x

Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 December 2018

Meet the wigmaker to Beyonce and Travolta who is now helping low-income cancer patients in Abu Dhabi

Babe Savage has made headpieces for stars including Janet Jackson

Wigmaker to the stars Babe Savage now lives in Abu Dhabi. Khushnum Bhandari / The National
Wigmaker to the stars Babe Savage now lives in Abu Dhabi. Khushnum Bhandari / The National

There are not many professionals who can count Beyonce, Janet Jackson and John Travolta among their clients – but Abu Dhabi-based wigmaker, Babe Savage, is one.

“You have probably actually seen a couple of my wigs on TV,” said Mrs Savage, 47, from the United States.

Beyonce and Janet Jackson are both humble, while John Travolta, for whom she made a toupe, is “a very, very cool guy".

“Sometimes I see her, Beyonce, on TV [with a wig I made] and I am like 'wow'.”

Mrs Savage, 47, has been making wigs since she was a teenager, having first learned how from her grandmother.

“Everyone else was out playing and having a good time. I was always interested to know what she was doing with these wigs and why these women were coming by and giving her money for that. So I began to watch her and she began to show me a few things,” she said.

American actor John Travolta at the press conference in Dubai. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebr)
Travolta is known for his ever-changing hair-dos. Kamran Jebreili / AP

She went on to study wig making at cosmetology school, and later honed her craft studying under an experienced wig maker in the Middle East. She returned to the United States after that, where she worked until 15 months ago when she moved to the UAE.

She set up her own salon in Abu Dhabi - Babe Savage Hair Salon - on Reem Island in September. Business has been brisk since.

Unless the customer specifically requests a synthetic wig, all of her wigs are made using real hair. Most of the hair she uses is sourced from India, Uzbekistan, and sometimes Lebanon. The highest grade hair comes from Russia, but it is also the most expensive.

Prices range anywhere from Dh900, up to Dh5,000, although she does give away a significant portion of the wigs she makes. She has made about 100 wigs since opening her shop, around 20 per cent of which have been free of charge.

“If I meet someone who is financially unable to pay I give it to them free of charge,” said Mrs Savage.

“I know there are a lot of rich people in the UAE. But there are as many who aren’t. Cancer does not discriminate. If they have been referred by a doctor or something like that, or a hospital, I will donate the wig.”

Month of February. Beyonce performs at the 59th Annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles, California, U.S. on February 12, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson/File Photo
Ms Savage often recognises wigs she has made for Beyonce. Lucy Nicholson / Reuters

Mrs Savage typically makes two or three stock wigs for her shop a week – although her custom wigs take longer.

“If it’s a stock unit, just like the ones that are in the salon now, the back of it can be done on a regular sewing machine. But the front of it has to be ventilated. You don’t thread the hair through with a machine. You do that with a very small ventilating needle. And you can only pull two or three strands through at a time,” she said.

The intricacy of her craft used to be the part she enjoyed the most, but that has changed over the years.

“Now that I am a little bit older I enjoy the fact that I am able to help someone transform and boost their self-esteem, more so than the wig making itself. People really don’t know what goes into making a wig. All they know is the end result and how they feel when they put it on,” said Mrs Savage.

“So that’s probably the most gratifying part of it, for me.”