Robbie LaRiviere :: Tabatha’s ’problem child’ grows up

by Robert Nesti
EDGE National Arts & Entertainment Editor
Thursday Jul 28, 2011

One of the most talked about episodes from last season’s Tabatha’s Salon Takeover had the ever-critical salon makeover diva visit Provincetown’s West End Salon. Once there, she was in for culture shock - Provincetown, it turns out, is a place where salon owner Dougie Freeman busks for business with a stand-up routine; a stripper pole was installed in the salon; and Freeman’s protégée Robby LaRiviere takes a spray tanning machine onto busy Commercial Street in search of clients.

Once Tabatha took charge, the stripper pole went away, as did Dougie’s stand-up routine in the street; but perhaps her biggest challenge was dealing with LaRiviere, the 21-year old hair stylist and beauty consultant who was labeled the spray tanning "problem child."

Still LaRiviere emerged as the episode’s most likable personality, and one of the few to stand up to Tabatha as she worked to make the West End into a slicker enterprise. He felt that in her quest for professionalism, she was missing an understanding of the flamboyant Provincetown market and was robbing the salon of its more fun marketing ploys.

Now a year since the episode was filmed and six months since it was aired, Robby is back at the West End Salon for his fourth year. The difference being that his spray-tanning ways on the show made him recognizable to tourists that come to the resort from all over the country.

(Note: in case you missed the show, it can be downloaded from iTunes.)

A learning experience

As for what he learned from his experiences on the show, LaRiviere says, "Tabatha’s little problem child has grown up quite a bit since last summer... even more so then when I first arrived in PTown at the age of 18 working as a ’houseboy’ at The Beacon Light Guesthouse."

When not in Ptown, this Vidal Sassoon trained stylist can be found in Santa Monica, CA as founder of MasterMinds Beauty Designs, LA’s traveling beauty concierge that he founded at the age of 20.

He remains, as always, an avid advocate for spray tans.

"Having a spray tan should be as common as receiving a haircut or manicure," he said. "Spray tans have always had such a bad rap, but a properly executed spray tan with my custom quality solution will last long, look fabulous, and create a natural Caribbean glow."

Tanning is just the tip of the iceberg of LaRiviere’s entrepreneurial talents. He does everything from hair extensions, to makeup, to anti aging facial treatments, waxing, manicures, his signature "Better than Sex" pedicures, up-dos (yes, even Chignons), hair cutting, coloring and styling.

EDGE recently caught up with LaRiviere for an interview about his experiences with Tabatha, working at the salon and his life in Ptown.

Looking for hair spray

EDGE: How were you hired at the West End Salon in the first place?

Robby LaRiviere: At 18 I walked into the West End Salon looking for hair spray, Dougie (Freeman) took one look at me and said he would make me into a star, and the rest is history!

EDGE: How would you describe your relationship with Dougie?

Robby LaRiviere: Dougie is like a father to me, always there to offer advice in both work and life in general. I am so grateful for him.

EDGE: You’ve been described as his protégée - is that the case?

Robby LaRiviere: Well, it depends what you mean by protégée... we have spent many quality hours at the salon together and he has imparted to me a lifetime of wisdom and knowledge, so in that sense, yes I suppose I am, and very lucky because of it!

Have things changed?

EDGE: How have things changed for you since the show aired?

Robby LaRiviere: Life is very different when you have fans dropping in from all over the world - in some ways it’s quite surreal. Now I get noticed just about everywhere I go, and it never gets old.

I’ll give you just one example. Recently I was out on the back deck spray tanning a client when one of the staff knocked on the door and said ’Robby, there is a family here from out of state with their 13-year old daughter who is dying to meet you, can I bring them down?’

I glanced over at my client who was standing there with outstretched arms naked but with a skimpy Speedo and he just shrugged and says, ’Sure.’ So they bring this family down and the mother just starts gushing about how much her daughter is in love with me at which point the girl is so embarrassed she whines, ’Mom, stop it, let’s go!’ LOL

EDGE: That is hilarious. What’s been different about this summer so far?

Robby LaRiviere: Summer so far has been a blast! The salon is fresh, new and clean with an exciting vibe. Clients, fans, and the staff are all loving it!

EDGE: Are you still working the street with your spray tanner?

Robby LaRiviere: Ha-ha, I have been so busy --12-hour days -- I’ve hardly had a chance to work the streets with my spray tanning machine. Though, if I have some free time, you will see me in front of 155 Commercial Street helping men and women unleash there beauty potential. After all, why be a Nine when you could be a Ten?

