Tonight on TLC’s new series Hair Goddess we meet Christina Oliva, the Staten Island queen of hair extensions who has BIG plans for expansion — as we find out in our exclusive interview.
Outfitted with nothing but her fiercely loyal family, a work ethic she says she inherited from her father and a desire to make women feel gorgeous, Oliva has poured herself into creating a business right out of high school that she hopes to expand over to the west coast.
Not an easy task, as Christina first has to make a name for herself at her second location in America’s Big Apple. But if she can make it there she can make it anywhere, especially Beverly Hills where she next hopes to set up shop.
Her coterie of tight knit family members includes Jenn, her accounting whiz-kid book smart sister, her cousin Anthony and his “lawyer” Victoria, who are just weeks apart in age and feature prominently in Christina’s business, and her mom and dad who are more like advisors.
Happily married for decades, her parents house the entire clan except for Christina, whose husband has his own business going on and no time for reality TV.
We spoke to TLC’s stunning star to find out exactly what happens in her busy life, her work and how she manages the accent trolls and haters who find her Staten Island accent a little too New Yawk-y.
Monsters and Critics: How did you pitch this to TLC? How did they find you?
Christina Oliva: They found me actually from one of the producers at Left Right Productions.
He and his wife were getting married and she had come in for a consult for hair extensions and her husband thought it was a great idea and so he pitched the story to TLC.
M&C: Your dad Frank could have his own show, talk about him please…
CO: My dad is probably the hardest worker that I’ve ever met in my entire life.
I admire my dad so much and I think that’s were I get my work ethic from.
He is just amazing. And you have to be amazing — because he lives in a house with so many women [laughs], and he deals with all of our issues.
M&C: Does he help you at all with your business?
CO: With advice, definitely. I was fortunate to start doing hair extensions at a young age, I was 18, went to cosmetology school here in Staten Island and I built my business out of my parent’s garage.
I saved up all my money and opened up a small hair extension boutique on Staten Island.
Then I saved up more and I later branched out to Manhattan and I have an investor but it’s not my dad.
M&C: Can you explain the name of your salon Olivia Christensen — who is that?
CO: Well, it’s my alter-ego. It’s my first and last name backward with a twist.
When I was seven, me and Jenn [sister] would watch all sorts of movies, and I said ‘When I grow up I am going to have a fashion line named Olivia Christensen.’
As I was branching out to Manhattan, I said ‘I don’t think Hair Goddess of New York will do so well in Manhattan.’ That’s when I trademarked ‘Olivia Christensen’.
M&C: Your accent is the focus of a lot of commentary on our site. What do you say to the haters who criticize your accent?
CO: I see that! [laughs] I mean, I definitely think that it’s really cruel but they are just mean spirited ugly-hearted people hiding behind a computer screen.
I think that when you do open up your life to the general public, you have to have thick skin or you are not gonna make it in this industry.
I really try so hard not to read any of the comments. I was born with this voice, look at Sophia Vergara, she’s not famous for her voice.
M&C: What is the best thing about having your family work for you?
CO: I think the best thing is that I know that I can trust them. I have major trust issues, so I know I can always count on them and that they have my back at the end of the day.
M&C: Victoria and her relationship with your second cousin Anthony, could you tell us about that?
CO: Antony is Victoria’s lawyer. Victoria is Anthony’s lawyer…they are two peas in a pod.
They are two weeks apart from one another. They are the best but they are also a handful because working with two 20-year-olds is kind of tough sometimes…but they are cute together.
M&C: You talk about a bad relationship in the premiere. He ruined your credit, what happened to him?
CO: That I am really not too sure. I am happily married and I left that in the past.
Obviously, I wish him well with his life, but yes! He ruined my credit. My credit score now, thank god, is in the 700s, but it took me a long time to get back up on my feet.
People look at [other] people and they think ‘Oh my God, she’s so pretty, she has everything’ but no one is perfect. I think that it’s a relatable story.
M&C: Is your husband in the business too?
CO: My husband is actually in the car business. He is just so busy with his career, he is also an entrepreneur so I think even if he had the time he wouldn’t do the show, plus he’s camera shy and doesn’t have that kind of time.
We are both very successful and very driven and it’s even hard for us to get together sometimes.
He’s going in the morning and I am coming home, our schedules are very off. We have been together nine years and married three.
M&C: “Know it all” Jenn’s scrambled eggs aversion, an accounting master’s degree, the odd one out…talk about her, please!
CO: She is not involved at all. As the season goes on, I think people will have to tune in to find out to see if she joins the business!
M&C: How do you market differently in NYC than Staten Island?
CO: I think that it’s really tough. In Staten Island my business is all word of mouth, and that’s actually one of the struggles that I have had in Manhattan.
Another thing that is interesting is you have to find out how to navigate Manhattan.
M&C: How many people work for you in Manhattan?
CO: We have about five people working for us in Manhattan right now, in midtown east on 48th Street.
We perform everything there, from cuts, color corrections, and extensions to straightening technique.
M&C: If you could open a third location, where would you pick?
CO: Beverly Hills. Definitely LA. I see myself spending half the month in LA and half here on the east coast.
M&C What are the differences between the LA and New York market?
CO: I think there is more opportunity for clientele out on the west coast.
Every single person you see is wearing extensions, but for some reason they are not wearing good quality.
A lot of hair extensions come from China. On the packaging written in every beauty supply store is says 100 per cent human hair but it’s not.
Probably 70 per cent of the hair on the market today is made in China.
I think that also is what sets me aside from the rest of the extension experts out there. We import all of our hair from eastern and western Europe.
Hair Goddess airs Wednesdays at 10/9c on TLC.