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Evanie Frausto
courtesy of Instagram/@evaniefrausto

From Myspace to John Waters: inside the mind of wig genius Evanie Frausto

Meet the man making everyone's hair stand on end

From digital artists to photographers, body sculptors and hair stylists to make-up and nail artists, in our Spotlight series, we profile the creatives tearing up the rulebook in their respective industries.

Evanie Frausto creates big, bold wigs, unapologetically bright in colour and unconventional in shape – a talent that has seen him coif hair for everyone from Aquaria to Bella Hadid, Aweng to Jocelyn Wildenstein.

Growing up yearning for the emo and punk scenes that were not available to him in his Orange County community, Frausto was soon venturing into the bright lights of Los Angeles, attending raves and revelling in the bold aesthetics of a movement that still influences his work today. “People tried hard,” he says of that time. “You wanted to make a statement. It wasn’t just that looking crazy was acceptable, you had to be fearless of looking crazy…. That was the world I grew up in.”

After relocating to New York at the beginning of his career, Frausto was soon taken under the wing of Jimmy Paul, Editorial Stylist of Bumble and Bumble, who he assisted for two years and credits for teaching him everything he knows about hair – from wigs to finger waves – and pushing him to think outside the box. Now out on his own, Frausto is quickly making a name for himself, all thanks to his signature extravagance and, more often than not, a good wig.

We caught up with Frausto to talk influences, industry tips and the future of beauty.

Tell us a bit about yourself and where you grew up.
Evanie Frausto: I grew up in Orange County, California. My parents are Mexican, which makes me a first generation Mexican American. The community in Orange County was pretty closed-off, insular. But when I was a teenager, there was the rise of Myspace and that really became my other world. I made friends all over California and it really opened my eyes to so much more. I was a scene kid. I was into music. Emo. Punk. Myspace made me sort of grow up faster; I ditched the normal Orange County stuff and I went to parties in LA with other scene kids – I was like 13 at the time. I still pull inspiration from being a scene kid, emo kid, punk kid, hard-core kid. That whole Myspace/scene kid movement had a really bold aesthetic. People tried hard. A lot of make-up, hair, hair colour, big hair. In raves too, people really dressed up. You wanted to make a statement. It wasn’t just that looking crazy was acceptable, you had to be fearless of looking crazy. It was better to look more crazy than not crazy enough. That was the world I grew up in.

Do you remember the first time you were conscious of your appearance?
Evanie Frausto: I think always. My mom and her sisters were always wearing make-up. And always had their hair done. My grandma. All my aunts. I suppose when I was thirteen, that’s when the scene kid stuff began for me. It just felt more me. Emo music was a thing, and I really connected with that aesthetic. I had all my social life through Myspace, but back in Orange County, where I lived, it was the opposite; these things were almost taboo. I walked around and people thought I was insane wearing this stuff, these clothes. This was even before skinny jeans. I had to make my own skinny jeans. I would first put them on inside out and safety pin them really tight down the side, before peeling them off and running them through my friend’s sewing machine.

Growing up, what informed your understanding of beauty and identity and the way you presented yourself visually?
Evanie Frausto: Well I wasn’t really thinking about artists or designers – for me, it was about being a scene kid, about emo music, about Myspace, and about raves and parties in LA. It taught me alternative beauty, beauty in a dark way, a non-conventional way. I learnt you can express yourself through your looks. I also love Tim Burton films. I was obsessed. I have always loved spooky, darker stuff since I was a kid. Edward Scissorhands was huge for me. A film with a guy in skinny jeans where the suburban town thinks he’s a freak really struck a chord. They were so camp and the characters were so vivid. Same with John Waters. I have been watching these movies since I was really, really young. I think I stumbled on Cry Baby and just got hooked. I think those references are all still in my work.

Why are you a hairstylist? How did you actually get into it?
Evanie Frausto: Honestly, the reason I first became a hair stylist was because I was broke as fuck. I couldn't go to college so I chose hair school because it was affordable.

