You can take the girl out of Brissy, or more specifically Surfer’s Paradise, but you can’t take Brissy out of the girl. And in the case of hair stylist Tabatha Coffey you wouldn’t want to, or you could be cutting off her forthright approach which has helped win her own TV series.
When Coffey appeared on the US reality series Shear Genius she so impressed Bravo TV they offered up her own series.
Coffey hadn’t won the hairstylist series, but the Aussie girl had become known for pulling no punches. As she tells TV Tonight, it helped set her apart from her castmates and forge a personality.
“There’s a different kind of directness that we have, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing at all,” she says. “I find it quite refreshing to tell the truth. It’s not to be mean or be a bully, but to wake them up.”
After leaving Surfers, Brisbane-born Coffey worked in London for 7 years, before moving to the US where she has been for 14 years. Despite having a successful Salon, she applied for Shear Genius on a whim.
“I have a business and it does really well so it was just a laugh. The casting producers had reached out to all these different avenues and I got the email about a reality show that was based around hairdressers. I thought ‘why not?’ So I went along to see what it was all about.”
In her own spin-off series, to air in Australia on Arena, Coffey visits struggling salons and dishes out her advice. With a manner that is direct, it is hard not see the show as a Gordon Ramsay-like look at the hairdressing industry.
“I get the comparison a lot. I’m passionate about what I do and passionate about my industry. As well as owning my own salon I’ve been an educator for several major product companies all around the world teaching hairdressers. So I probably don’t suffer fools easily.”
Like many reality TV shows the series also thrives on maximising the drama in order for Coffey to resolve it.
She sends in phony clients with camera crews capturing how they are treated by under-performing staff. When she later plays the footage back to salon owners, she is quick to point out their mistakes. But how much does the presence of cameras affect behaviour?
“Obviously the salon knows that there are TV cameras in there. But they don’t know who the clients are that I’ve sent in, and who are actual clients. And they don’t know that I’m there watching what’s going on,” she says.
“I make sure I look at their hair so that when they walk out I can re-check their hair. But as for setting up situations or setting up the way people behave, that’s the amazing thing I guess of all reality TV. These people act the way they act.”
A second series of Tabatha’s Salon Takeover goes to air in the US in late October. After winning the Fan Favourite award in Shear Genius, it seems America loves to have a foreign-born expert coming in to dish out the criticism.
“I think the thing everyone knows about me is I’m honest and to the point,” she says. “It’s not meant to be done to be mean but I don’t have a lot of time with these salons, so there’s no point me beating around the bush”
Tabatha’s Salon Takeover airs 7:30pm Wednesdays on Arena.