Stylist Spotlight: Javier Oropeza

You recently transformed Rosario Dawson from being a “J.Lo blonde” to a brunette for an upcoming film called Seven Pounds. What was she like to work with?

When I do studio work, I collaborate with the hairdresser on set. We figure out which characteristics the actor needs to prepare for the role. The first time I colored Rosario’s hair was for the movie Eagle Eye. She came in as a medium blonde ('J.Lo blonde,' as she called it). What she needed for this role was a rich deep brown with some warm undertones. It just so happened that she wanted to keep it up for her role in Seven Pounds, which was a lot easier. Rosario is a fearless pro. She was down for whatever. She has a great wit, and she is passionate about politics. She's also co-founder of Voto Latino, which is focused on getting young Latinos to get out and vote. Brains and beauty? I’m sold!

Should women always color their hair if it turns grey? Or can some people pull it off? Do you think it will ever be a trend?

Listen, there is nothing more sexy to me than self confidence. If you feel good in gray hair, then rock it! I just think gray hair does funky things to your texture. It can wash your skin tone out, and even make your hair look less dense. I just turned 40 and I still get carded. Give me color--it’s cheaper than Botox.

Tell us the five most important rules of etiquette that a customer should keep in mind when dealing with you.

a) Communicate. The consultation is key. I find clients know more about what they don’t want than what they do want.

b) Be realistic. Are you sure you want high maintenance hair, if you don’t want to put in any effort? Remember, that celebrity probably saw someone like me before they ended up in that magazine.

c) Understand what you're getting yourself into. I will only be as invested in the process as you are. In other words: I’m not coming home with you.

d) Be patient—whether you’re growing out your hair or my last client was a little late, all my clients get equal time. I am time-conscious, but I don’t rush. Everyone looks great when they leave. Breathe!

e) You can call me. I am not an egomaniac. If something is not right, I will make it right! No attitude, no questions.

How much would you say it costs to keep up a hair color per month?

I try to keep the maintenance down for my clients. But I do have some high-maintenance color clients. In Los Angeles on Ventura Blvd, expect to pay $65 to $100 for a single process color (root touch up) and $85 to $125 for highlights (usually, half head). If you find a good colorist, you can often come up with a plan that is within your budget.

We know that we are supposed to tip the hairstylist, but is it also necessary to tip the person who washes your hair? And if so, how much?

I believe that tipping is a personal thing. In our salon all of our assistants are licensed hairstylists. I work my assistant to death. They do so much more than shampoo hair. And just like any service provider, there is an estimated tax on tips. I believe in giving appreciation for extraordinary service. Beside my assistant Selene washes way better than me!

Javier Oropeza is owner of Sterling Salon and Spa
11630 Ventura Blvd
Studio City, Calif.

Serena Kim