worked in presidential administrations in senior roles, a few women who have survived life-threatening health scares, and others who are making a huge difference in the philanthropic space. These women are all “memorable experiences” to me because most of them are working to make the world a better place. And I am lucky to call them my clients and friends.
Who have been the most interesting people you’ve met so far?
I think all of my clients are interesting in their own right: they are leaders in government, non-profit, philanthropy, homemakers, and mothers. They are all beautiful, and my job is to help accentuate that – and it is the best part of my job.
Mary Ann Mobley was one of my first celebrity clients in the 80s – she was a Miss America and Mission Impossible star – and she told her friends about me. I then moved on to stars like Morgan Fairchild and Faye Dunaway. At the same time, I also got a bit of wanderlust and opened salons in Washington, DC, San Francisco and New York. My goal was to meet new clients and establish my reputation as a top colorist, which happened pretty quickly. Jennifer Aniston started out as a client before she was famous – and together with Chris McMillan, we created the “Rachel.” Jennifer is still a client today, and I find her incredibly interesting and kind.
Can you give us some tips for maintaining the color between visits?
I have a full line of hair care products on http://canalesalon.com/. I devised each one to ensure that color not only lasts, but the hair looks incredibly healthy, shiny, and strong in-between visits. I have also just released a gloss that lasts for up to 20 washes – in blue (for darker hair tones), and sun-kissed gold (for truer, blonder tones). I created these colored glosses to counterbalance the color over time, and to lock it in to last longer. Shiny means healthy, and healthy looks great – and my shampoo, conditioner, foaming conditioner, vitamins, and new gloss have been researched and designed to do just that.
How can you get the best color from your stylist?
Ask them. There’s a reason why you’re in the chair and they’re the ones holding the foils and bleach. Do your research: talk to your friends, read reviews, and check out work on social media. Bring in pictures from when you were younger and before you started bleaching or coloring your hair – so they can see what God gave you. Finally, bring in pictures of colors and styles you love – but know that a good colorist might try and point you in a different direction because that’s their expertise to do that, not yours.
One of my gifts is that I can innately “see” what the right color is on every woman who comes to me. So, she might sit in my chair and tell me she thinks the particular shade of blonde on Heidi Klum is what she should have – but I am really good at explaining why that might not be the best solution. I look at eyes and skin tone and go from there. Some of the trends today are great on Instagram – but very aggressive and super damaging to the hair – and they just don’t work on everyone! Trust a good colorist to be able to tell you that.
What’s the best color for your complexion?
I work really hard to enhance and highlight one’s natural hair color to brighten skin tone and eyes. Even if someone wants to go super blonde, I still take my focus and direction from the eyes, so it doesn’t feel too brassy. For lighter to medium skin tones, I can go for a fewer, more dramatic highlights right around the face, because it looks a bit more natural and complementary to frame the face with a few brighter, sun-kissed highlights, and then go a bit more golden in the back. For darker skin tones and eyes, I dial the highlights back just a bit to more naturally accentuate skin tone. Either way, I keep the focus on the eyes – the window into one’s soul!
What’s the biggest hair color trends of the moment?
I have worked for decades with Chris McMillan – one of the best in the business. Together, we created the “Rachel” for Jennifer Aniston – it was his cut and my color. Both that cut and her color, have withstood the test of time.
Today, I still think that classic and natural looks beat trends every time. So, while I think that balayage might be coming back, I still go for beautiful highlights that key off of one’s natural color. I spend several hours with each client and have devised a multi-step process – there just aren’t any shortcuts to doing something this good. There’s a rhythm to perfect hair color and the more I see you, the better it gets. You know, Chris McMillan said recently that I’m the only colorist he would trust on the day of the Academy Awards. I love that – and I feel the same way about him. Together, we’ve created some pretty awesome looks for some pretty amazing women – and traditional beats trends every time.
Can you define some of your highlighting techniques to prolong time between visits?
First, it starts with subtle and softer paper-thin highlights – vs. chunkier and thicker highlights that will be more noticeable when hair grows out. The second critical thing is to not color hair that is so dramatically different from your base color – the more extreme the difference, the quicker it will noticeably grow out between visits.
How do vitamin supplements support hair health and growth?
Think about it logically: your hair is simply an extension of everything you put in your body. So, if you eat unhealthy things, don’t hydrate (or drink too much alcohol!), and use cheaper off-the-shelf hair products, it will show in your hair. Everything you eat ends up in the hair follicles – so vitamins specifically designed for your hair and nails will help them to grow stronger. I have a great vitamin supplement in my hair care line, available at Canale Salon.
What are your future plans? Inside your career or out of it.
I have always given back for as long as I can remember, and I have recommitted to do even more of that in the months and years ahead. I deeply care about our environment – particularly the climate and our declining water tables. I also care about the issue of homelessness – and am working with several philanthropists in Southern California to help combat it. Finally, I am working on strengthening my inner peace – and support the practice of NAAM, founded by my dear friend, Dr. Joseph Levry. I think it is the responsibility of those of us who have been given so much to give back – so that’s what will drive all of my future plans.
The “LIGHTNING FAST’ Round:
1. Last good movie I’ve seen: I really try and see all the Golden Globe and Oscar-nominated movies before the awards show themselves – you know, I’ve done hair for both ceremonies for years. But I’m not always successful in getting to all of them! This past year, I loved “Ford vs. Ferrari,” and I took my daughter to see “Little Women” – which I thought was a great story about the empowerment and strength of young women. I also loved “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” because…I love the town I live in.
2. What do you consider beautiful and why? My children. They are each incredible in how they are growing up and I love learning about what is important to them as they get older. It’s like looking at a seashell – both very different, with their own patterns and beauty and flow.
3. What haven’t you done yet that you wish you could? I honestly never slow down enough to think about that! I really have had a very full and rewarding life.
4. Complete this sentence: “If I had no fear, I’d…” Go to cooking school.
5. What is the one “flaw” you wouldn’t change about yourself? I sometimes overpromise! It can be a flaw, but I consider it a strength because I thrive on being busy and doing new things, supporting new causes, and never stopping.