We met by chance at the play “Karamel” in Manhattan- tell me Mr. Salihu- how did you grow to love this trade?/
- Completely by chance. When I was very young, 15 or 16 years old in the early 80’s, my late mother Ajna, proposed to me that I should gain some professional skills after High School. One of these was hair cutting. At that time my boss helped me with my first steps and advised me that “if you want to succeed in any business, you really have to love what you are doing”. This way, one creates personality and succeeds. Almost immediately afterwards I fell in love with hair styling.
Which institution gave you your first lessons in this field?
- The name of the professional academy where I learned was Aerodrom. It was located in Shkup and was the best academy in the region at that time.
When did you begin to achieve the vision of your trade which you have today, and do you view this vision as a responsibility to yourself?
- After I finished the academy in Shkup, my family and I moved to Kosova, mainly because the discrimination of Macedonians towards Albanians there. We moved to the small town of Lipjan. There I set up a salon called Noli’s Hair Salon. Undoubtedly, this was a realization of my dream to be a hair stylist, and I achieved big success in this little town where I bought a house and lived with my family. Of course, if you want to succeed, you also feel a responsibility to yourself to keep up with the latest trends of the business. You also feel a responsibility toward your clients and you want to offer them the latest style. I have to emphasize that one of my biggest successes in my career was achieved in Budapest, Hungary where I participated in a hair styling competition where I placed third and was awarded. This was a big achievement for me at the time and I could not believe that I had achieved success in such a prestigious international competition.
How about your kids? Do they like your profession? Are they as talented as you in styling hair?
- Yes, I must say. As a matter of fact I did not encourage them to work with me in this field, but they themselves wanted to go to school and get a diploma in hair styling. This shows that they also have a passion for hair styling. My girls and boys studied hair styling in Brio Academy in Hartford, Connecticut. So in our salon, we now have my twin girls Alma and Nora who have gained 5 years of experience thus far. Also my son Urim, who has been working with us for 4 years, in which he has learned a lot. I also want to emphasize that soon our little girl, Tina, will join us in this profession. This means that our salon is a small family business which is providing us with enough income for a good and comfortable life in America.
When are you satisfied with your creative work?
- I am satisfied whenever I create a hairstyle that my client is pleased with. I consider it a success whenever my work makes another person happy.
Besides your Albanian Clients, you also have clients of other nationalities. If I may ask, can you tell us about other personalities in politics or American movie actors that are your clients and are happy with your professional hair styling?
- Yes, for 9 years beginning in the summer of 2006, I worked in a salon called “Airport Hair Stylist” in Minnesota. During this time I had an opportunity to meet and to fix the hair of some well-known figures of Hollywood. Among them were Luck Welson, Jenifer Aniston, singer Kenny Rogers, and many sports figures and actors, names of whom I do not recall. I also remember styling for the famous actress that played Zuzu in the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life”. But I cannot recall her name at the moment.
Mr. Salihu, during your long career in this business doing what you love, you have received much recognition, many medals, and other awards. Can you tell us about some of these honors?
- During my career in this business, I have received numerous honors. I would love to mention some of those. I’ll start with Europe; In 1991 I placed 3rd in a competition called “European Hair Show” which took place in Hungary. Here in The US, I was awarded with many awards such as: the “Future of Beauty in the World Award”, “Ambassador Stylist Program Award” and, and I also received recognition at the “Vantage Fashion Show” where I got a silver medal. Just recently, in 2016, I was awarded with a Certificate of Appreciation from the Albanian Fashion Agency in the “Week of Albanian Fashion”, organized by Mrika Krasniqi.
How long is your average day cutting and styling hair for your clients at “Noli’s Hair Salon” and do you feel comfortable with your everyday work?
- Of course I feel comfortable and I do this work with a passion. On occasion I work up to 14 hours a day, from 7:00 AM up until the late evening. This normally occurs when actors come to the salon, usually to fix their hair for photo shoots or in preparation for shooting films or dramas. I am heavily involved in this preparation. In the Nil Production, for example, I fix the hair of everybody who works in the agency including many American and Albanian actors.
How does Noli stay up to date on the latest trends taking into consideration the season, the styles and colors which are current, and also the fashion and clothes that have their ins and outs?
- I am in constant contact with the most famous stylists. We work very closely together on the newest styles that appear. We get involved together and we try to plan projects with the latest styles. We present models with the latest styles during each season at different hair shows all over the country.
Have you participated in competitions or shows using your styles and what did you gain in these endeavors?
- Yes, I have participated in many shows and events for models where I have introduced models with my own hair styles and make-up. The gain is tremendous. Particularly in my own satisfaction, because I am very happy when my models are being considered by the other successful Hollywood agencies. This achievement is proof of my success in the field of hair styling.
Mr. Salihu, you have also worked very closely with elements of American television. How has this successful relationship with American TV come about?
- Since 2008, I have handled the fixing of hair of TV moderators and their guests. Especially, I have worked closely with local channels 3 and 8.
Besides your art of styling, you also are an activist in the Albanian community. You are a patriot and a true artist. From where have you inherited these human virtues?
- Due to my nostalgia for the homeland and my inability to be there, I try to do my part, to the best of my ability, to bring Albanians together through a variety of events such as hair shows, movies, and dramas. I have inherited this love for my fellow Albanians from my family, and have been taught to love and never to forget our birthplace of Albania.
What are your future projects?
- Right now I am working on a film project of weekly fashion shows, which will be held in New York City in close cooperation with the Albanian Fashion Agency. At the same time, I am involved in promoting hair products from 3 different haircare companies. We are also near to unveiling new projects which I am not able to disclose at the time.