His love of the ladies might have set hairstylist Diego Miranda on his path to becoming one of the fashion industry's most respected, well-travelled and prolific hairstylists. Still, he soon realised that there was so much more to love. 5ELEVEN spoke to Diego about his passion for the craft, some of the highlights of his career and his special superpower.
Words by Leigh Maynard. Portraits by Bart Pajak.
The more you delve into Diego Miranda's list of accomplishments, the more you'll discover just how eminent he is in fashion and film working with some of the best in the business. From top models like Bella Hadid to A-list actors like Emma Stone and Sigourney, all of them trust him to deliver his best to make them look theirs.
Hair and celebrity weren't really on his mind when Diego started his career, a chance encounter sent him in that direction. Moving from his childhood home in Spain back to his native France, he described the moment that led him to Lucien Sampaix one of Paris's most renowned cosmetology schools, "I was 17, I wasn't interested in school, more about girls! I met someone in the fashion industry, and he advised me to sign up for cosmetology school because the ratio of girls to boys was enormous". From there, Diego began an apprenticeship with a local salon owner who took him on location. "I discovered another side of the job. I could be a hairstylist surrounded by top models or actresses and travel and make money. I decided then that I wanted to become like this guy."
1. Bella Hadid for the launch of Bvlgari Hotel. 2. Actress Kathryn Winnick by Miko Lim
Once Diego determined his career would be in hair, he knew the key to success was gaining experience and knowledge through an extensive range of jobs assisting other stylists in the industry. "I wanted to work with many people to absorb as much knowledge and practice as possible to reinforce my skills and knowledge." His first significant break into the more established realms of the craft came after seven years when he began to realise the extent of his abilities. "I received this phone call from a photographer in Paris. He asked, ‘are you interested in doing this cover with me for Elle Magazine?’ I had only assisted at this time, but I said, yeah, I can! And I ended up doing this cover by myself, it was for a French actress, I can't recall who. And I had the realisation that I could do it."
Diego developed a longstanding relationship with the magazine. After years of working with this and similar publications and styling models for various fashion weeks, he relocated to the South of France, where he honed his skills on the red carpet. But he quickly recognised that, rather than the draw of celebrity, it was another, more worthy reason that drove him: "I realised that I have a special superpower to help give confidence to women, not all women need it, but some of them do, particularly in the movie industry. I realised I could give them this confidence and power to look like a million bucks. To change how people felt about themselves.”
It's easy to see why, after 30 years, Diego has made a name for himself on the red carpet, at fashion weeks and with private clients. He emanates a charm and warmth that puts you at ease like you've known him forever, and it's clear this is part of the key to his success. His style reflects his attitude; a wide-brimmed fedora, a bandana around the neck, a collection of chunky silver jewellery and ink-covered arms. It's a look many have admired, though he says it's how he's always dressed. "Sometimes people say to me, you are so trendy, but I have always worn these clothes, so I mean, I was trendy ten years ago!" There is space for Diego to radiate this relaxed approach both in style and demeanour because not only is he confident in his look and abilities, unlike many of his peers, he is utterly unphased in the company of stars. He believes that one of the essential qualities in his arsenal is his ability to connect with people on a genuine level, without nerves and sycophantic adoration. He explains, "I am more a fan of my successful friends than anyone else. I was never impressed by celebrities, for me, it is just a client, it has never mattered about status or money or what you own or what exposure you have in the world, I believe everyone should be treated the same way. All the celebrities are surrounded by a hundred people daily saying they are amazing and beautiful, and I approach them as humans. I believe they appreciate that, otherwise, I would not be working with them today."
Whether a Hollywood actress or new model, Diego's clients can rely on him to give them a candid opinion, "When I sit down with a big celeb, I am honest, if they ask me what I think about their hair, if it's a disaster, I will say it, but differently. They are hiring me for my knowledge and expertise, so if I say yeah, you are amazing, what am I going to bring? She's already amazing, so I'll be just having a coffee with her, shake her hand, and I'll leave! Sometimes I get asked to consult, and I say yeah, your hair is amazing, let's have a coffee!"
