Today we’d like to introduce you to Courtney Rice. Below you’ll find edited excerpts of our interview with Courtney.
Courtney, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
Before I was a hairdresser, I was an architect for over a decade. While I was always blessed to always work for incredible designers, the further and further I got into architecture, the more I realized the reality of the job was more of a sacrifice than a joy for me.
I had just turned 30, moved to Los Angeles from New York, and was sitting getting my hair done at my salon when I had the proverbial “ah-ha” moment that hair offered the possibility of a creative, self-determined life that seemed so impossible in the field of architecture. So I went to beauty school in secret at night and on weekends. I told my job I was taking an art class, and I didn’t tell my parents at all. In fact, I didn’t tell them until about 6 months after I had quit my job in architecture. I didn’t want them to worry, or make me second guess myself. I just went at it with blind excitement about the future, and developed a love for doing hair. After school I devoured any continuing education I could get my hands on from people I worked with and stylists I admired. I started finding my voice really fast. In April of 2012, this little studio space in Eagle Rock became available. It was bright and located perfectly both in the heart of things and hidden away. So I took a leap of faith and opened Sunday Morning. Eagle Rock was sort of under the radar at the time, but I lived in the area and saw the potential. Four years later here we are! I am grateful every day for the life hair has given me.
Has it been a smooth road?
I went into the business blind, with a sort of take-a-chance and build-it-they-will-come mentality. When I started, it didn’t occur to me to worry about a lot of things that I probably should have worried about. I opened in a small space, tucked off the street so it was hard to find, never advertised, didn’t reatil anything. I just had a vision for the kind of place I wanted to create and a joy for what I was doing which drove everything, and everything just fell into place. But that’s not to say there has been no struggle. Since it developed so organically, I am now taking the time to define in words what Sunday Morning stands for, and where I want to take it moving forward, and that has been hard, more than I thought it would be. But I have to say, that even on the hardest day, I love the job, and am so proud and grateful for all that has happened. I get to make a living doing something creative, that I love, and with people I love. Every struggle has been worth it.
What are your plans for the future?
For the time being, I want to keep it small. Sunday Morning is a two-chair studio tucked away in a secret garden court off of Colorado Boulevard. It’s kind of a hidden gem. I love that our little space is in the heart of the best part of Eagle Rock, but also really private and personal. I think part of the reason we’ve done so well is that it doesn’t feel like a hair salon. We always joke that it is the “un-salon” that likes to do “un-done” hair…i.e. beauty that comes from not trying to hard, looks lived-in and stylish without a lot of work styling it. At the risk of being corny, kind of easy like Sunday Morning. (P.S. nod to Lionel Richie and the Velvet Underground for inspiring the name).
Let’s dig a little deeper into your story. What was the hardest time you’ve had?
Post beauty school, I had to deal with overcoming fear of failure. In an office you can hide behind your desk a bit, but in hair you really have to face it. There were a couple of mantras that would get me through. One I specifically remember was reading that great quote by Ira Glass. He said, “Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is a gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or are still in this phase, you gotta know it’s normal and the most important thing you can do is a lot of work…It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions…It’s gonna take a while. It’s normal to take a while. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.” I’d recite that to myself and keep going.
There was also a woman who worked in the first hair salon I ever worked in, and she said to me “Courtney, you have the eye. You can learn technical skill, but you can’t learn the eye. So trust your eye.” I did trust my eye, and I’d say that to myself anytime I got scared when I was first starting out. It got me through till I started to feel that I was finally able to translate my eye into my hand once in a while, and then more often, and then a lot. And I still feel like it is always developing. I hope I always do. I am constantly learning and educating myself. I take classes all the time to keep on top of my skills and learn from people I admire, like Tracey Cunningham, Sally Rogerson, Prive, and Nick Arrojo. I hope to never feel like I have “made it”, because I always want to be learning and progressing.
I am super proud of the salon though. I do see it as something special, unique, and beautiful…more than just its little self. Not only did it saved me from a life feeling “stuck” in a career that was unfulfilling for me, but it also proved to me that it is possible to create the life you want, and worth it to take an educated chance at that. When I opened Sunday Morning, there was just me and one other stylist, Lacy Thompson, who has since become like a sister to me. I always say I was the “sole proprietor” and she was the “soul proprietor”. We had tiny little clienteles, but we just started doing our thing. And it was really wonderful and fun, and I think the popularity grew from there. We started to be booked weeks and then months in advance. I think we started to notice we had made something special and unusual when we started being recognized by other people in our community, or Refinery 29, LA Weekly, and now Voyage LA! I knew we all did a good job, but Sunday Morning also taught me that being successful is more than just about talent, it’s also about energy. Positivity attracting positivity. Life is hard enough. Doing what you love, doing it with a passion, spending time with people who value you, getting ego-free, and believing in yourself and how you do your craft brings all kinds of good, and I think Sunday Morning has come to embody that.
Lacy moved to Portland, Oregon in December of 2015, which the other most was challenging I’ve gone through as a business owner, but it actually ended up being the most important thing that could have happened for the business. It forced me to really understand what Sunday Morning had become so accidentally and organically, and to really define it in a communicable way so I can keep that magic going no matter where it is located or who is sharing the space. Speaking of which, I also feel like Sunday Morning wouldn’t be anything without the people who share the space with me, since we all contribute to it and learn from each other. Lacy still comes back bi-monthly to see her clients, but I also have to give a shout out to two other supremely talented stylists, Jill O’Neil and Michael Long, I have been lucky enough to share the space with for about the last year or so.
- Our address is 2120 Colorado Boulevard, Suite 5, Los Angeles, CA 90041.
- Phone: (323) 258 2575
- Website: www.sundaymorninghair.com
Check out her work below: