The power-lunch season is in full swing as the overflowing Wednesday crowd poured into Michael’s. There were plenty of hard working PR mavens (Peggy Siegal wielding not one — but two — cell phones at once, while she waited for her date to arrive) and famous faces (Barbara Walters and the ageless Willow Bay) among the sea of usual suspects.
I was joined today by Ouidad (Yes, she goes by one name like Madonna and Cher) the renowned hairstylist whose celebrity clients include Minnie Driver, Sean Lennon and Jordin Sparks. The tireless and incredibly exuberant industry icon is considered the “pioneer of the curl” among beauty business insiders since she launched her eponymous business in 1984. Ouidad tells me she’s “all about the curl” — while shaking her own impressive tresses for emphasis — whether she’s cutting and styling clients at her Manhattan or Santa Monica salons, training stylists (600 in all!) across the country on her signature techniques (the “rake and shake”), or formulating her own product line designed to enhance the health and appearance of the manes of her curly-haired customers. “There is such freedom in letting your hair be!” she told me referring to the fashion set’s obsession with the flat iron (guilty as charged). “This is all about empowerment. I love helping women be free to be who they are. It’s my mission,” she said.
Ouidad’s other deeply personal mission is her commitment to raise breast cancer awareness and funds. A breast cancer survivor who lost her own mother to the disease, Ouidad told me the experience was life changing both personally and professionally. After her bi-lateral mastectomy in 2002, she had a newfound respect and understanding for women struggling with the disease and felt deeply connected to her clients who came into the salon facing the difficult diagnosis. “Before I’d try to tell my clients, we can try different wigs, do different things,” she recalled. “Now I’d never say that. Being behind the chair listening to them and having had my own experience, I tell them, ‘Yes, this is awful, but it’s not a death sentence. We’re going to get through this together.'”
Working with her husband, Peter Wise, Ouidad established KRLY Kids, a pink ribbon collection benefiting the Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF) through her Curls for a Cure program, which the couple established in 2002. The program has donated over $475,000 to BCRF since its inception, matching customer donations dollar for dollar. Beginning this month, Ouidad will donate $1 for every KRLY Kids purchase made on Ouidad.com to BCRF year-round. When I asked Ouidad why she chose to work with the BCRF, founded by the late Evelyn Lauder, she told the decision was an easy one. “Of all the breast cancer charities, the BCRF gives the most money to the cause — 91 cents of every dollar go to research and that was very important to me.”
It’s amazing to realize how far breast cancer awareness has come since Lauder and Alexandra Penney, then editor of Self magazine, launched the pink-ribbon campaign back in 1993, setting a template for literally hundreds of campaigns that have been co-opted by companies all over the world. For Ouidad, it’s not a marketing strategy; it’s a call to action to help women everywhere. “Our mission is to eradicate this disease in our lifetime and it can be done,” she told me. “It’s about awareness and education.” Speaking of awareness, when Ouidad saw that Barbara Walters was sitting at the next table she told me, “I went to the Breast Cancer Research Symposium and Awards at the Waldorf last week where Barbara was being honored and she was great.” It was reported that during her remarks, Barbara revealed she’d had a lumpectomy. On a much lighter note, she told the crowd she was glad the afternoon was coming to a close because “I’ll never forget this lunch because my bra is too tight!” Said Ouidad: “I loved that she said that. How funny.”
This month, Ouidad introduced a limited-edition Pink Curl Extension, which we all wore at lunch and offers women and girls a new way to wear pink. She is donating 100 percent of the $10 purchase price of the extension to BCRF. The pink curl is a temporary, synthetic clip-in extension that she’s distributed at participating salons. This month, during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, women are encouraged to post a selfie sporting the pink curl extension to Facebook, Instagram or Twitter using hashtag #CurlsForACure. For every upload, Ouidad will donate $1 to BCRF with a maximum donation of $10,000. Forget orange. This month, pink is the new black.
Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:
1. PR maven Susan Magrino and three well-dressed gals
2. Andrew Stein with two gentleman we didn’t recognize
3. “Mayor” Joe Armstrong and Dave Zinczenko, who, with BFF Dan Abrams, was the subject of a glowing profile in Sunday’s New York Post as their restaurant, White Street, is quickly becoming the downtown hot spot. President Barack Obama pressed the flesh there last week. The Mayor recently got some ink of his own, making the list of The 212 Most Influential New Yorkers in this month’s Avenue. Don’t these guys ever sleep?
4. Barbara Walters with Huffington Post’s Willow Bay. Could it be that the grand dame of daytime television is thinking of going online? Just as long as she keeps doing her “Ten Most Fascinating People” specials, we’re fine with it.
5. Herb Siegel
6. Ouidad, Leslie Stevens, Kate Boothby and yours truly
7. Dujour‘s Jason Binn with WWD‘s Jim Fallon talking shop…
8. New York Social Diary‘s David Patrick Columbia with Meryl Seacrest (no relation to Ryan, so we’re told)
9. Felicia Taylor
10. Judy Twersky and HG-TV’s Loren Ruch
11. Peggy Siegal
12. Ruis Armando
14. Steve Rubenstein
18. Bill Siegel (Herb’s son)
20. Allure‘s Nancy Cardone and The Fragrance Foundation’s Elizabeth Musmanno
21. Quest‘s Chris Meigher and Taki
22. Francine LeFrak (long time no see!) and William Vanden Heuvel
23. Joel Moser
24. BizBash’s David Adler
25. Tom Goodman and colleague Liane Ramirez. They worked together back in the day at CBS. Just thought you’d like to know.
26. Christine Taylor
27. Author Jon Meachamand a dark-haired gal who came bearing a handful of — what else? — books
28. Deb Fine
29. PR maven Dini von Mueffling, who I “Lunch”-ed with last week
81. Author Ed Klein and Judith Pisar
82. Elizabeth Harrison
We’ll be off next week working on the production of the swanky Night of Stars gala hosted by The Fashion Group International, but will be back in the dining room on October 29. See you then!
Diane Clehane is a contributor to FishbowlNY. Follow her on Twitter @DianeClehane. Please send comments and corrections on this column to LUNCH at MEDIABISTRO dot COM.