Editor's Note: "Beauty Queen" is a monthly column that sends fashion reporter Xazmin Garza out into the field to test the latest beauty products and services.
There are blowouts and then there are blow-me-away blowouts. Most women prefer the latter, but find them as hard to come by as humble heiresses.
Word had it the uber-modern hair salon inside MGM Grand knew a thing or two about the craft, so I headed over recently to test the strength of the salon's blow.
After making my trek to the furthest possible point away from valet, also known as the hair salon Christophe, stylist Eric Bensimon met me at the receptionist counter. "Nice to meet you, Xazmin," he said. A simple greeting but when it comes coated in a thick French accent, it becomes a beautiful promise: "Prepare for the blowout of your life."
Just when I thought I'd delved dangerously close to stereotyping, Bensimon threw me another bone. Before Christophe, he worked under José Eber, he told me. Just what a woman about to fork out $85 at a salon wants to hear.
I told the French hairstylist I wanted a pin-curl blowout. As he started preparing his tools, I added that I hoped the term "long-lasting blowout" wasn't an oxymoron. This caused him to pause and face me head on.
"You want better than pin curl?" he asked in a tone that bordered a challenge. Before I could answer, he pulled out a set of curlers from his drawer and held one up as though it was the Holy Grail. "This," he said, "this will give you much better hair than pin curl." He went on to tell me about the shine and longevity the curlers would give me, the way I'd feel about my hair afterward, the texture, the -- I stopped him short and gave the curlers the nod.
Bensimon then led me to the sinks, where he washed and conditioned my ratty locks as I stared at one of three plasma television sets propelling from the salon's ceiling. What a novel idea, I thought. Too bad I'm the first appointment of the day and no one's bothered to turn them on yet. That was my last thought before Bensimon's scalp massage put me into a brief drift. When the faucet water stopped I discovered the televisions had been turned on. You don't know a rude awakening until opening your eyes to Carrot Top.
Wide awake, I hurried back to Bensimon's chair, where he began separating and blow-drying my hair. That's when I looked to my right and noticed another stylist sitting in the next chair, chin on fist, closely observing Bensimon's work.
"When are you going back to France?" she asked him. Not anytime soon, he replied. "But I want those curlers," she pleaded.
The stylist looked to be in her late 20s and made no effort to hide her admiration of Bensimon, who is old enough to have wielded the scissors for her first haircut. She also wanted his brush and his shears, but she'd have to wait until he returned to his native country, he told her, because you can't find them in the States and no amount of money would cause him to separate from his tools.
As he ran the nozzle of the blow-dryer (purchased here) from the roots of my hair to the ends, Bensimon's aspiring understudy examined the curlers and noted their distinguishing feature: bendable wire strands. Like Confucius to Grasshopper, Bensimon smiled and then told her: "That's what makes the shine."
After he blew over the rollers with the dryer set on cool, Bensimon set free all 21 curlers and started raking my hair with his fingers. He pulled the sides that fall over my ears to the crown of my head and, for a good 30 seconds, held it so tight my eyes slanted. I started to relax, the same way I did under the sink, then he quickly released his hold, bringing me out of relaxation mode.
I stared into the mirror before me and thanked God I didn't see Carrot Top. Rather, my hair had a big bounciness to it; a shine and shapeliness I'd only seen on Jessica Simpson and Beyoncé Knowles. As Grasshopper and I marveled at the sight, Bensimon began pantomiming the upkeep instructions. "You do this, OK," he said as he bent over and did the raking motion to the bottom of his head. "Never brush! Only this," he commanded as he repeated the motions. My bouncy curls and I started walking to the cash register and Bensimon trailed behind me with the last of his marching orders: "Use elastic, ponytail, anything at night, but never brush."
I paused and faced him head on: "I got it." He exhaled and smiled.
As I prepared to pay for my hour-long, $85 blowout, the receptionist asked how things went. I didn't think twice about my reply: "I'm blown away." And that was before discovering it would last for four days.
Blowouts at Christophe start at $65 above the shoulders, $85 below the shoulders. No extra charge for curls, whether accomplished with pins or rods. Christophe is located inside MGM Grand, 891-3339.