Series cuts both ways

Tabatha Coffey
Tabatha Coffey
The scissors fly on a new reality show set in the emotional world of hairdressing. Scott Kara reports.

Tabatha Coffey makes people cry and sometimes - in true reality TV fashion - they have brain explosions too.

Hey, hardcore Coffey can't help it if the hair stylists she's working with don't know what they're doing, start feeling insecure, and then fall to pieces on the salon floor.

"Yeah, they cry a lot," she deadpans, "but I don't really want people to cry."

On Tabatha's Salon Takeover, she visits struggling hair salons and has one week to turn their fortunes around.

It's no wonder emotions and tensions run high.

"I really am tough and I don't do it to be a bitch but these salons we go into are financially in dire straits and people really need help. Some of their stories are sad.

"I'm in there for such a short amount of time that I have to cut through all the rubbish and get down to what the problems are. It's tough love and I really can't hold their hands if I want to help them."

During the series we meet Stacey, who can't stand Coffey's blunt evaluations and the way she constantly snaps her scissors while hovering around observing her often shoddy workmanship.

Stacey loses it, and before storming out in tears, gives Tabatha an earful, which doesn't fluster the iron lady one bit.

"A lot of these hairdressers are just skating by and they have owners who aren't giving them education, checking their work, and holding them accountable. They cry because they don't know what they're doing. They get insecure."

Australian-born Coffey, who is now a New Jersey-based hair stylist and salon owner, made her television debut on the first series of American hairdressing reality show Shear Genius in 2007.

While she didn't win, she was voted fan favourite which led to her hosting Tabatha's Salon Takeover.

The show, by the makers of America's Next Top Model, Top Chef, and Project Runway is like Gordon Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares, only in down-and-out hair salons.

Despite Coffey's ruthless approach, she's much more likeable than Ramsay - mainly because she doesn't lose her rag and vent with foul-mouthed tirades.

She's as cool as an unplugged hair straightener.

"I'm up for a healthy debate any time," she says.

"I'm really not in there to demean these people. I want to get through to them. There is lots of head-butting in episodes to come though," she says.

In this week's show, she confronts "an incredibly irritating man" called Michael.

It seems Coffey may have met her match.

"He was tough to get through to," she offers about his pig-headed and arrogant approach to his business, which, she points out, is not only badly run but also filthy, with stained towels on the massage table and old hair in every nook and cranny.

"He's not a hairdresser. He bought the salon because, in his words, he thought it was a recession-proof business. But he doesn't even know why he thought it was a recession-proof business.

"He just decided to buy it without knowing anything about hairdressing and he didn't spend any time in the salon.

"Michael was frustrating to work with," she huffs, "and he really pushed all my buttons because I couldn't get through to him."

While the likes of Michael and stroppy Stacey make great talent for television, she insists the main focus of the show is helping these places out of trouble by offering sound business advice.

"I'm a bit of a last resort because people don't know how to get themselves out of the hole they're in. It's about business sense and in this present economy it's good to get little business tips and also to make people wake up and realise it's about serving your clients and your company."

Tabatha's Salon Takeover screens on Fridays at 9.30pm on TV3.

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