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An Interview With Abell Oujaddou on Following Your Passion and Becoming a Leader

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Abell Oujaddou

When it comes to passion, opinions are widely mixed. Some people believe that you should go where the money and greatest chance of success is rather than blindly following your passion. Some believe passion is overrated. Yet, many others believe that letting passion be your guide is what makes life worth living. Abell Oujaddou is one of those people.

Born in Morocco and raised in France, Abell Oujaddou has followed his passions all his life, both in the film industry and the beauty industry. As a student, the school was not his forte. He made a deal with his parents to enroll in a trade school if they allowed him to leave school. Encouraged by his girlfriend at the time, he decided to enroll in cosmetology school and study hair design. At 17 years old, he followed another dream to become an actor by moving to New York and attending acting school.

Abell Oujaddou lived in New York for five years. As he studied acting, he worked in an upscale hair salon, Bruno Dessange Salon. After graduating, he moved to Los Angeles. While there, he worked for famed hairstylist Jose Eber in Beverly Hills and also worked as a film producer. He produced a documentary called Haze, which highlights the consequences of hazing practices that take place in colleges and focuses on the death of a college student as the result of hazing. He also produced a drama feature-length film called Rendezvous in Samarkand, which features the story of a couple smuggling a contraband 4×4 across the Sahara.

Never losing touch with his true calling in the beauty industry, Abell Oujaddou returned to New York to work at the John Frieda Salon. He is now the co-owner of Marie Robinson Salon, which has locations in both New York and Miami Beach. Throughout his career in the beauty industry, he has worked with big names in the entertainment industry including Merryl Streep, Kate Winslet, Kate Hudson, Robert DeNiro, and Sam Mendes. He has also led the hair teams for top designers like Calvin Klein and Chanel.

Why is it important to follow your passion?

No one else can live your life for you. Only you can do that. You need to make your own choices and follow your own path. My feeling is that there are too many people that live their lives for others. There are too many people living their lives for their parents and studying what they want them to study. There are too many people concerned about what other people think. If less people cared about the opinions of other people, I strongly believe that the world would be a more creative place.

What do you love most about your industry?

I’ve always been an artistic and creative person. Every day, my team and I get to use our creative expression to make our clients look beautiful. That is a wonderful feeling. Beyond that, in my line of work, I have collaborated on various editorial shoots for major publications and film productions. Being able to actually see my work in the entertainment industry is always exciting.

What would you tell others looking to get into your industry?

Have patience. Becoming a hair expert takes a lot of time and there is a lot of competition out there. It takes a while to develop your skillset and find what your specific specialty is. While hairstylists are expected to know it all, everyone has a specific skill they are better at, whether it be coloring hair or creating the perfect bangs. I also always say don’t expect to come out of school and know it all. The industry is constantly changing so it’s important to continuously engage in professional development, like attending conferences or taking the newest courses available.

What keeps you motivated?

My son keeps me motivated. I want to give him the very best life that I can, so I work hard to make that happen.

What is the biggest lesson you have learned managing your business/team?

Never settle and constantly strive to grow and be better. It is the only way to become successful. Those businesses that are comfortable staying where they are and not focusing on developing the skills of the team are likely to stagnate. They won’t be remembered tomorrow. The Marie Robinson Salon has grown from one location to two and we have our sights set on more. We have worked to make a name for ourselves in the industry and we don’t plan on slowing down any time soon.

What traits do you possess that make you a successful leader?

I hire the right people in the right roles and I work to be their mentor rather than just their boss. We need to focus on the people we work with because they are the heart of the enterprise. It is important to make sure they have all the right tools in their toolbox, so I provide them with those tools. I provide help where needed and I work to hire people that are interested in continuously developing their skill sets. By ensuring I have a talented, creative, and curious team, it helps me be a better leader.

What trends in your industry excite you?

In the beauty industry, things are constantly changing! There are new trends in hairstyles and hair coloring every single year. We always have to be on top of the latest trends. For example, in the mid-1990s, the “Rachel” cut, made famous by Jennifer Aniston when she acted on the sit-com Friends was all the rage. You don’t get a lot of people requesting that kind of haircut today. Recently, the “pompadour” has become a popular hairstyle for both men and women. That could be gone tomorrow. The beauty industry goes through so many trends on a regular basis and that is very exciting.

What has been the hardest obstacle you’ve overcome?

Moving from France, away from my family, to the U.S. was definitely a hurdle to overcome. But it was something that I knew I had to do for my future. I wanted to pursue acting and continue to hone my skills in the beauty industry. I knew moving to the U.S. and especially to New York and LA would be my best bet.

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