Diego's direct yet relaxed demeanor also serves him well for these red-carpet appointments when last-minute outfit changes are frequent. Still, he knows where the proper emphasis must lie. "I tend not to prepare when I meet an actress for the red carpet, it's always about the dress. If you have a very busy dress, I will do something simple, but if it's a simple dress, I will do something a little more intricate. You do want people to pay attention to the actress's hair, but at the end of the day, the centre of attention is the woman." Diego has more time to prepare for editorials with mood boards created as part of a team, though, at fashion week, he is only given the brief the day before the show; this exemplifies his ability to work under pressure and deliver to short timescales. To achieve this, he maintains a grounded philosophy, "I always step back from that and think at the end of the day it's just hair, we don't save lives, this should be fun, of course, there's a pressure to do well and to meet expectations. I work well under pressure, I like it, but I never lose myself under it."
1. Isa Hulshof for Pam Hog at London Fashion Week. 2.Actress Sophie Cookson by Roberto Aguilar
When asked to elaborate on some of the highlights from his extensive career, Diego recalls how his reputation for precision almost landed him a job on one of the world's biggest franchises, James Bond. "I was working with Danny Boyle on a film, and my good friend, the production's key hair and makeup, said, 'I have good news, Danny's very happy with the team and wants to take them with him to work on the next project’, she said, 'Do you know what I mean, well he's supposed to be the next director for James Bond!' Unfortunately, it didn't happen as another director stepped in. So, what is my next wish? To work on a James Bond movie, ha-ha, it could be fun in my portfolio!"
While some highlights come from the calibre of publications and clients Diego works with, others come from notable moments talking to those he admires. He recalls smoking cigarettes with top hair stylist Eugene Souleiman outside the airport, discussing the industry and the new generation. "He's a little bit older and more talented, and his approach is amazing, he's a visionary. We were talking about how the new generation doesn't want to put in the hours, and they want to be successful right away, they want to do the Vogue cover in a split second, and for us older guys, it was a journey to go through that, and we worked so much for free." He also cautions today's young stylists to maintain a certain level of modesty in their work and understand the expectations required as an assistant. "I always say to young people in the industry who start to do well or who start to be a diva, be careful because your ego will kill your talent. I receive emails saying, 'I would love to assist you, I would love to travel'. First, I'm not a travel agency, and secondly, you will have to prove yourself so that you can travel with me, because I need an assistant. I try to be selective with people who assist me because I don't have time to babysit people, you have to be very proactive and a step ahead of me."
Diego has seen many changes through his years in the industry, noting an improvement in knowledge dissemination, explaining that stylists should have the confidence to share and believe in their individual talents. "I think education in the hair industry has changed, back in the day, the top people were very secretive about the craft. There is so much amazing talent worldwide, we are all so different that there is no competition". This comment demonstrates Diego's open, encouraging, and inclusive approach to his craft. He is quick to advocate and guide the new order to do better but also continually strives to improve himself. "I'm never 100 per cent happy with what I do, sometimes my girlfriend tells me not to be so hard on myself. I'm 50 now, and I'm not going to say to myself, wow, I did that, it's amazing! I did this shoot two days ago, and we made a hairpiece, it was cool. But then I know I will look at the pictures and say, what was I thinking about! Ha-ha."
This honest, unpretentious approach underpins Diego's creative gifts and his reputation for professionalism whilst a generous helping of cheeky charm ensures he continues to work across the globe year after year. He's become somewhat of a celebrity in his own right throughout the industry but is quick to dismiss this, "People say to me, 'oh, you are famous,' and I will say no, I'm not, and what is fame? Fame is to be recognised on the streets; I work behind the scenes. I don't need to be famous to be successful." So, what does success mean to the man who works with the best of the best and has also achieved that initial goal of a life surrounded by beauty? When asked what Diego would like to accomplish in the future, his answer is true to form, "As human beings, we all have greed and want the most significant contract etc., and I step back and say, what will give me more? I'm not greedy, I am fulfilled with everything I do now. For me, success is happiness, it doesn't matter whether I'm a hairstylist behind a chair in a salon or with big clients as a session stylist. So, my answer is, I'm happy, I'm good!"
As he prepares for the next season of fashion week around the globe, Diego is content, he seems busy doing what he does best, though he stresses that all creatives need time to reflect and take inspiration. "Lots of creative people need time out because that's how we develop more ideas. I take my camera out and try to do images, which inspires me to be better at the next stuff I'm going to do. And if nothing is going on, I will take my motorcycle here in Somerset, ride around, and enjoy life!"
Actress Úrsula Corberó for Harper's Bazaar Arabia. Photo by Greg Swales