This profile originally aired May 23, 2010
Folks in the public eye sometimes need a little redesigning themselves, and that's where the man our Tracy Smith visited comes in:
If beauty was a religion - and for some people, it is - then this man might be considered the patron saint.
Frederic Fekkai has built a multi-million dollar empire based on a talent for knowing what beauty is . . . and what people will pay to get it.
Since he opened his first salon in 1989, Frederic Fekkai has become the stylist of choice for celebrities. Early in his career, he gave Meryl Streep a dramatically different look . . . and the A-List is still lining up at his chair.
"Along the years we had a great celebrity list," he said. "Charlize Theron, Uma Thurman, Salma Hayek, Sigourney Weaver, Barbra Streisand, Naomi Watts, Scarlett Johanssen,"
And when Sandra Bullock walked the red carpet at the Oscars, her hair had help from Team Fekkai.
His talent - and charm - have made him rich. But for Frederic Fekkai, physical beauty is not so much a business as a consuming passion.
He says when he walks down the street he can't avoid looking at people's hair. "Can't help it," he said.
"I can't help looking at everyone, it jumps out in my eyes. Whether it's the length of their hair, the color of their hair, whether the layer is wrong."
"You know, I'm self-conscious now because you say you look at everybody!' said Smith.
But life hasn't always been so beautiful.
Born in the south of France, Fekkai showed an early interest in art, and was accepted at a prestigious art academy to study sculpture. His father was not amused.
"My dad refused to let me go there," Fekkai said. "He said artists only make money after they die!"
Instead, Fekkai went to law school . . . and paid the bills by working in the fashion industry, first as a model, then as an assistant stylist on photo shoots.
It quickly became clear he'd found his calling. "I knew," he said.
"And when you told your dad?" Smith asked.
"It's a terrible story. We didn't talk for 3 years. It was unacceptable. He's a very conservative man. He hated the idea I'd quit law school to do hair. Even today he doesn't understand."
So, against his father's wishes, Fekkai became the sculptor he always wanted to be, but his medium was hair.
At one time, Fekkai used to invite comparison with Warren Beatty's portrayal of a hair-cutting Casanova in the movie "Shampoo." But today, he's happily married with two children, a teenage son from a previous marriage and a 13-month-old daughter.
And in a manner befitting his high-flying style, Fekkai commutes from New York City to his country home upstate in a helicopter he owns and flies himself.
But Fekkai didn't build his empire on haircuts alone. When he saw his well-heeled clients buying cheap shampoo, he came up with his own line of high-end hair care products.
"I would see a client like you, beautifully dressed, with the great Chanel bag, skin care product that costs $300 for 4 ounces, and realized that they would use a shampoo at $4.99 or $6.99, and I said, 'There's a big disconnect.'"
"And what was the difference, if women were then paying $4.99 or $6.99 for their shampoo, what did yours cost?" Smith asked.
"We started at 17 or 18 dollars, then," Fekkai said.
His shampoo now sells for around $22 bucks. But no one's complaining.
"You know, nobody saves on pampering on yourself. You want to spend more, if it's right," he said.
And if you have the money - and he has the time - you can still get an appointment with Fekkai himself.
Of course, Smith's was for demonstration purposes only: He charges $750. "It's only for the people who insist to have me," Fekkai said.
Crazy? Perhaps. But somehow, when you put yourself in Frederic Fekkai's hands, it all seems to make sense.
"So how much would this be if we did it every day?" Smith asked.
"Stop thinking about the cost!" Fekkai replied.
I told you it was priceless!
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