“I want you to be better than me.” Tracey would say that to me and that always stuck with me.
A lot of people, especially those who are the very top of their game, like Tracey, are really stingy about sharing their knowledge, but she wanted me to be better than her, and said it and meant it, even though there’s no one who can come close to the work she does. Just her telling me that – It was unbelievable. There’s nothing like having someone so talented, like her, believe in you and push you hard to take it you to the next level, which is exactly what she did with me”
Jerome was introduced to Tracey while he was working with Yvonne Brown. The duo stopped by Neil George’s salon one day, where Tracey was working at the time, to say hello. Tracey was very funny; the first thing she said to Molles was,”You are so handsome!!!”
“I had already heard about Tracey Cunningham and how amazing her work was. At the time, I was very new to the business and wanted to learn as much as I could from the best of the best, so that’s when I really got Tracey on my radar.
When Yvonne went on maternity leave, I went to work under Justin Anderson at Neil George and I remember seeing how busy Tracey always was and was amazed at the fast pace she kept and how many clients she was able to do per day without sacrificing the quality she is rightly famous for. I would stand back and watch her very, very intensely to learn as much as I possibly could. I think it actually kind of weirded her out, having me stare like that [laughs] but I was so taken aback and amazed at how beautiful her work was that I couldn’t help but stare. Our working relationship started off by me occasionally holding foils for her while she worked, with me watching every move she made — like a hawk! When she had an opening for another assistant, I was fortunate enough to be selected to join her team and I ended up working with Tracey for several years after. To be honest, it was not easy by any stretch of the imagination, but so rewarding and I wouldn’t give up that experience with her for the world.
In October 2009, I had to move back home to Northern California for family reasons. It was a very tough move, having to leave LA and Cunninghams close knit team. Those were hands down the best years in my career thus far. When I got back to the Bay Area, I had to start completely from scratch. Tracey was kind enough to refer a client who was a real mover and shaker among the San Francisco social circles, and soon the word got out that someone who had not only worked with Tracey, but learned the craft from her was in San Francisco and my clientele quickly grew from there. In March 2014, I was able to open Studio323, my own small boutique salon on Union Square in the heart of San Francisco. I know there’s not a chance I would be the colorist I am today if it wasn’t for Tracey Cunningham. She set a new standard for me in terms of what it means to have an unbreakable work ethic and just doing whatever it takes to get it right and make it breathtakingly gorgeous.
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