Full disclosure: Andrea told me that if I did a write-up about the salon she'd do my next color for free. I'm TOTALLY gonna take her up on that because I like free stuff, but I was gonna do this anyway because I think it's one of the best deals in Los Angeles (even though it's in Pasadena).
I started going to Crowned Studio Salon YEARS ago, back when it had a different name and was in South Pas. I was a broke struggling-actor/Starbucks-barista and had moved in with my parents to save money. By birth I'm a "dishwater blonde"--mousy light-brown hair that lightens with a lot of exposure to the sun. Unfortunately, I have super-pasty-white skin with lots of freckles/beauty-marks/moles, which means I have to severely limit my exposure to said sun. So the only way to get to blonde-blonde is with the help of a colorist.
I'm also really neurotic about my hair. Yes, of course, because I'm an actor I have headshots that I need to look like, so it is actually important for me to not make drastic changes to my hairstyle on the regular. But also, when I find something that works, I want to stick with it--so I don't want to go to a stylist who doesn't listen to what I want.
Which brings me to Andrea Auman and Christopher Duran. My mom actually found them, by Googling "best hair salon in Pasadena," an award they win from several publications pretty much every year. Because I'm so neurotic about my hair, when I'm making the leap and going to a new salon, I'll pretty much only make an appointment with the most experienced colorist or stylist. That's how I ended up meeting Andrea and Christopher. Andrea owns Crowned and is the lead colorist; Christopher is the lead cutting specialist. A cut and full highlights with them will cost you around $250.
Now, if you're not used to going to a salon to get your hair done, or if you typically do it yourself, that price-tag might shock you. Especially if you, like me, need to get your hair done every 6-8 weeks. However, I have had some BAD highlight jobs done at casual little salons (and my mother made sure I learned early on that if I tried to highlight my own hair she would disown me). For me, because my career depends on how I look, this is one of those things I just need to invest in. I'm auditioning against girls who literally HIRE MAKEUP ARTISTS for auditions--I can't do that, but I CAN invest in making sure my hair looks great.
So if you've made the commitment to invest in great hair, why not go to one of the salons that frequently pops up in "Best of" lists, like this one from Los Angeles Racked? Los Angeles is overflowing with celebrity hair people. Well, like I said, at the time I was surviving on barista tips and living with my parents, so that was definitely off the table. And even now that I am making more money, I've learned that you don't need to spend $750 at Tracey Cunningham's Mèche, or $650 at Ramirez | Tran.
You can spend a little bit of time driving out to Pasadena and spend less than half of that to get the Hollywood-quality that Andrea and Christopher have to offer!
From Dishwater to Blonde to Brown (and Back Again???) with Andrea Auman
I knew Andrea was the real deal maybe the third time the hair-person on a TV set asked me who did my color--as though they would recognize the name. This literally happens to me ALL THE TIME. And the exchange always goes like this:
"Who does your color?"
"I go to this salon in Pasadena called Crowned? Andrea Auman does it."
"Oh. [silence, picking through my hair, lifting up strands and inspecting it.] It's really good. Looks really natural."
Hahahahaha!! Makes me pretty happy.
The best thing about Andrea is that if she thinks you want to make a MAJOR mistake with your color, she'll simply refuse to do it. She is no bullshit. Her commitment to customer service ends when you ask her to do something insane. Like me! After years of putting TONS of highlights in my hair to make me a very natural blonde, last summer I decided I want to dye my hair black. She looked me straight in the eye in the mirror and said, "Well you can go somewhere else, missie."
She convinced me to go super-blonde instead; one base color and even more highlights later, and I was LOVING my new look.
This year, I decided to try going brunette, to see if that would improve the auditions I was getting (I seemed to be really getting pigeon-holed). She was very clear with me that it would be a process, because there was not a lot of pigment left in my hair and it would take a couple applications before the color took hold. I did have to suffer through a phase of sort of auburn-y brown hair before it finally came out the sable I wanted.
It's been really interesting being a brunette--I actually really really love looking at my hair in the mirror. But I have realized it's true--blondes do have more fun! It'll take a couple months, though, to see if being brunette has any affect on the auditions I get. And if this change doesn't send my career into overdrive? Andrea's gonna roll her eyes at me when I ask to go back to blonde, but I think she'll be secretly delighted to be putting foils back on my head.
Great Lengths or Short Cuts with Christopher
So back when Andrea convinced me to go super-blonde instead of black, I also decided to cut my hair short for the first time IN MY LIFE. Honestly, my hair had NEVER been shorter than my shoulders until that moment. Christopher had been cutting fabulous long layers for me for years. But at that point, I decided to go for a cute little bob with longer pieces in front.
