One look at Dana Ciani’s social media presence and you’ll know she’s witty and creative, with really great hair. I met Dana in dance class in seventh grade and was immediately in awe of her long locks (and her ability to always keep a ballet bun so neat!). Always with a smile, positive attitude and funny story to share, my memories of Dana highlight a confident, down to earth girl with fierce intelligence and a contagious laugh. She was always working to inspire and empower those around her.
Today, Dana works at an advertising agency and on weekends, spearheads her very own hairstyling brand. She shares her story with A Quarter Young in the resonating interview below:
- You work as a Copywriter at an ad agency in Toronto and on weekends, you are a Mobile Hairstylist under the brand James Blonde Hair. How did the latter name come to be?
During University, I interned as a copywriter/designer for the hair franchise I was working part-time for. Coming up with creative email signatures was part of the gig and that’s probably where I realized that copywriting was even a thing and that I was pretty good at it. “James Blonde” was one of the many puns I was cranking out at the time and the one that resonated the most and just stuck with me. It’s cheeky, flirty, and powerful — the latter is pretty important to me, especially in the hair industry.
- In both of your roles, you are required to create. How and when do you think your passion for creativity began?
I don’t really remember a time before that passion existed. I’ve always looked at things from a creative perspective. I remember finding ways to make boring things exciting as a kid. Even in school, anything I made or wrote was executed with something extra, something that made the boring things a little better and worthwhile. I made sure I was always getting something out of the deal. In advertising we’re called “creatives” but that term means so many things. It’s a culture of people who are all woven together with the same thread while remaining so exceptionally different.
- When did you realize you wanted to start styling hair professionally?
I still don’t consider it my profession. For me it’s a passion project — it’s how I relax after a 60 hour week. Relaxation isn’t always a day at the spa, for me doing hair puts my mind to rest for a while. My Nonna is a hairdresser, I grew up sweeping around her in awe. She’s the strongest, friendliest woman and will stop and talk to anyone and everyone. Talking to clients is such a big part of the job, sometimes I feel more like a psychiatrist than anything else. There’s a real beauty in that; in helping a woman feel beautiful from the inside out.
- You seem to favour styles that involve loose curls and waves. Why so?
It’s instantly elevating. Makes (me at least) carry my head a little higher. But I think hair should always look natural, like you did it yourself — even if you didn’t. Structured stuff has it’s time and place, but the everyday-look is my go-to.
- How has your mobile hairstyling journey changed since your first week “on the job?”
I’ve gotten better at carrying everything around. There’ s a lot to have on hand, especially with bridal parties, so you need to be ready to whip up any style someone’s dived through Pinterest for. I’ll settle in one place at some point, but for now I think people appreciate the luxury of staying home.
- Between both of your roles, how much time would you say you spend working, per week?
Probably too many. But I really do love what I do on weekdays and weekends. On a busy week, both take up around 60-70 hours. I’ve, somehow, found a way to balance hair with my full-time, demanding job. Some Sunday mornings I’ll run from a client to the office to work with my ad partner Alyssa. She’s been super supportive and helpful with the balance.
- So many of us are working full-time, with many other projects on the go! How do you stay organized and on top of your to-do lists?
My calendar is my life. My boyfriend calls me Dori because I’m so forgetful. Without writing everything down I’d be a ball of stress.
- You launched James Blonde Hair’s Instagram in the spring of 2016. How has Instagram helped you gain and retain customers?
It’s really helped a lot of my old clients find me. It’s the best feeling when one of them hunts me down, because I’ve really developed a lot of great relationships that go far beyond hair styling. Instagram also helps get my name out there, of course. Plus, it’s like a portfolio for people who haven’t seen my work.
- Recently, you started producing speedy hair tutorial videos on Instagram (Confession: I tried your front row braids tutorial and loved it!). Right now, that video has over 930 views. Why do you think your video strategy has been so successful?
The tutorial videos are new, new, new. They’re actually pretty fun to make and people interact with them way more than the average post. People get to see what I can do and are encouraged to try some new stuff out themselves. Hopefully :).
- With your full-time gig at an ad agency, what tools and skills have you acquired from your day job that you implement as the Brand Owner of James Blonde Hair?
It’s super helpful when I’m writing post copy on Instagram. It’s pretty quick and simple because I do it at work all the time. I’ve also developed these insane presentation skills from selling work to ad clients that helps me manage my hair clients.
- What is the most common misconception about hairstylists? How do you think your work with James Blonde Hair helps to debunk it?
To be brutally honest, I think a lot of hairstylists get a bad rep for being uneducated or lazy. I’d like to think I’m quite the opposite of that and bring an interesting background to the job.
- Being in creative roles myself, sometimes there are lows, making it hard to find motivation. Who has been your biggest support since you started this journey?
My mom is my rock, my boyfriend and friends are a close second. But she’s always told me to be whatever I want. When I wanted two things, she said go for it. She’s worked her way up to the top of a big company and always worked long days and nights when I was little. Pretty sure she’s the reason I’m so committed to everything. I don’t know where she came from or what I did to deserve her but she’s the best person I know. Thanks, mama.
- What has been the toughest part about being the owner and operator of your own brand?
It’s all on you. Your successes…and your mistakes. But it’s so rewarding when things work out, I have a long way to go but for now, it’s been beyond lovely.
- What has been the best part?
The people. It’s crazy but sometimes the smallest thing like getting your hair done can make or break your day. I love the glow. The happy faces. The bride’s father seeing her for the first time. Every time, time and time again, it’s magic.
- If you were just about to launch James Blonde Hair, what would you tell yourself, knowing what you know now?
“Waking up at 5am is still fucking torture, but you’re going to really love this.”
- What advice do you have for other young people and emerging professionals looking to jump into creative careers?
Make sure you love every bit of it. Advertising tests you in ways you’d never imagine. Whatever you’re into, you have to care about it or it won’t be worth it. Nothing will. Find what moves you, and if it isn’t enough, find something that pairs well with it.
- What do you hope the future of James Blonde Hair entails?
I hope people keep letting me use their heads as canvases. That’s all I can really hope for. The rest is all whip cream and cherries.
I’m just very lucky to be doing two things that my whole heart is invested in. A lot of people struggle to find that. Hopefully someone else finds this mildly encouraging. I definitely still haven’t figured anything out, really. Just doing what makes sense to me, now. Who knows what five, 10, 20 years will bring.
Thank you Dana for sharing your story with our readers and for reminding us the importance of chasing dreams while keeping what’s important at heart: why we do what we do and the people who love and inspire us.