When it comes to show-stopping hair, there’s one New York salon that countless stars — and even members of the royal family — have relied on for more than two decades.
Counting the likes of Beyoncé, Martha Stewart, Hilary Clinton, Reese Witherspoon and Victoria Beckham as clients over the years, John Barrett has been the go-to for many celebs, but perhaps his most famous client was the late Princess Diana, who had Barrett style her hair “on a few occasions” in the late 1990s.
“I was so nervous,” he tells Page Six Style of the pair’s first meeting at New York’s Carlyle Hotel, but it turns out, the stylist had nothing to worry about.
“I get to her suite, and immediately she’s sitting on the bed with my assistant looking at photographs of my assistant’s children,” he recalls. “The chatting was easy.”
Barrett says Diana “had an element of trust to just do what you like” when it came to her hair, but admits, “With someone like that, if I did anything bad or wrong it would be visible to the whole world.”
“It was comfortable,” Barrett recalls of their dynamic, sharing that the royal showed off her playful side with him.
“She said, ‘Do you want to have a laugh?’” Barrett shares, adding that the princess received “thousands of letters” and the palace “would pick out about five, give them to her and she could read them, and basically, they were from crazy people.”
“She’s reading these letters and we were just cracking up,” the hair whiz remembers. “There was one from a plastic surgeon … saying, ‘I would like to consult with you.’ We laughed about that.”
Diana died not long after the last time Barrett saw her. “I felt that she found happiness and comfort, and it’s such a sadness that it wasn’t destined to last,” he says.
Aside from the princess, he says one of the most “extraordinary” moments he’s experienced while working with a celeb happened with an especially down-to-earth A-lister.
“About 100 years ago, I was working on a TV show, and the call time was about 5:30 or 6 a.m., which is not that unusual,” he recalls. “And Julia Roberts showed up and she said, ‘Can I get you guys some coffee?’”
Although the hair pro says he’s “never encountered anyone rude” when it comes to stars, the sweet gesture took him by surprise.
“This wasn’t something I was familiar with, and I was just blown away.”
After holding court at Bergdorf Goodman for 23 years and creating his signature “Bergdorf Blond” hair color, Barrett moved his salon down the street just before the pandemic.
“It was time,” he says, adding that the art-filled room with high ceilings and huge windows is markedly different from his original space at the historic department store.
“I wanted to build a space and having higher ceilings, having good air conditioning and all of that was very important,” the beauty guru says. “At Bergdorf, it was an older building where I didn’t have those options.”
Along with hairstyling, Barrett’s salon offers a range of services including nails, makeup, eyebrows and eyelashes.
“There are many actors who come in here for services other than hair,” he says, sharing that he frequently sees Broadway stars or celebrities who are in New York while filming a movie or TV show.
While it’s not uncommon to see a famous face at the salon, don’t expect to sit next to a pop star while you get your trim.
“It causes chaos,” he admits, sharing that someone like Beyoncé goes to a private room. “Not because she wants to, but people are going to be looking. Everyone has a natural curiosity.”
When asked who his ultimate client would be, Barrett immediately replied, “Kate [Middleton]. I don’t even have to think about that … She looks sensational.”
One of the princess’ recent outfits didn’t quite make the grade for the celeb stylist, however.
“The only mistake I’ve seen so far with her is that she went — I’m going to be crucified for this — but she went to some event where she was wearing long black gloves. You look at it too much. I just didn’t know where they came from.”
As for the biggest mistake he sees people making with their hair, Barrett says it’s not “appreciating and working with what you have.”
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For example, the stylist is “seeing a lot of shorter bobs coming back” for spring, but that doesn’t mean the look is suited for everyone.
“We don’t all have to look like Julia Roberts or Gisele,” Barrett says. “But everyone has something and it’s finding that something and then bringing that out.”
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