My Life as a Freelance Stylist
By Gabriel Kikas
This past February, I made friends with former hairstylist and makeup artist Chany Catala on Facebook. Chany, who worked for Bride’s Magazine, Cosmopolitan, Mademoiselle, and Vogue, is a remarkable conversationalist. He and I have talked about the wonders of Marylin Monroe and the relationship between Marlene Dietrich and Josef von Sternberg. We talked a great deal about Hubert de Givenchy and Audrey Hepburn. “Hubert de Givenchy (1927-2018),” Chany said in a Facebook post, “was one of the most important haute couture creators of his generation. Givenchy became a celebrated film costume designer when he met ultra-chic Audrey Hepburn. She became his Muse, and they collaborated in movies like Sabrina, Funny Face, Charade, Paris When It Sizzles, [and] Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” Chany’s knowledge of history is equally remarkable. In our first exchanges of posts, he really impressed me with his knowledge of books about Marie Antoinette and 18th century French history. He occasionally posts about his career in the fashion industry on his social media account. I was curious to learn more from him. I thank Chany for agreeing to talk to me about his professional endeavors in hair styling and makeup.
Chany knew that hairdressing was for him. “I always wanted to be a hairdresser. I went to beauty school in New Haven and then worked in a salon in Hamden for about a year. But I used to read fashion magazines like Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, and I knew that I wanted to work for them.” During those early days, Chany frequented New York to ascertain what was new in fashion and hairstyling. He assembled a collection of drawings summarizing what he learned during his research trips to the Big Apple. Through an interesting turn of events, he was able to contact Vogue’s editor at the time, Polly Mellen. She was so impressed with his portfolio that she sent him to work with hairstylists Alan Lewis and Maury Hobson. Lewis and Hobson had worked for the Kenneth Salon, which “was one of the most deluxe salons in Manhattan.” Its most famous client was Jackie Onassis. When Chany joined them, Lewis and Hobson had left Kenneth Salon and established “an agency for freelancers.” Slowly but surely, “I began doing fashion sittings on my own.” “My whole career started,” Chany concluded, “when I began working for them. In less than a year, I worked for Glamour, Bride’s Magazine, Vogue, and Harper’s Bazaar. It was handed to me on a silver platter.”
During the 1980s, Chany made Los Angelis his home. There, he continued with his freelance work in hairstyling and makeup. If you look below, you will find a copy of his business card from those days. In that photo, there is a young woman with her poodle. “The story of the poodle,” Chany writes, is the following: “Firooz Zahedi, the photographer, and I was shooting on location in LA, and a lady happened to walk by walking her pet. Firooz being the artist that he is, asked the woman if we could use her poodle in the picture. That card was famous.” He worked with other models, including Marisa Bernson, Susan Blakley, Gunilla Linblad, Lauren Hutton, and Lynn Sutherland. When Chany was in Paris, he had the pleasure of working with Lynn and fashion photographer Jean Jacques Bugat for Elle France. France was a real treat for him. He took the opportunity to soak in the world of fashion around him. “My favorite fashion designer is Karl Lagerfeld I especially liked his wonderful interpretation of the House of Chanel. I also enjoy Hubert de Givenchy and Yves St Laurent.”
Chany also told me how he worked with some of the great fashion photographers of his time. They included Patrick Demarchelier, Arthur, Elgort, Rico Puhlmann, Bert Stern, Deborah Tuberville, and Albert Watson. “I seldom had any problems with the many photographers that I worked with. They were usually the cream of the crop, and they seemed to like my work.” He also worked with some of the “cream of the crop” from the hairstyling and makeup world. Chany speaks highly, for example, of Sandy Linter. He is forever grateful to her for helping him improve his skills in the art of makeup. “Sandy,” writes Chany, “is a wizard at makeup. She did many editorials and covers for Vogue. She worked with the best models and photographers. She and hairstylist Harry King, whom I admire, ruled Vogue in the 1970s and 1980s.”
Below, I provide a small collection of photos from Chany’s collection. I thank him for allowing me to use those photos for this blog post. I hope that you will visit his Facebook page soon.