Sunday, January 20th, 2008
Jennifer Russo, 27, owner of Spazzo salon, in Clinton, CT, hasn’t received many complaints in the seven years she has been styling hair. But with her side gig—as hairdresser to the deceased—it’s not even on the menu. Finding herself recently divorced with a new business, and lifestyle, to keep (Harley, anyone?), she ended up at Swan Funeral Home next to her shop, where she is now on the payroll. “It’s a motorcycle payment,” she says. “And I love it.” Her other side gig, singing old standards, found its way into her work as well.
How did you get this job?
I just went over and asked. I befriended one of the morticians and I gave him my number and information. He stopped over one day and told me he had two bodies to do for my first job.
Why did you want to do this?
Just the extra money, the convenience–it’s right next door.
What was it like, your first time?
The mortician was hysterical. He didn’t want to leave me alone for my first job. He wheeled them into the showroom area to make it easier for me, but he didn’t want to leave me alone. But it was really comfortable after I asked what their names were. When he left, I introduced myself to them and just familiarized myself with them so I didn’t feel like I was intruding.
How is it different to style a dead person?
It doesn’t take as long because you only have to do the sides and the front. But since they’re lying down it’s challenging because you have to get it to look like when they’re standing up. They usually give you a picture to match.
Also, I’m used to people talking at me all day, bitching about their lives, gossiping. So it’s a nice way to end the day—making someone beautiful who can’t talk to you.
What do you do while you’re styling them?
I sing to them. My forties tunes, old standards. Because you never know if they’re watching. I don’t know what I believe, but if they are watching, I want it to be nice for them.
I don’t get scared or freaked out. I’ll say, “If I’m doing something you don’t like, just let me know.” Then I’m a little scared they’re going to let me know.
Is it totally creepy?
There is a sense of calmness to it. They just look so at peace. They just seem like they’re in a better place. I want to make them look good for their families because usually at the end of their lives they’ve been sick. I want them to look like everybody remembers them looking. That’s what’s rewarding for me. It’s ironic. I’m scared of everything at night. I have nighttime paranoia, for god’s sake. But this doesn’t bother me.
How many people have you done so far?
Has anyone ever commented on your work?
The funeral director has commented that the families have gone out of their way to say the hair looked great. I am so meticulous. I want to make sure every hair looks perfect.
How much do you get paid?
Fifty dollars a head.
How much do you charge in your shop, for the living?
Forty dollars. But the dead people are only paying once.