EDGE: Why do spray tans get a bad rap?

Robby LaRiviere: Because people automatically think "Snookie Jersey Shorish" Orange when thinking of spray tanning. But spray tanning technology has progressed by leaps and bounds in just the past five years. The tanning solution I use is all organic, it doesn’t streak, and has an ash-based solution to leave you with a "straight from the Caribbean" glow that lasts for seven days. Go from pasty to perfect in just seven minutes.

Tabatha’s criticism?

EDGE: How did you initially respond to Tabatha’s criticism of you?

Robby LaRiviere: I was initially shocked, yet humbled by Tabatha’s criticisms. I thought I knew it all and could do it all, but in the beauty business there is always more to learn.

EDGE: And since?

Robby LaRiviere: I’m forever grateful for my torture with Tabatha. She taught me that quality is more important than the quantity of services you do on a client.

EDGE: What did you think of the episode when you saw it?

Robby LaRiviere: I was thoroughly entertained! The West End Salon in Provincetown sure makes for good Television!

EDGE: Did you feel you were treated fairly?

Robby LaRiviere: I feel that I was empowered to improve my skills as hairstylist with Tab’s tough love!

EDGE: What was the response from your friends and family?

Robby LaRiviere: Everyone loved the show. My family and friends were very proud.

EDGE: Has it gotten you any dates because of your appearance on the show?

Robby LaRiviere: I was very flattered by all the admiration from the show, I am however in a very loving relationship.

EDGE: Has there been any talk of Tabatha coming back for a visit?

Robby LaRiviere: Rumor has it she may be back in the fall from New Jersey with her girlfriend, minus the camera crew!

EDGE: Are things different at the salon this summer because of Tabatha’s criticism?

Robby LaRiviere: Absolutely! The vibe is exciting, upbeat; yet professional. The staff has certainly bonded since the filming of the show. Fans are coming in droves.

East Coast vs. West Coast

EDGE: Now that you’ve live in Southern California, do you consider yourself more an East Coast guy or a West Coast guy?

Robby LaRiviere: I’ve combined my West Coast style with East Coast efficiency.

EDGE: You divide your time between Santa Monica and Provincetown - what is it about PTown that brings you back every summer?

Robby LaRiviere: For sure the West End Salon and PTown also provides an artistic oasis and a great sense of community. I have made lifelong friendships here. It is a place everyone should experience, gay or straight.

EDGE: What do you do at ’Showgirls’ (The weekly, Monday Ptown drag event hosted by Ryan Landry)?

Robby LaRiviere: Every Monday night my drag alter ego Jenna Talia takes the stage competing to win the grand prize. "She’s" become somewhere of a local celebrity.

EDGE: Who is "Jenna Talia"?

Robby LaRiviere: Jenna’s a plastic surgeon’s wife from Beverly Hills. She’s gorge.

EDGE: You spent every summer on the Cape at your parents’ place in West Yarmouth. I know that’s about an hour from PTown, but why do you think you never took a day trip up there?

Robby LaRiviere: I have no idea why we never made it up to PTown, but once I discovered it at the age of 18 I immediately fell in love with the place.

EDGE: When did you know you were gay?

Robby LaRiviere: In the 6th grade, one of my friends found his dad’s Playboy, and I realized I was more interested in my friend Kyle, rather than the centerfold.

EDGE: What made you want to work in the beauty industry?

Robby LaRiviere: I either wanted to become a therapist or a plastic surgeon, so I figured doing hair was the best of both world’s - making people feel as beautiful as I make them look!

EDGE: Why are your pedicures called "Better than Sex"?

Robby LaRiviere: We have a cooling mint and eucalyptus foot mud mask, combined with steam towels giving the client multiple sensations at the same time. You will have to try it sometime!

EDGE: Are you in a relationship?

Robby LaRiviere: I am in a very loving relationship with an amazing man.

EDGE: What is most important to you - career or making a relationship work and is it possible to do both?

Robby LaRiviere: I believe you can have the best of both worlds, and true love is well worth the effort!

You can find out more about Robbie LaRiviere, visit his Facebook page. You can download Tabatha’s Salon Makeover West End Salon episode on iTunes.

For more on Tabatha’s Salon Makeover, visit the show’s website.

And if you’re in Provincetown, you can find Robbie at the West End Salon, 155 Commercial Street, Provincetown, MA. For more on the salon, visit the salon’s website.

Robert Nesti can be reached at rnesti@edgemedianetwork.com.


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