Hairdressing the Stars: Regan Noble

4 12 2008

A look inside the life of a Toronto-based film, TV and theatre hair stylist

By Kara Bertrand
Fine Cut Magazine
Spring 2007

In a small two room apartment near the heart of the theatre district, lives a woman who is modest about her many accomplishments, including her Emmy. Scattered around her home workshop are hair extensions, wigs, curlers and an assortment of braids. The room isn’t very messy and most items are in drawers, but she worries of the impression it makes. She’s lived in the apartment since she was in her twenties, and the apartment showcases her art, accomplishments, and her past.

“I never got the bug to do this until I was probably 20,” Regan Noble says. “I was always very embarrassed by it because wherever we lived, we were the only ones who did this kind of work. Everyone else were doctors and lawyers and graphic artists.”

Noble was born to theatre parents in Florida and because her father was a theatre professor, he uprooted the family numerous times for work. Noble has lived in Florida, Colorado and Manitoba before settling down in Toronto.

Being a hair stylist was not even on the radar for Noble at a young age, when ‘K-Mart check-out girl’ was the number one dream profession. “They had this smart little uniform on and this big fluffy handkerchief with their name on it, and it was all very glamourous,” she says, miming the handkerchief around her neck. Her face falls a bit. “My mother said no to that.” Noble’s K-Mart life ambitions didn’t last past the age of eight and she decided to go into hair-dressing after a friend suggested it.

Because of Noble’s previous theatre experience, when she first entered the film and television industry, her union initially categorized her as head of department. She says this is one of her biggest regrets and would have liked to understand the industry beyond her department.

“Looking back on it, I wish I had been an assistant to a lot more heads of department, so I could get to see how they handled difficult actors, difficult producers or difficult situations,” she says.

Dawn Rivard first met Noble 20 years ago when she started working at the Canadian Opera Company and still remembers the impression Noble made. “She was straight-forward and honest and it was always in a work environment, so she was always very professional,” she says. Today, Rivard and Noble maintain a strong business relationship. “We work in the same industry, so we overlap a lot,” she says. “We bail each other out.”

Vincent Sullivan, who has worked as a hair dresser in feature films for the past 10 years, met Noble in hair dressing school at Marvel over 20 years ago. “She was older and had picked a new career. She just seemed secure and self-confident,” he says. While he thinks her honesty is one of her greatest strengths, he also thinks it is one of her biggest weaknesses. “If she likes you, then she likes you, and if she doesn’t like you, she doesn’t like you,” says Sullivan. “She has no problem showing it. If you’re on the wrong end of that, it could be bad.”

With the window open, garbage trucks and cars drive by on the street below, hurling slush and water onto the sidewalks on this mild but rainy day. In a tour of the apartment, she showcases her wigs with pride, giving tiny synopses of where each was used. She shows the one she designed for Trump Unauthorized, a biographical tale of Donald Trump, and begins to brush the hair. “It’s a bit messy and dusty,” she says, frowning.

She doesn’t watch award shows, and isn’t interested by the glamour of the industry, nor of the Emmys. “I see it as the business in which it is,” she says. “Everyone has a contribution, no one is more important than anyone else. Without all of us, nothing would be put up there and no one should use anyone else as a crutch.”

Her Emmy is on her mantle. She won it in 2002 for Feast of All Saints, a TV mini-series on Showtime based on an Anne Rice novel of the same name. The statue looks to have been recently polished. Beside it sits her award from the Hollywood Makeup Artists and Hair Stylists Guild, which she won for the same film. She apologizes because it needs to be buffed and dusted. She explains that appearances can be deceiving, as she believes it to be more of an honour to have won the Guild award since it was given to her by her peers.

She says winning her Emmy did not change her life in any way and she continues to jump through hoops at every job interview. “One person that I worked with years ago won an Emmy and she said, ‘It’s the kiss of death.’ “Maybe with you, sweetheart!” Noble laughs and then becomes serious quite fast. “I wouldn’t say it’s the kiss of death for me, but it really hasn’t helped at all. To me, it says, ‘Okay, Regan, you’re on the right track, you haven’t screwed up. At least you still know what you’re doing.’”

Noble has encountered all sorts of people, and communication breakdowns on set are what she sources as her worst experience in the industry.

“The biggest lesson I’ve learned in film is that no one’s looking after you but you,” she says. “If you don’t like the food they’re serving, bring your own. If you don’t like having to wait for anything, then bring your own car. Go around everything.”

When Noble was asked how long she will be in the industry, she says without hesitation, “Until I retire, absolutely. I start to think, ‘what else do I want to do?’ Nothing.”

And besides, Noble says, “There’s nothing like a seat in the wings.”

Click for a condensed version of the article, which appeared in the magazine: Hair Tales.