There's only one thing Jean Marc Levy loves more than doing hair: doing hair in America.
One of his first North American clients was a recently divorced woman with long layers. She wanted a new look for her new life and asked for the best stylist in the salon. All fingers pointed to Levy, a French-born creative master stylist.
When he finished his work, Levy spun the woman around to face the mirror. She stared at her freshly cropped coif and started sobbing. Before he could do the same, the woman spoke up.
"I love you, Jean Marc," she said between tears. "God bless you."
Levy was beside himself.
"I thought, 'I love women in America!' " he recalls. "In America, if you do something with your heart, people appreciate it. Nobody says God bless me in France."
Six years later he has so many similar stories, he could fill a book. And he has. Levy, 43, keeps a tattered blue journal at his salon station inside Spa at Red Rock. Like a yearbook of clientele, it's full of different signatures and different ink, but the same overall message. His clients love him as much as he loves their hair.
Levy originally came to the United States in 2007 to work for the short-lived Jose Eber Salon at Fashion Show mall. From there, he went to Christophe Salon at MGM Grand, and he has been at the Spa at Red Rock almost a year.
His services don't come cheap. Levy charges $125 for a cut (locals get a 20 percent discount). Color jobs start at $80. And, the foil-free balayage highlighting technique starts at $200.
If you're Heidy Flores, it costs far more than that. She travels to Las Vegas from Houston every two to three months simply to have Levy work on her hair.
"He makes you feel beautiful, and he spends as long as it takes," she says. "Every hair falls into place."
Flores gets precision cuts. Levy cuts her hair dry and sometimes has her stand up, sit down, stand back up to make sure he has it just right. According to Flores, everyone in Houston wants to know who does her hair. The flight and hotel expenses are worth that alone.
Levy's first love was about as far from a salon as it gets. At age 10, while his friends kicked around a black-and-white ball, he took an avid interest in America's favorite pastime. He eventually played catcher and first baseman for the national baseball team in France before retiring from the sport at age 30. Now his son is one of the top 20 baseball players in France.
For 16 years, he did hair during the week and played baseball on weekends. If anything, he thought the latter would bring him to the United States. Lucky for his clients, it didn't work out that way.
Levy got started in the hair industry at age 14. One of his two older sisters was doing hair, and it was his responsibility to walk her home from the salon. For his efforts, she would give him a small cut of the tips she earned. Tips make a big impression on a 14-year-old.
His interest in hair, however, didn't leave the best impression with his friends. "They stopped talking to me," he says. "The south of France is very 'Latino macho.' "
Levy didn't let it get to him. "I was strong," he says. "And all my friends got jealous when they saw me around so many women."
But Levy had trouble separating his dugout self from his salon self. The first three months of his first salon job focused on his personal presentation.
Levy had to learn how to change his French from slang to formal. His style of dress had to change, too. His boss gave him a pair of shiny pants to wear to work. Levy hid them in a gym bag during his bus commute and changed at the salon. He didn't care what his friends thought of his profession, but his clothes were another story.
In 2000, he trained under the world-renowned Eric Zemmour, whose name is synonymous with L'Oreal Professionnel . During that time he did the hair of French and Moroccan royalty. Since coming to the United States, he has worked on Hillary Clinton, Eva Longoria and Robin Williams.
Working on famous hair isn't all that separates him from the majority of his peers, though. Levy had six years of hair education in France, three of which were spent as an apprentice. Most American cosmetology programs last nine to 12 months.
The difference is in the 'dos.
"That's where that 'creative' part (of his title) comes from," says Angela Taverner, spa director at the Spa at Red Rock. "A lot of people who specialize in one cut, can't do another cut. Jean Marc can do it all."
The distinctions don't begin and end there. Last year the reputed French style magazine L'Eclaireur picked Levy as one of the top four French ex-pat stylists working in America.
The honors and fancy title are nice, but his clients mean the most to him. Whenever he needs a pick-me-up, he thumbs through that tattered blue journal.
Entries start on Oct. 24, 2008, when he still worked at Christophe Salon. A client named Debbie writes that she "will definitely come back again." In 2010, Belle Ange takes an entire page, expressing her adoration for the master stylist, who she calls "a man of sensitive intuition." In an entry left three months ago, Lisa writes, "You have helped me to feel beautiful again during a difficult transition in my life."
The sentiments illustrate just why he came to this country for hair, not baseball. Still, his love for the sport crosses into his love for hair.
"In baseball you have nine players. I couldn't do it by myself," he says. "The challenge is how to be the best salon in Vegas, not how to be the best Jean Marc."
Contact fashion reporter Xazmin Garza at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0477. Follow her on Twitter @startswithanx.