This was maybe the best thing I ever could have said to Christopher. He LOVES to cut hair short (so if you are super neurotic about your hair being TOO short, make sure you tell him that). He was really understanding, though, that I didn't want anything crazy or, shall we say, experimental. I was prepared to be devastated when it all came off--not because I doubted Christopher's ability, just because it was such a drastic change. BUT I LOVED IT FROM THE MOMENT I SAW IT. Oh man, it was flirty, fun, and just what I wanted.
When I went brunette, I decided to do ANOTHER crazy thing--I got bangs. I talked to Christopher for a long time about it before we did it, and he warned me that it would make me look much younger, but I wanted to try it. I brought in a bunch of pictures of bangs I did and did NOT like, and he showed me how the thickness of the bangs determined how far back on scalp the bangs start (I kinda hate when bangs start like halfway back).
And then, in just a few minutes, they were done--AND THEY LOOKED GREAT. It was just what my style needed, in my opinion. Now I'm growing the length back out, but I'm definitely keeping these bangs--even if I go back to blonde!
Funky Fun with the Rest of the Team
Maybe you're looking for something a little more adventurous than me, or maybe $250 is still too rich for your blood. I totally get it, and the crew at Crowned can help you out! They've got a whole team of stylists and colorists to choose from--some trained by Andrea herself! Andrea is as proud of the business she's developed as she is of her coloring skills, and I really would trust anyone she's hired to work in her salon. My mom is actually a devoted client of Christina--for cut, color, AND straightening!
Here are just a few of the wild cuts and colors featured on Crowned's Instagram feed:
Don't forget men's cuts, too! (My brother, Patrick, has been going to Christopher for years, also.)
If you're looking for even more services, they recently opened a makeup bar called Gorgeous, and they also do styles like braids and up-do's:
Preparing for Your Appointment
I asked Andrea and Christopher to tell me what they love (and do NOT love) to have clients do to get ready for an appointment. Andrea likes when you bring in pictures because it is a good way to start the conversation about what you really want, and she also likes for you to wear your makeup as you normally do (if you do) to help with getting the right color. Most importantly, she wants you to think hard and be really honest about how much you want to spend, how often you want to come in, and how you'll take care of it at home (with products etc.). As she says, what is "not helpful is saying you'll come in more often then you do. It's my work that walks around on someone's head--my reputation--and if you're a rooty hot mess and someone asks where you got that done they think that is my work." Hahahaha! Told you she takes pride in her skills!
Christopher also likes to see pictures of what you want, but cautions against unreal expectations. That means that if you have very thick coarse hair, you're not gonna be able to get Reese Witherspoon's wispy bangs! But don't lose hope: "As a cutting specialist I can take any face shape and any haircut and adapt it to that person--it's all about knowing where certain angles hit in certain places on the face!" So he'll give you the thick/coarse-hair version of Reese's bangs!
And, like Andrea, he wants you to come to the salon wearing clothes and makeup that you normally wear, so he can get a sense of your personal style--and how much hair maintenance you're likely willing to put up with.
I like to create a little album on my phone of photos of styles/colors I like that I've found on the internet, including examples of things I want and things I do NOT want. That has been the best way for me to explain to both Andrea and Christopher what I'm looking for.
And if you get all done and it's not quite what you were looking for, make sure you let them know! On my first pass at going brunette, I knew as they were blowing it dry it wasn't dark enough. I thought I just had to settle for that (because I knew it would take a couple applications to build up the color), but Andrea went right back in and did it all over again to go darker.
I had to come back in a few weeks later (because it had expectedly faded quite a bit), and it looked just fine at the salon. But when I got home and saw it under different light, I felt like it was still way too red. I called Andrea, and she had me come in the very next day and she fixed it. I walked out MADLY IN LOVE with my new dark locks.
Tell Them Taking Fountain Sent Ya!
The best part of this whole thing, if you still need convincing: tell the fine folks at Crowned that I referred you and you'll get 20% off your first service! That is a sweet deal, if I do say so myself. And don't let the fact that it's out in Pasadena deter you. If you're an actor or have an otherwise flexible job, if you head out that way during the week anytime between 10am - 3:30pm, there's rarely any traffic! And if you can only get out on the weekends, that's ok too--the only day the salon is closed is Monday. Park at the public parking structure across the street on Raymond, and I highly recommend grabbing a sandwich at Copa Vida (on the same block as Crowned) while you're there. Of course, no trip to Pasadena is complete without some soft-serve magical goodness from 21 Choices!!
Have you gone to Crowned Studio Salon? Is there another great Old Pasadena shop that would pair well with a brand-new 'do? Leave a comment below (scroll all the way to the bottom of the page) or join the discussion on the Taking Fountain Community Facebook page!
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