We recently met up with hair and makeup artist Mena Mead, a longtime resident of the Lower Haight who is gearing up to work the Academy Awards. Tomorrow night, she'll be taking care of Vanity Fair magazine's team for the red carpet, as well as their legendary after-party.
Where are you from originally?
I’m a native Californian, I’m from Southern California.
How long have you been a stylist?
About 20 years. I was first working in San Francisco as a resident makeup artist at Saks 5th Avenue. That’s where I met a gentleman who became my inspiration. He owned a salon in Union Square and was bicoastal between here and New York. He was working with Ford Agency. I knew I wanted to do work like that. He said, “you’ve got to get more tools in your pocket and you can do whatever.”
So what did you do?
I quit my job at Saks, went to San Jose City College School of Cosmetology, got my [cosmetology] license and headed straight to New Orleans. I worked there for 3 years, then opened my own spot called Odelay Mena. I did a lot work with movies and musicians. It’s where I built up my celebrity clientele, like Anne Rice, Chris Rice, Eric Burdon. I’d go to their homes and it was pretty amazing. They opened a lot of doors for me back then.
After that, I sold my salon and home in New Orleans and landed in Buenos Aires. I went there for two months, ended up buying a place and staying for a couple of years doing freelance work. I came back to San Francisco in 2005. I was at a wine bar and someone overheard me talking about looking for a place to live, and I was lucky to move into the place I still live in today in the Lower Haight.
How did Vanity Fair come into the picture?
When I came back to San Francisco, I worked at 77 Maiden Lane and a few other salons. Then 2008 hit and a lot of salons started to close down. I started taking jobs in LA, New York, wherever there was a fashion show, wherever people needed me. I was fortunate to get an agent who started connecting me with more high-end events and clients. My agent connected me with Vanity Fair.
What did you like best about the red carpet work last year?
You always have to be kind of uncomfortable in your industry, you have to be around the best and see where you’re at so it pushes you and makes you sweat. It makes you evaluate where you’re at. It’s high energy and inspires you.
What are your style influences?
I do Fashion Week in New York, so that’s an inspiration. Definitely street fashion, LA, San Francisco and New York.
When you’re not at the Oscars, what do you do?
I work out of a salon in the Inner Sunset and another in downtown. And I’m always doing freelance work. In the next few years, I want to do more editorial work in LA and San Francisco and Mexico City.
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