Ted Gibson and Jason Backe load up the truck to bring their scissors and famously expensive haircuts to L.A.

Hair colorist Jason Backe, left, and his husband and business partner, celebrity hairstylist Ted Gibson, in the space for their new salon. The couple recently relocated to Los Angeles after living in New York for 20 years.
(Katie Falkenberg / Los Angeles Times)

Hair is often associated with reinvention. A new cut, color or style can reinvigorate a person’s life. But sometimes, reinvention is just as healthy for those cutting tresses too. After living for 20 years in New York, veteran celebrity hairstylist Ted Gibson is trying a new look on for size after moving his business to Los Angeles.

“We wanted to do something a little bit different,” Gibson said, adding that he and his business partner and husband, hair colorist Jason Backe, had recently signed a lease for a new salon. Located at 211½ S. La Brea Ave., the salon will be called Starring by Ted Gibson. The announcement was made late last month during an event for the hairstylist’s upcoming hair-care line, Starring.

Gibson, who has styled the hair of Angelina Jolie, Lupita Nyong’o, Debra Messing, Priyanka Chopra and Jessica Chastain, sent shock waves through Manhattan when he closed his 2,500-square-foot Flatiron District salon of 13 years in December 2016. At the time, Gibson and Backe didn’t have a plan, but they knew they needed a change. “We had this conversation,” said the Texas-born hairdresser, who once had salons in Washington, D.C., and Fort Lauderdale, Fla. ‘‘We said, ‘What are we doing this for? It’s not making us happy. It doesn’t make sense anymore.’”

Gibson said he’d also noticed a shift in the beauty business where hairstylists preferred “an independent mentality” over working in large salons like the one he and Backe had previously owned.

Shortly after, the couple sold their apartment in the city as well as their home in upstate New York. They loaded a truck with their belongings and took a road trip west. Meanwhile, various media outlets began calling to inquire about their next move. “We couldn’t tell anybody, because we didn’t know what we were going to do,” Gibson said. “That’s when we realized, ‘We have to keep it a secret that we moved to L.A. until we have a plan,’” Backe added.

Hairdresser Ted Gibson styles "Will & Grace" star Debra Messing's hair.
Hairdresser Ted Gibson styles “Will & Grace” star Debra Messing’s hair.
(Ted Gibson)

The couple quietly arrived in town in July, much to their own surprise. “I never thought that I would live in Los Angeles,” Backe said with a laugh. “I was one of those New Yorkers that was like, ‘Egh. L.A.? What’s L.A.?’ And all of a sudden, this switch flipped. Los Angeles seems to be the incubator for creatives. As Manhattan becomes more and more and more banking- and real estate-driven, it’s challenging for creatives to grow there, you know? Even moving out into the boroughs is still tight and expensive.”

Gibson said their Los Angeles salon, which they hope to open by August, will “be the opposite of what we’ve done before.” It’ll be intimate, with only five or six chairs, as opposed to the 50 they previously had in New York. “It’s going to be highly concierge,” he said, adding that he and Backe were previously adamant that they “would never open another salon again,” because they kept themselves busy with editorial jobs, their hair-care academy and private celebrity clientele. However, Gibson and Backe eventually changed their minds. “Our brand really loves the idea of a salon,” Gibson said. “We love service. Jason loves coloring hair, and I love cutting and styling hair. We didn’t want to do it in our apartment. We needed a home that can support our brand legacy.”

They also considered a space in Beverly Hills but ultimately decided against it. “We felt like, ‘If we’re going to open in Beverly Hills, we might as well have stayed in Manhattan,’” Backe said. “It would have been the same kind of thing in a different town. We want to do a different kind of thing, a different way with the same integrity and quality. The evolution of our brand is going from a fancy 5th Avenue lady to young, sexy Hollywood.”

Gibson, who became known for his $950 haircut rate, raised his price in 2012 to $1,200. His current rate is $1,650 per cut, while Backe’s is $400 for every 30 minutes he works on a client’s hair color.

I was one of those New Yorkers that was like, ‘Egh. L.A.? What’s L.A.?’ And all of a sudden, this switch flipped.

— Jason Backe, celebrity colorist

In addition to the salon, Gibson is launching the hair-care line, featuring three products — Runway Ready Volumizing Mist ($48), Shooting Star Texture Meringue ($52) and Beautifullest Powerball Styler ($62) — all of which will be available for pre-order online at Starring’s first product will be officially released during New York Fashion Week in September.

Each product, according to Gibson, is “unique in its application, its fragrance and also in its formula.” The line’s name is an homage to Gibson’s love of cinema but also to the idea of “independent beauty.” Starring is for the everyday person who is the protagonist of his or her own life, he said, adding, “It’s a movement and a culture. It’s about an individual who isn’t following what other people are doing.”

Underscoring this notion, Gibson and Backe marked their arrival with an unorthodox, early morning cocktail party April 20 on the rooftop of a hip Hollywood loft. “I know the Hollywood sign is looking fabulous, but gather around,” Gibson instructed the crowd as he grabbed a mike from the DJ booth.

The announcement about their new salon and hair-care line was made at exactly 10:25 a.m. at the event as well as on the brand’s new social media account @Starring. “My astrologer said that this would be a perfect time to launch,” Gibson said. “It’s not so airy fairy,” he insisted, adding that he talks with his astrologer three or four times a year. “I always ask her about my relationship with Jason and my career,” he said. “She said that 4/20 at 10:25 a.m. Starring could be born.”

Ted Gibson with Academy Award winner Lupita Nyong'o.
(Ted Gibson)

Although Gibson’s name is often more recognizable, the duo are true partners in business and in life (they wed in 2014). “Not only do I love him, but I like him,” Gibson said, adding that their relationship gives them “a unique perspective” on — and approach to — beauty. “There isn’t an interracial gay couple within the confines of what beauty is,” he said, adding that they’ve been together for 25 years, having met when Gibson was an educator for Aveda and Backe was his student. “It’s not a typical kind of thing,” Gibson added.

They each have different roles in their relationship. “He is really the visionary,” Backe said of Gibson. “He comes up with all the ideas and can take concepts and turn them into things, and I’m good at making sure that the checks don’t bounce and the dog gets fed.” The couple laughed. “He’s always wanted to be famous,” Backe said. “I just want to be rich. So if we can make that happen …”

The duo married one another twice, once before gay marriage was legalized. “The first time was for love,” Gibson said, “and then the second time was for money.”

Ted Gibson with "Lady Bird" star Saoirse Ronan.
(Ted Gibson)

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