The Fortino sisters, Rachel and Vanessa, have hair in their blood.

Their grandfather was a barber, their father and uncles were hairdressers and are pioneers in the hair industry. They basically grew up in a salon.

I recently interviewed Rachel and Vanessa about their life, career and passion for hair. First up is Rachel.

Fortino Sisters -

When I first met Rachel, she instantly caught my attention. She had so much passion and for lack of a better word literally oozing out of her. I was really impressed by her dedication to the craft. I mean she actually won’t stop doing hair for hours on end and doesn’t get tired. She’s definitely one of the stylists that motivates me to want to do better and makes me happy that I chose this craft as a profession.

She’s kind hearted and is always considerate of others. She’s has patience when needed especially for her sister (I’ll get in trouble for that one) and make no mistake don’t mess with her when it comes to doing the right thing at the shop. She loves her team and leads by example. I am grateful to her because of her support for my projects and our team. Working with her is an absolute joy because she makes it fun and motivating. I can’t wait to work with her again and just be in her space. I always get a good feeling in my stomach when I’m around her.

Rachel, you are a mentor already to so many and you were built for this industry and the best part is you don’t even know it. I love how you get better every year and you never stop competing. That never give up attitude is everything. What a career you’ve had already and you still have a ways to go. I can’t wait to see what you’ll do next. As I said before, you make me love doing hair even more and push me to want to be better.

Thank you for that inspiration and thank you for your support. I got my popcorn and I’m watching you. Keep it up master stylist.

Rachel Fortino
Hair Stylist,  Salon Alessandro

Growing up, who inspired you to become a hairstylist and did you have a mentor?

My dad is the reason I became a hair stylist. I never grew up wanting to be a hairdresser but at 14 I had to start working in the family business. As soon as I started, I knew that is where I was supposed to be.

My dad has been my mentor through my whole career. My dad was harder on me because I was his daughter, but that is why I am successful today – it was the work ethic that he instilled in me. Although I didn’t appreciate it at the time – looking back it was the best thing he could have done for me.

It was tough. But, you work harder – and you get stronger.

Even though my father was a salon owner, he always was for the hair stylists – the next generation coming into the industry. That’s why he created a community college program for hairdressing – because he wanted anyone to have the opportunity to go to school. He ran the program out of the salon for 14 years before it moved on the campus of Niagara College.

So much has changed – hairdressing is gradually being considered more of a profession than a trade, and things will only get better.

I have other professional mentors as well.

Vidal Sassoon. My father always said with Twiggy, you remember the haircut but never the hairdresser. With Sassoon, you remember the hairdresser and never the model.

Vidal Sassoon changed the way people looked at hairdressers. He revolutionized the industry and no one has ever done it since. We are a craft because of him.

Fabio Sementilli. He was a great mentor. He trained me for one of my first world championships. He taught me more than just hair, it was passion, ethics, to follow your heart – things you need to hear at those times.

I even see you as a professional mentor – the way you treat your staff, the way you run your salons and involve yourself in the Wella family – that is something I aspire to be like.

Where did you study?

I went to the school my father established – so I went to Niagra College. But I really haven’t stopped. Two years ago I did a four week intensive course at the Vidal Sassoon Academy in Santa Monica. That was my third course – I study with Sassoon a lot and I take courses with Wella all the time. I am always trying to advance myself through education.

What is one hair tip everyone should know?

I have two. The first is – go to a professional to get your hair done. The second is take the time to style your hair. Be patient. If you want the same look you have when you leave the salon, you need to use the right products and spend the same time and effort we do styling your hair.

What are your favorite hair products at the moment?

I just got the new Wella EIMI line so I have been playing with that a lot – I’m really liking that.

If you had to pick, what is your signature cut or technique?

Long hair is really my thing – especially when I compete. A classic elevated bob is my favorite haircut. It looks easy but it’s probably the most difficult to execute. The other is a scissor over comb haircut. Clippers are a big thing right now and we’re losing the art of fading with scissors. I just started to learn recently how to use clippers. My sister taught me how to fade with clippers. But I really believe the foundations need to stay – because that is where all the new techniques come from. If you don’t know the foundations – you can never recreate something – because you don’t have a blueprint for what you are doing.

I love the classics. That is just the way I am. My grandfather was a barber, my father is a stylist. That is what a created my career on.

Do you have any hair pet peeves?

Cellphones. I understand that the world is not going to stop because you’re getting a haircut but it’s a distraction. I remember taking a Sassoon course and them saying don’t even offer your clients coffee – because you don’t want them to move. While they’re waiting yes but not while you’re cutting their hair.

Any tricks of the trade you want to share?

You create your luck. They are no tricks to it. What you want is what you get. But a tip – never say no – take every opportunity you get. That is what I did to get to where I am now. Even if it ends up not being the experience you thought it would be – you’ll take something from it. It’s important to go outside the box – so matter what the stage of your career you are at. I was just mentored by Daniel Di Tommaso for the Sebastian Professional What’s Next Awards. I am more of a Wella artist then Sebastian – so I had to take a different approach when it came to getting that perfect shot for my entry. I’m 15-20 years into my career and I’m still having to push myself out of my comfort zone.

What inspires you?

Hair shows inspire me. Because that is when you see that there is so many other stylist out there just like you. It inspires me to be even better than what I am because you have something to push you and make you work harder. At a hair show you’re a small fish in a big sea – and ideally you want to be a big fish. It’s stylists like you and Daniel that inspire me – I want to be where you are. You push me to be better. So any hair show that I can go to – I’m going to be there.

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Do you have any special projects coming up?

I have the world championships coming up in March 2016 in South Korea. I’m representing Canada in the technical category. I have two shots for the Sebastian Professionals What’s Next Awards. I usually participate in the Wella Trend Vision competition so I’ll do that next year. Then I am a brand educator for Wella. So, there is always something I’m involved in – I think I’m going to slow down but I never do.

Eventually I would like to be a platform artist – so I am working on that – learning to speak about the look I have created on my model as opposed to just presenting the final look. I need to get more comfortable doing that – it’s a learning process.

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Rachel Fortino – 2013 Wella Professionals North American Trend Vision Awards – Canadian Finalist Signup

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