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September 2 2014

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Julien Farel Preps His Beauty A-Game For the U.S. Open

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Shear genius Julien Farel and his team of stylists are preparing for the U.S. Open, which gets under way at Arthur Ashe Stadium in Flushing, New York, this weekend. Ask him, and he’ll tell you his services are integral to players’ success. “Feeling good actually does help you play better, and beauty is a big part of this strategy. You don’t want to have to fight every game with a loose ponytail and frizzy hair in your face,” he says. To make sure that doesn’t happen, Farel has set up shop in the VIP/Player section of the stadium (with prime views of the court) for the fourth year in a row, offering sporty riffs on traditional primping fixes: Blow-outs, haircuts, makeup touch-ups, hand and foot treatments, and brow shapings are all performed in record time and in ways that can withstand seriously sweaty conditions. As in tournaments past, the multilingual stylist has created a signature style for this year’s Open, so expect to see a lot of Farel’s “Gladiator Look”—a coiled braid with a ribbon woven through the hair that’s meant to recall the strappy sandals of ancient fighters primed for battle. No word on exactly which players will rock the coif, but we’re hoping Danish stunner Caroline Wozniacki gives it a whirl; that blond mane of hers needs to be tamed! Here, Farel gives us the lowdown on ponytails and reveals he’s on team Nadal (sorry, Federer).


How did you get the idea to create a salon at the U.S. Open?

I was involved with something similar at the French Open at Roland Garros, actually, and the USTA [United States Tennis Association] liked the fact that I already knew the system and had experience working with the players. And I’m a tennis fan as well, so I think that helped.

Do you play tennis when you’re off-duty?

Yes, I do. I’m not very good, but I love it!


What are the players like off the court?

The more the players and the coaches get to know me, the closer we become. They’re like friends to me now, and they feel really comfortable coming to get treatments. Some, like Novak Djokovic or Jelena Jankovic, are very chatty and charming. In fact, Jankovic now comes to our Madison Avenue salon after tournaments for color!


What are the most popular beauty requests you get between sets?

We really try to personalize the services and customize them for every guest. Sometimes we do some big changes. Marat Safin was a perfect example. He used to walk in with long hair and leave with a super-short style. And the hand and foot treatments are very popular, since the players like these areas to be very strong for the matches. Tennis players are human beings, just like the rest of us. They simply want to look good and feel great.


So can you tell us who you’re rooting for this year?

My friend Rafael Nadal.


Do you watch the matches in between styling sessions?

Sometimes, yes! But only when a player or coach doesn’t show up for their appointment, because otherwise I’m booked solid and there’s no time to watch anything except what I’m doing with my hands.


What type of ponytail do you expect to rule the courts this year—high or low?

Always, always low. It’s not fashion week, remember.


Any other tennis beauty faux pas we should try to avoid?

The worst is applying products that can drip and run into your eyes while playing. Also, it’s a bad idea to use any kind of bronzing lotion that is not waterproof, and you should test out any new beauty or hair products before you head out onto the courts. You don’t want any surprises out there.

Photo: John Perez

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