I went to Sassoon Academy in California and soon after I decided to move to New York. I’d never been there before, I didn’t know anyone. I trained at Bumble & Bumble and started to take clients there. But when you live in New York, you can get dragged into the fashion industry. I’d never thought about doing hair for fashion. I did a lot of backstage shows and that’s when I began to assist Jimmy Paul. That’s when I really honed my craft. I was with him for two years, full-time. He showed me a whole world I didn’t know existed. Wigs, perm sets, finger waves, pin curls. He gave me the eye. Being able to see hair, anticipate the end photo – really visualize it. My whole life became about hair. He constantly pushed and challenged me to think outside the box. It was totally overwhelming. I had to learn a whole new set of skills, like how to make a wig from scratch. I remember making a drag wig for Lady Bunny, I didn’t know what I was doing. It was 15 feet tall and I’d experimented with an internal structure made of chicken wire. It looked great but after a messy fitting, we realized it was too heavy. Crazy. Every day was like that.

Tell us a bit about your creative process.
Evanie Frausto: I try not to look at too many references. Or if I do, I keep them in my head only. My goal is to find something original, so I don't want to recreate someone else's work. I just start building, I play and see where it goes. And then keep going. I generally make way too much stuff and bring loads of options to the shoot. You just never know what will work on the day, on the model.

Is beauty something you try to capture in your work or something that you reject? What is your relationship to “beauty”?
Evanie Frausto: My goal isn't to make someone beautiful, or if I do, it's in an unconventional way. I like shapes, I like colour. I try to appreciate all things in all forms. If something takes on a weird shape or colour, I enhance it. I push it further. A lot of my work isn't conventionally beautiful, I like things that are different, and hopefully a little too weird. I appreciate so many different things, I don't want to divide things into what is beautiful and what is not. That restricts me. Restricts everyone, probably.

How would you describe your aesthetic?
Evanie Frausto: I don't know if I have a specific thing, but people always tell me they can recognize my work. So maybe I do. I guess it's big, different. And largely wigs. Very exaggerated, I suppose. Fun? Unafraid? Bold? This is a tough question.

What are the projects that you’re most proud of?
Evanie Frausto: I'm proud of all of them. But, as with everyone, if I look back on my work there's always going to be something I would change. If I am proud of my projects, maybe it’s because I'm proud to have gotten through them! You know, proud that I fooled people into accepting my ideas.

What’s the most significant thing you’ve learnt over the course of your career?
Evanie Frausto: Don't be afraid to do your own thing and be in your own lane. In my experience, being offbeat has actually helped me the most. When I stopped assisting and took the plunge of freelancing, it was a big risk. I had no-one but myself. It was scary. Freelancing in New York is the impossible task. I don’t know how we all do it. But working for myself gave me the chance to make the work I wanted to. And use my own voice.

When working on editorial shoots how do you translate someone’s ideas/ vision into hair? How much of the process is a collaboration and how much comes from you?
Evanie Frausto: I feel like a lot comes from the hairstylist. People don't know the possibilities of hair. So I try to bring more options, more ideas, which generally means more wigs. I try to always provide more so there’s an opportunity to play and experiment. But really it depends on the project; sometimes people want to give you the room to try new stuff, to play around, but sometimes they just want a ponytail. So, a ponytail it is.

What should a hairstyle bring to a look or fashion image?
Evanie Frausto: I think it should elevate the image, embrace it. Complete it. Sometimes this means you really go for it. Push the look. And sometimes you use restraint and do as little as possible, and that what will elevate the end result too.

How does hair convey emotion?
Evanie Frausto: I mean, well, I think about how when I put a wig on someone’s head I see them internally transform. I can tell if they're feeling it or not. Sometimes they go "ugh", and it’s bad. But I love the feeling when the right wig makes their eyes pop, they feel the fantasy. There's a real emotional response, it's a character, it wakes people up, excites people, it's tactile. Big transformations can excite a whole room. It doesn’t just happen with wigs; a new cut or hairstyle can have the same effect. But people love wigs especially, they love the magic of the transformation.

