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Interview With Curl Master Mary MacDonald

Tue, 01/14/2014 - 11:50 -- Jess

As Jessicurl continues to grow, so too does the list of salons around the globe that carry us. Yay for that! I love talking curly hair and promoting the curl-positive salons that support us, and I especially love it when they’re Canadian. :) Today I’m featuring Mary MacDonald of Gossips Hairstylists in Toronto. The small-world twist is that she’s located in the same neighbourhood where my dad worked for years. Too bad they didn’t overlap, eh? My dad could have gone there when he ran out of his precious Confident Coils. :-) Ok, let’s get on with the interview, eh?


Curl Master Mary MacDonald


How long have you been in business?

I’ve been in the business for just over 31 years, owned the first Gossips Hairstylists Inc. from 1987-1995, and then wanted to just rent a chair so I could concentrate solely on honing my craft!

I opened up this incarnation of Gossips Hairstylists Inc. last August 2012 by popular demand from all of my wonderful clients!

Where are you located?

I am at 3037 Dundas Street West,

Dundas and High Park,

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

What made you go into the hair business?

It wasn’t anything I consciously thought of, believe it or not. I accidentally stumbled into the business!

I had quit my job as a manger in a huge retail chain at the ripe age of 19 after working with them for four years. I wanted to just go out and try anything and see where it led me. There was a recession at that time, so the very few ads for jobs were shrouded in mystery. You had no idea what you were applying for, nor to whom you were sending your resume!

I got a call for an interview, showed up and it was for a receptionist in a huge hair salon. It was an incredible experience working there! The stylists were involved in photo shoots, hair shows and did education for hair colour. It was the early eighties and hair was taking centre stage in a big way! We did everything from Punk, New Wave right through to family hair care.

I was so inspired that after one year, I went straight into Hairstyling School full time, got my license and went back to work at the same salon as a stylist. It was a fantastic way to start at an amazing time for stylists!

If you specialize in curly hair, what made you adopt that focus?

I’ve always specialized in working with natural textures of hair, sculpting and drawing inspiration from how it sits and grows. My philosophy is that the stylists’ job is to create the style with scissors rather than blow-dryers.

I’ve been focusing on curly hair because so many curly gals are coming to me with unbelievable damage from straightening, flat irons, weekly blowouts, bad products, bad advice, low self-esteem and they need help. I’ve also seen such horrendous haircuts and chemical work on curly hair that I couldn’t believe it. There are quite a few salons claiming to be ‘experts’ with little or no training and experience. The development of your ‘Tactile Ability’ is something that can’t be taught; only experience and diligence can develop this talent. It’s not about a certificate for a one-day class. I’ve got over 31 years of experience and classes under my belt. Time to get busy and fix things! Curly girls need help? I’m there!


(Check out this great before-and-after of one of Mary's clients. So awesome.)


Before shot of styled curly hair by Mary

And after:


After shot of styled curly hair by Mary

What changes have you seen in relation to curly hair in the last 10 years?

One change was in the first few years, women were getting into trying to straighten their hair chemically and manually.

The bow drying franchises tried to come here to Canada, some salons tried to offer blow-out bars within their locations, but without big success. Some salons offer chemical straightening but not in a huge way. Lots of curly gals tried it but didn’t like it.

Here in Canada, it’s a different market. We experience all of the extremes of weather in temperatures and humidity (or lack of) so this keeps us having to be more natural, whether we like it or not! We wear lots of hats and are very active, so natural is what works best! We want a simple and quick hair care routine.

Toronto is a great multi-cultural city and we’ve had innovative curly hair salons for over 30 years. There seems to be a wave spreading out over North America now for natural curly hair cutting and products. I’ve always nagged my clients to work with what they have and make it their individual signature.

Another great change has been in the incredible acknowledgement that curly hair needs moisture.

In Canada, there has been a big divide in products between straight and curly hair. If you had curly hair, the only options for products were more for corkscrew, fractal or high-frizz hair. Most of the products for curly hair were heavy, oily, goopy made to weigh the curls down instead of letting them spring free. Some of us have big, thirsty, lazy curls that are not springy but very dry. We’ve all been seeking products to put in and retain moisture, not slick them down and finally the manufacturers are listening to us. Products are heading into more diversity, allowing for a more customized hair care routine with less fuss.  We have to change some of our products as the weather and humidity levels change, and who wants to have to use multiple products just to style? My bathroom counter only has so much room!

How did you first hear about Jessicurl?

I first heard about Jessicurl products through clients coming in and asking if I’d ever heard of the line. Also folks were coming in to tell me you were from here! I immediately started researching. More great curly products. More choice. More customization.

How long have you been carrying Jessicurl?

I’ve just started carrying Jessicurl and it is a beautiful addition to my retail line as well as a dream to work with, on my clients’ hair as well as my own.

What sets Jessicurl apart from other lines, curly or otherwise?

Jessicurl is set apart from other lines in that all products are offered in No Fragrance Added options. That is almost impossible to find and to have it in all your products is incredible.

I also love the fact that the styling products are milder, not crunchy. For us gals with ‘Yoga Curls’, using just one styling product is fantastic. I’ve had to use three styling products sometimes to get the same results and almost miss the bus to work!

In my location, people do not want to use many products on their hair. The fewer the better. Forget layering. Clients have no time for that here. Everyone is busy and just wants to get out the door with a minimum of fuss. Jessicurl lets you do that! Cleanse, condition, one styling product and done!

The Hair Cleansing Cream is one of my favourites for fine, colour-treated hair. I’m a Colour Correction Technician, so I fix breakage, extreme dehydration, badly dyed, product build up with hair on a daily basis. I do need some lather at times and the mild, creamy little bubbles do just the trick of gently cleansing weakened tresses, without leaving a film on the hair.

It’s wonderful that there are different conditioners for different hair textures and levels of hydration.

I also love the differing amount of ‘slip’ the conditioners have. All of us curly gals have tangles to some degree or another and being able to choose the right level of ‘slip’ is heaven.

There’s also a great little thing that folks may not notice, but it’s the sizes.

I love the 8 oz size. I’ve got many curly gals who have shorter hair and do not need to cleanse more than once a week. This size is perfect. Clients who are curious also love to buy and try the 2 oz sizes. They make great little gift basket treats as well!


Here's another great before/after set of pictures showcasing Mary's curl genius.



Before image of colored and styled curly hair

And after:

After image of colored and styled curly hair

If you're in the Toronto area, I highly suggest you get your curly self to Mary at Gossips. If you're not in need of a cut, just stop by to stock up on your Jessicurl! :) Thanks for your support Mary.



Mary's Salon Gossips Hairstylists contact information