Cuban born, American stylist Oribe Canales, at the age of six, fled Fidel Castro’s Havana with his family in 1956 to North Carolina, where he grew up. In the early 70s, after high school, Oribe moved to New York with the hopes of becoming a movie star. At the age of eighteen, Oribe worked as a bartender and waiter at a club called Blue Angel. Oribe Canales would serve drinks, salads and desserts before quickly running back stage to change into a magicians costume or even G-strings while picking up naked girls. “You do crazy things when you’re young.” Says Oribe. The Blue Angel burned down one night.
Unemployed Oribe Canales didn’t let that stop him though. Oribe quickly went to work at a friend’s salon as a receptionist on 3rd Ave. Oribe said, “I started working at a hairdressing place that a friend owned in New York. I saw that hairdressers made a lot of money and it didn’t seem that hard.” That was when Oribe Canales gave up on acting, in pursuit of becoming a successful hairdresser. Unfortunately, due to the big city life distractions, Oribe dropped out of beauty school. Shortly after, Canales moved to Buffalo New York in order to finish beauty school.
After finishing beauty school, Oribe Canales quickly went to work as an assistant under celebrity stylist Garren. Oribe worked for Garren for a while and later worked under celebrity stylist Leslie Blanch, which is where Oribe learned about working with color treated hair. Shortly thereafter, Oribe went back to work for Garren at G.Q.
Over the next several years, Oribe worked under many celebrity stylists and several big name editorials such as Vogue, Elle, Self, Mademoiselle, Allure and G.Q. Oribe opened his first salon in 1987 at Parachute. And, even though celebrity stylist Suga and Oribe never met, Suga left all of his clients to Oribe from Versace and Avedon, after Suga’s death in 1990; which lead to Oribe opening his fifth salon at Elizebeth Arden in New York.
As Oribe preformed his hair magic, transforming models, he became friends with several big names in the industry. However, that came with a price. Once, Oribe gave Linda Evangelista a Sophia Loren style for a fashion show and made the mistake of doing the same style on a lesser known model. Linda was later found five minutes before the show, furious with her head under a water faucet, throwing a tantrum. Yelling, that if Oribe Canales didn’t change the other models hair, Linda was going to soak her own head. Oribe gave the other model a new hair do and was able to maintain his high profile friendship.
Oribe knows that his style is not for everyone. Much of Oribe’s family including his own mother, chooses to go elsewhere. Instead, she pays $10 for a cut in Miami at Xeoma beauty salon. “She likes an old fashioned perm.” States Oribe.
Oribe Canales started his first product line in 1999, which quickly failed. According to Oribe, the failure was due to timing and lack of the proper funding. Also in 1999, Jennifer Lopez was beginning her career as a musician and she requested that Oribe would “define her look”. Oribe began to travel all over the world with Jennifer Lopez, which he claims was the greatest thing to happen to him. And he even raves about how glamorous the whole experience was. Lopez inspired Oribe to once again attempt to develop a new product line.
After careful consideration, Oribe decided to go for it once again. This time Canales went about the right way. He spoke to a few big names of the industry and quickly developed a team, raised the funding and shortly after, developed the first twenty two products of the Oribe line. The quality was completely over the top and luxurious, which he credits was the only thing that saved the business after the stock market crashed.
Oribe Canales claims that even today, his work is very challenging and he still messes up all the time, but that’s what keeps him going and maintains the excitement in his life. He claims that he is his own harshest critic. But, Oribe’s father always told him to not say he can not do anything. But rather encouraged him to always try. Those words and actions inspired Oribe to always push his limits and to work at whatever he attempted until her got it right. “I’m a positive guy”, says Oribe. “and I’m a big believer that you can do anything you want as long as you can imagine it. If you won’t dream, it won’t come true.
Today, Oribe’s salon has over a thousand people on his waiting list. Expecting to pay at least $250 per head, some people have waited over six months to get in on an appointment with this hair genius. This tattooed “bad boy” lives alone in his loft in Manhattan with the company of his four dogs, two of which, he adopted after a friends death.
Noted by key fashion designers and editors as the number one hairdresser in the country, maybe even the world Giannini Versace will quite regularly have Oribe flown to Milan and Rome to style hair for his world renowned fashion shows. Oribe contributes his success to his upbringing and roots from the south. “I grew up in the south, and people in the south are nicer than people in New York. Plus, I’m Cuban. The whole combination makes me different.” Stated Oribe in an article featured in People Magazine.
As of 2014, Oribe’s net worth was over 26.3 million and his company was ranked number forty three in the most promising companies. Oribe has a $500,000 law suit against his co-CEOs Tevya Finger and Daniel Kaner, who previously co founded the hair care line Bumble and Bumble, for breaking contract. He says that they are trying to sink his company because they violated a non-compete and confidentially contract by launching competing brands called V75 and R+Co which are virtually the same products, sold at a cheaper price.
Oribe brand has inevitably become globally known with best selling products, which further cemented his reputation as “best in class”. Oribe is currently working on a new concept salon project as well as a television show about fashion hair in Miami. He wants all young hairdressers to know that their dreams can come true, just as his have.