Being a stylist to the stars takes patience, skill, and wisdom. Being a stylist to nerds takes so much more! April Russell’s styling business has grown in leaps and bounds this past year, largely in part to her participation in the Facebook-group-turned-nonprofit Blue Ribbon Army, which evolved from a fan group about Phoenix Comicon and all things nerdy to a legitimate organization helping those in need. April herself has evolved during this time, constantly learning and trying new things on her clients and models, who are more than willing to place their hair in her capable hands. Now, members of the Blue Ribbon Army and geeks from all around Phoenix line up to have their hair done by April.
Planning a trip to the Phoenix area and need a killer hairstyle? Go to facebook.com/blueribbonstylist, Instagram at Aprilrussellcolorist, or Twitter @AR_colorist and book an appointment while you’re there. You won’t regret it!
What were some of your favorite nerdy things growing up?
“Actually, it all started with my major love for Archie comics. I collected them as well as Peanuts & Garfield compilations. Then I got hooked on Monty Python at a young age. To this day when I think someone is being a coward I sing the ‘Brave Sir Robin’ verse to them. And Star Wars, where I quickly fell madly in love with Han Solo and fantasized about stealing him from Leia.”
“I didn’t mean to at all!!! I was in this Phoenix Comicon fan group where I was just starting to know people and talk to them online, and one day my boss told me that–and I quote–“There will be no Captain America here!” All because my apron girl was making me a themed apron. They hadn’t even seen it yet. Anyway, I went in the group where I knew pr was safe, and ranted. Immediately and to my surprise I got lots of questions regarding where I was located. I still remember my very first client. After that, I really discovered myself! I was making the online presence I had always hoped to make. Then last summer just before con, Jillian Squires, the Phoenix Comicon director, asked if she could put me on guest relations for… the guests! Of course I said yes and jumped up and down until I was out of breath. Lol!!”
Wow! That’s a huge leap! It must feel amazing.
“It’s kind of not real. I love how far I’ve come and I’m still just so amazed and thankful. I have worked so hard for so long to get to this point. It’s incredible.”
What’s the best thing about having nerdy customers?
“People get excited when I respond to them… I’m like of course, why would I not?! Then I heard a couple of times that I’m like a celebrity and I’m still confused Lol! They understand me!!! And my references!! We could talk for days. Each person that walks in, is like an old friend It’s weird when the appt ends I’m like… Wait! We’re totally BFFs now right?!”
I understand you had some social anxiety issues before the Blue Ribbon Army helped you out, is that right?
“I still have mad social anxiety. Sometimes it’s debilitating. Now, I just have so much more love and support. It helps because I have always felt kind of…alone. I have a group of people who love me and want to build me up instead of tear me down.”
That’s definitely important, and the BRA is very good for, well support
“I went to school at a community college in North Carolina! But as far as the techniques, I’m always kind of testing things out myself on a whim with models, following celebrity artists on multiple social media platforms, & taking hands on classes as well as webinars online. When I have an idea, I usually do a model call and for the cost of product, they get whatever my vision is. So far, I’ve gotten lucky and every model has led me to a positive result!! *knock on wood* Oh and thank you for the compliment!!”
I mean it! I see the colors on your Facebook and Instagram pages and even on my phone screen they look fantastic.
“Yay!!!!! I style my clients for like five minutes prior to taking the photo. I’m crazy.”
Hey, it’s all in the attention to detail–and I’m sure they love the pampering.
“They do!! Then I feel great because they always want selfies of us and I love selfies!!”
And you always look fabulous in them!
“Ehhhhhhhh if you say so.”
So modest! Makes me wish I had a job where I could do that lol (Or wish that I still colored my hair)
“I’m a master at making things work apropos.”
What is the nerdiest cut/color/style request you’ve had?
“Hmmmmm that’s a hard one. Thinking. Depends on your definition of nerdy I suppose. I had A girl request starry night hair, a girl want to look like Felicia Day, another want to look like Kari Byron, another Ramona Flowers. I did Harley Quinn on a guy once!! I’m gonna go with that one!!”
(Laughs). Nice one!
“I painted diamonds in his hair with an eyelash brush ! It was legit.”
Wow, that must have taken some time!
“It was a day well spent.”
Have you ever done any Princess Leia-worthy hairstyling?
“No! I wish!!!! No one has ever asked! *writes down idea…*”
What would be your dream Jedi hair color? Blue, green, or purple highlights, or something more elaborate?
“Well I might just have to have badass Sith hair! I’m a Sith dressed like a Jedi. Under my hood I’m black and red baby! But if I was going to do Jedi hair… I would do a silver/white base with neon blue and deep purple”
Smooth (laughs). I’m partial to blue sabers myself, but if I were going to dye my hair again, I’d go for some extra “wisdom highlights” to add to my own.
“Oooh that’s a great idea!! I’ll call it AJ hair if I ever do it!!”
Haha The Mullican Special.
Do you see yourself continuing to be the official BRA stylist in the future?
“Um yes! And when other stylists try to get up on my bretheren… I have to admit, I get a bit territorial !!! It’s only because I love them all so much!!!”
No doubt. But there are currently 9k members of the Facebook group that became the Blue Ribbon Army, and you only have so many hours in the day.
“This is true.”
And some of us are a tad too far for your stellar styling. I live three plus hours away from you.
“Oh no! I can understand that though. Where’s the doctor when you need him?! Teleport!”
My TARDIS broke. I guess I kept leaving the brakes on and one thing led to another….But seriously, though, have there been any times where being your nerdy self has caused an issue with a client?
“The main thing I think I realized about myself l this year was with one person. She told me I wasn’t professional. That hurt me so hard until I thought about it. Are you professional with your best friends or with your family? No. My clients are my second family. I’m not professional. They see the real me, while I work at a profession. There is a difference and it’s one I’m so proud to have.”