Vivian Arpino has been a stylist for over 30 years. Her journey as a stylist turned business owner is both inspiring and impressive. After graduating from cosmetology school Vivian trained with Charles Ifergan and started working at his flagship salon in Chicago. During this time, she also began working at "The Oprah Winfrey Show" where she became the lead stylist. When show ended, she took on the same role at "The Rosie O’Donnell" Show where she worked until the final episode. From there, she opened BloOuts (@bloouts), her first of two dry bars. Vivian has had a very colorful career and it’s no doubt thanks to her hard work, perseverance, and go-getter attitude. She never took no for an answer and always said yes to the opportunities that came her way. Here’s a look into Vivian’s journey as a stylist turned salon owner.
After graduating from cosmetology school the Chicago-raised stylist had her eyes set on working for renowned stylist and entrepreneur, Charles Ifergan. The first two times she met with him he told her it wasn’t the right time and he didn't have any spots for her. Then, during their third meeting she confidently told him he was going to hire her. That confidence did the trick. Charles hired her as an apprentice at his flagship salon in Chicago. “An apprentice program is essential after graduating from beauty school,” she says. That being said, she admits one of her biggest obstacles was realizing that she first needed to be an apprentice in order to become a stylist at a high-end salon, “Once I did that, the opportunities came my way.”
During her apprenticeship, Vivian was on the floor cutting under the watchful eye of instructors two days a week. “I was determined to learn as much as I could as fast as I could,” she says. That determination and willingness to learn paid off and she completed the two-year program in just six months. “Doing that apprenticeship opened so many doors for me. His systems and methods were just great.”
Shortly after starting as a full-time stylist at Charles Ifergan, one of Vivian’s clients asked her if she would be interested in working as a stylist at "The Oprah Winfrey Show" on her day off. From day one at the show, she made it a point to use the opportunity to further her craft. While she was the only stylist who worked for the show, Vivian learned from the many famous stylists brought in by the celebrity guests including Oribe, Orlando Pita, Frederic Fakkai, Ken Paves and Serge Normant. “I was able to pick up a little from each and every one.” This led to Vivian becoming the lead guest stylist shooting two episode per day, three days a week for 22 years. Over the course of those years pretty much every celebrity under the sun made their way to her chair. From Jennifer Aniston to Drew Barrymore and even a sitting president at the time, Bill Clinton.
After the show wrapped in 2011, she went on to work on The Rosie O’Donnell Show. When she knew the show was coming to an end Vivian started thinking about what she wanted to do next. “What was I going to do with my resume? I started hearing about dry bars and loved the concept.”
Vivian decided her next was to open a blow out bar. “It’s so important to listen to your intuition. I just dove right in without any business experience,” she says. While finishing up at the show, she started searching for a location, learning about how to open a business, and ironing out the details for what was next to come. Then, in 2013 Vivian opened her first salon, BloOuts Blow Dry Bar in Highland Park, Illinois. The salon was a hit. She opened her second location two years later in Winnetka, Illinois. She credits her success to her passion for styling and her drive, “I just dove right in. Fortunately, my salons have both been successful.”
One of the things Vivian credits as a reason for her salon’s success is what she requires of stylists if they want to work in her salons. “My stylists have to know how to work with all hair types. That’s how you become a seasoned stylist,” she explains. “You never know who’s going to sit in your chair. If someone who thinks they are a challenge sits in your chair it’s your responsibility to show them they’re not a challenge and that they can get just as a good a service as clients with what they perceive to be easier hair types to work with.”
Vivian’s three decades in the industry is thanks to her go-getter attitude and refusal to be intimidated to anything that came her way. Vivian’s career journey is something all up-and-coming artists can learn from. From the very start, Vivian’s hard work and unwavering confidence paved the way for everything yet to come. Landing her dream apprenticeship wasn’t a matter of applying and hoping for the best. Vivian marched into a salon and confidently told her idol, “You’re going to hire me.” Once she completed his two-year program in six months, she was presented with the opportunity to work at "The Oprah Winfrey Show" on her one day off. “No” was not in her vocabulary when it came to her career.
Thanks to her hard work, perseverance, and refusal to be intimidated, Vivian’s opportunities kept on coming. She went from working one day a week to becoming the lead guest stylist on one of TV's most iconic shows. When that wound down, she hadn’t lost her speed. In fact, she was just as energetic as she had been at the start of her career. This time her hard work and determination were channeled towards opening a business. She wasn’t intimidated by her lack of business experience when she was determined to open a blow out bar. It came as no surprise to those close to Vivian when she made it happen.
No matter where you are in your career, it’s never too late to take a page out of Vivian’s book. Put in the work and go get what you want. Don’t forget, it took her three interviews before she landed the apprenticeship that served as the catalyst to Vivian’s awe-inspiring career.