The hair you do is often uses a lot of colour, volume, and shapes. Where does this come from?
Evanie Frausto: I think I get really inspired by hair being like an art form. So, I kinda really enjoy acting as a sculptor or a painter. I get excited by creating good shapes. It’s weird, in my clothes I wear all black, but looking at colour really excites me. It excites me in work, in hair. And I think it makes other people excited too. When I bring my wigs and hair people say things like ‘I’ve never seen hair so blue’. To be honest, I don’t really think about doing it for a specific feeling or reaction.

How do you think the industry has evolved since you first started out?
Evanie Frausto: Social media has had a massive impact on the industry. Now everyone can see behind the scenes. It’s insight into a world that was previously a bit more mysterious. Suddenly more people want to do make-up and hair, so everything is more competitive. A big part of social media is beauty. So people who want to get into beauty have to put their work on Instagram, and get discovered there, rather than assist. I assisted, that is the traditional way in, but it’s all changing. Everything is so fast now, so instant. People’s attention spans are shorter. Artists, beauty people, photographers, everyone has to keep up with Instagram. It’s part of your job now to engage with social media, to self- publicize. That’s a job in itself. And it’s non-stop. Putting yourself out there. It’s crazy. And it’s kinda shit. Everything you post, everything you do, has to be all so considered, you’re judged on how many followers you have, and people confuse that with talent.

How do you think our understanding of beauty has shifted with the evolution of technology?
Evanie Frausto: Well, there’s all sorts of new surgical procedures. And although this obviously has a huge benefit in helping people look the way they want to, this advancement can also come with a pursuit of perfection. And with social media, we get that too. Augmentation is a trend now. When Kylie Jenner got lip injections, everyone got lip injections. Maybe before, trends were more the domain of fashion and styling, but now medical and beauty technology is advancing to a point where people can alter their physical bodies more and more along with trends.

The internet has brought a big change to what people can see as beautiful. Because I think people can just see more stuff. When you’re a kid, you don’t look through art books, or photography. Where I grew up, you didn’t come across stuff like that. Social media now brings such a greater variety of styles, of people. Like how I could find scene kids on Myspace. I think now, there’s a greater understanding. It allows people to see beauty in all forms. You see more weird shit, weird shit with lots of other people liking it. Beauty is more democratic now. Ten years ago we couldn’t make Kate Moss a centaur and call it beautiful.

What advice would you give to young artists hoping to get into the industry?
Evanie Frausto: Don’t. Haha. Ok, if you wanna work in the fashion industry, you need to try to get to a fashion city, New York, London, Paris etc. That’s the one big thing I’d say. These days you can use social media too. I would recommend people assist in the industry, it’s the best way to learn how to run a business, on-set etiquette, how to run a team, all of that. But, ultimately, move to the big city.

What is the future of beauty?
Evanie Frausto: I hope that beauty continues to be challenged. I hope that inspiration keeps coming in from all over. I hope it’s a lot of things. I hope that everyone can find beauty in themselves. And that anyone in the industry who is invested in beauty continues to put out their own unique perspective. Obviously, beauty is going to evolve and change but I hope that it continues in the direction of being less constricted. That makes me excited. Often in the commercial sphere, I feel beauty is recycled. Its trend based. And a closed circuit. I hope variety can happen and grow. But here, in New York, our beauty ideals are way ahead of Mexico, for instance, where understandings of beauty are still so heavily gendered and racialized. Where indigenous, darker features, aren’t always considered beautiful. That’s where the biggest change in beauty still needs to occur.

What are you currently working on?
Evanie Frausto: I’m always into working with people who have big, challenging, and new ideas. Some of the projects that have excited me recently, have been with photographers Petra Collins and Alana O’Herlihy. They have such a vision and its really inspiring. I’ve also started making images with my partner, which has turned out to be a great creative partnership and playground for new things, so I’m looking forward to seeing where that might take us.

Who would you like to shine a spotlight on next?
Evanie Frausto: Maria Osado, Brooks Ginnan, Wesley Berryman, West Dakota