For the last decade, Lady Gaga has been one of the most enigmatic entertainers in the world. While her red carpet persona is rooted in unexpected wardrobe choices — from outfits made from raw meat to carefully- bedazzled lingerie — it's her hair and makeup that tend to mark defining moments in her career.
If you've ever admired Gaga's penchant for rhinestones and dramatic eye makeup, you have the singer's makeup artist, Sarah Tanno, to thank. But if you're consistently mesmerised by her chameleon-like approach to hair, you can look to her hairstylist, Joico celebrity guest artist, Frederic Aspiras.
Few people know Gaga's creative vision better than Aspiras, who's been a part of her glam squad for nearly a decade. The hairstylist recently sat down to tell Refinery29 about his journey with Gaga, the 5,000 wigs he keeps on hand for her, and his most ambitious styles to date. The following interview was told to Samantha Sasso and edited for length and clarity.
From Paris To Gaga
I worked with Paris Hilton before I started working with Lady Gaga. I was just coming off the end of a three-year partnership with Paris during the My New BFF franchise and ready to take a break from being on the road. Paris and I had been all over the world while rebranding her look. It was a great time and she’s such a beautiful human being, but I was ready to take a little vacation. Then, I got a call from my agent about Gaga.
She had just performed at that year’s MTV Video Music Awards and she needed somebody to create wigs for the upcoming Monster Ball Tour because she didn’t want to damage her natural hair. I was really into wigs at that time and she was this up-and-coming artist who I’d just seen bleeding all over the VMA stage. I thought, why not? I’d never been on the road with a musician.
The first time meeting her was interesting because she was extremely warm, which at the time seemed so different from her on-stage persona. She gave me a big hug and had so much respect for the process of creating these looks, about being there to help facilitate her creative dream. It was so refreshing, but that’s how it is with her — that’s how the process always starts. We've built this level of respect and trust since day one.
So, we sat down in her hotel room and talked about the tour, her story, and her stage. She was so excited about it all. It was her baby. Then 100 different ideas just started to come to me. I wanted her hair to be like Veronica Lake's and every time it’d bounce on stage it would come back into place and be beautiful.
Before meeting Gaga, I wasn’t out looking for something avant-garde, but there wasn’t anyone like her. She was a pop star, but she was creating art-driven imagery with her music and look. There hasn't been anyone like that since David Bowie and Madonna. Gaga was fearless and daring then. She was razor-sharp about how she wanted to look and feel, and I knew she was passionate, so I didn’t want to disappoint her. If we got it all right — the haircut, the wigs, everything — it could work for the Monster Ball. It was my job to do that.
Lady Gaga, The Enigma
I like the challenge of creating something that is different; that’s my aesthetic. My work with Gaga comes from a place of understanding who Gaga is as an artist and a woman. These avant-garde looks aren't just about trying to be shocking — it's about trying to think outside the box.
It’s been a decade now since I first met her. It’s crazy because it doesn’t feel like it’s been that long, but we’ve been together every day since then. Gaga's Las Vegas concert residency, Enigma, is her full-circle moment. The start of the show is like the beginning of her career. Then, she's catapulted into the machine of the business and life and gets changed into "Enigma." I had to create something that would match that story. Her hair at the beginning of the show is very similar to the wig I created for the show's advertisements — it’s blue, stiff, and frozen in place. It’s kind of my way of fossilising Gaga’s hair, but then you go from Enigma to the Jazz & Piano show and you’re like, holy moly! You wonder, how does she do it? I say it’s "Lady and the Gaga."
The Jazz & Piano show isn’t just jazz, it's Vegas jazz, which has history. We wanted to bring back the vibe of the Rat Pack. People dress up when they go to her show; it’s classy and glamorous. I have to look at the whole picture every time I create something. I don't just want to create a pretty up-do. Her hair tells a story and every hairstyle we've done contributes to her story and becomes a part of her. So, yes, if she’s in a mile-long feather boa, I better give her something that matches that.
The Cerulean Dream
The colours we played with last year were all based on her mood, which is something we do all the time. Gaga was the one who wanted the blue hair for the Golden Globes, but I was worried that people were going to expect her to look like a princess in the Valentino dress. She said, "When will we ever get the chance to again?" Colour is what we are known for, so that night we stayed true to her individuality. If she went out there with just blonde hair, it wouldn’t have been true to who she really is.
I spend countless hours in my studio at home creating so many variations of the look. For the Golden Globes, it had to be the right shade of blue — not just any blue. Makeup and hair have to be on point because, in those moments, she's being photographed nonstop.
$10,000 Wigs & $20 Products
I can't live without Joico’s Defy Damage collection. With the ProSeries, I can take Gaga’s hair to different levels. We've coloured it brown, orange, black, and white-blonde. If I didn’t protect her hair, there wouldn’t be any left on her head. I have to use heat protectants, too.
I’ve been able to try all kinds of products with her because she moves, she dances, and she’s on the road. We have to keep the hair underneath the wigs healthy, too. We style her hair a lot, sometimes twice a day, and it’s bleached white. It’s my responsibility to use products that won’t break her hair off. I’ve used Joico products on her wigs, her extensions, everything — and you can’t just use anything on that hair. The wigs could cost up to $10,000 USD, so when you’re working with expensive hair, the protective products matter.
I'm the caretaker of the wigs — they’re my babies. I kind of have a warehouse for them. I think I have well over 5,000, but I haven't ever really counted. During Artpop, we had six different wigs for one show and every time she left the hotel it was a new look and new colour. But that’s what Artpop was about: creating and being anything. So, that's what we did with her look.
Making The Impossible Possible
It’s my own personal thing to be nervous about a look. I'm kind of a perfectionist when it comes to that. Making something for her has to require a new level of freedom. Sometimes I have to execute ideas that I dream of that are too big, but she knows that I can make the impossible possible.
It felt like my entire career was on the line for Gaga’s Super Bowl halftime show. It looked like the simplest, prettiest up-do, but it had to go through 15 minutes of dancing — and then there was the hair change while she was tumbling through the air, flying into the stadium. We had one shot to get it right. It was live television and I almost threw up when I found out how many people were going to watch it. It was scary because it had to be perfect. We rehearsed for two months, but even still, her hair had to look like the perfect blowout after she came down in the air and pulled out the knot on the back of her head. It was the same feeling for the Oscars this year. It’s about these moments lasting forever. Then, she won the Oscar. It was a good feeling.
Now is the time I finally get to reflect and think about what we've done. It's so crazy. The amount of work we've done in the last year would almost be what someone else could do in 10 years. Working with her is a huge reward because I get the freedom to create something, have it come to life, and be loved. It's a blessing.