Fierce and sassy, these Jersey mamas certainly know how to make statement with their straight forward personalities and the spirited styles. Get to know another side of the women behind Jerseylicious’ Gatsby Salon, where fun and mayhem combine for an hour’s worth of entertainment guilty pleasure.
In 2010, Jerseylicious changed the landscape of reality television. It follows the colorful lives of the owners and crew of Gatsby Salon in Green Brook, NJ, headed by mother-and-daughter team Gayle Giacomo and Christy Pereira. The salon is also home to a crew of animated hair and makeup artists who also bring an interesting mix of drama and comedy to the table. BC brings you an intimate conversation with the owners of the salon, as they think back to amusing stories, starting out, and motherhood.
Can you tell us a bit more about the history of Gatsby?
In 1977, my husband Daniel [Gianfrancesco] fulfilled his dream of creating his own ideal of a salon experience, opening the world-famous Gatsby Salon. Daniel was always ahead of his time when it came to trends, techniques and tools. His inherent artistic ability is what drove him to new innovations and creative ideas. His love of creating beauty brought his teachings to television, showcasing hair styles based on face shape and hair texture. He would inform the audience what style worked best with their face shape, as well as how to do their styles at home. He backed up this education with tools that we sold to assist in at-home styling, such as the “face framer.” Daniel also invented artistic tools to help fellow hairdressers with precise cutting techniques. Daniel is recognized as one of the most influential and inspiring educators and artistic hair designers that has trained thousands of hair stylists in the art of hair design and salon management. When Daniel passed away in 1998, he left the legacy of his unique exceptional hair design techniques to me, which still lives on at the Gatsby Salon.
How did your husband influence the success of the salon?
Daniel brought his dream to life by opening Gatsby Salon on the core beliefs that this industry required constant education, impeccable customer care as well as ever-changing décor. He was a leader, innovator, and a true visionary. Before his passing, the salon was under construction to be Gatsby Salon & Spa. He was always expanding his business to meet his clients’ needs, and at this time, adding spa services did just that.
How was it like raising a family, and having to manage the salon?
It was difficult as it is for any working mother trying to raise children. But we had a great staff and a wonderful family to help watch Christy and baby Daniel when they were too young to attend school.
Can you tell us about the renovation? Who designed its interiors?
I reinvented Gatsby Salon to reflect my personal style and vision, all the while continuing to build upon the fundamental values Daniel instilled in Gatsby. For the first two decades of Gatsby Salon’s existence, I was the woman behind the man. Although he had been gone for ten years, I never felt it was time to step out of his shadow and make it my own. As hard as it was, I knew it was time. This move and renovation was difficult for me, but equally as hard for my staff. The old location and design will forever be linked to my husband. It was his last gift to them and we had to say goodbye.
Any funny stories about Christy when she was young?
When Christy was a little girl, I would dress her up depending on the holiday. On Christmas, she was an elf handing out gifts to the staff, and cupid on Valentine’s Day handing out carnations to guests. Christy grew up within the walls of Gatsby, so many of her funny moments were at the salon.
Who is your personal style icon?
Elizabeth Taylor. She was sexy yet sophisticated, elegant, classy, she had it all.
If you had only 5 things you could use for a quick beauty touch-up, what would those tools be?
Stila’s One Step foundation! It’s a concealer, foundation, powder, everything all in one…Definitely comes to the rescue. A blow dryer and boar bristle brush to tame my hair. Mascara and lip gloss.
Describe the moment when you first found out you were picked for the reality series.
I was thrilled! I was out with my girlfriends and I yelled like a school girl when the call came in. Who would have ever thought I would have this opportunity to live my husband’s dream of television fame through his salon.
What is your biggest accomplishment as a mother?
After my husband died, I had to play the role of mother and father to my youngest, who was only eight years old. I juggled running a business and parenting my distraught children. Getting through those years in one piece was my biggest accomplishment.
How did you feel when Christy gave birth to your granddaughter?
Unbelievably ecstatic! It’s extraordinary to have a grandchild. Seeing your child have their own; knowing the emotions and joy that she was feeling as I had felt thirty years prior when giving birth to Christy. I was quite emotional during that time. It was even more special to me that my father got to meet her before he passed.
What is the most important lesson you’ve learned as a mother?
Selflessness. When you become a mother, your life isn’t about you anymore. It’s about showing and giving all the love and nurturing you possess to your new bundle of joy. And as they grow, you continue to be selfless, always putting your children and their needs first. That’s why women are made for this job!
Did you ever think that a salon in NJ could garner this much interest from viewers?
Yes, actually. I think people from NJ are quite interesting, especially for television. We are bold and loud. We are not afraid to share our opinions. So no, I’m not surprised that television audiences would want to watch the mayhem of NJ on television.
What was it like growing up in New Jersey?
I’ve never known anything different! But I always loved the change in seasons and looked forward to summers down the shore at Cape May.
If you had a choice on where to raise your daughter, would you raise her in NJ?
Definitely here in Jersey. I’m proud to be from Jersey and my daughter will be too. Although many winter months make me want to move to Miami, I really love experiencing the changing seasons.
How is Gayle like as a mother?
Gayle is a great mom. She always made sure she had time for family, no matter how busy she was with work. My brother and I were her priority at all times. She taught us to dress nicely because the better you look, the better you feel. However, having a hairdresser mom so into fashion was a little difficult to keep up with.
Favorite childhood memory?
That would have to be Christmas mornings with my mom and stepfather, Danny. They were insane! You couldn’t see the floor of the living room because the gifts were piled high. Now as an adult, I think they were crazy because I know all the money that went into it.
What sparked your interest in styling?
I grew up at Gatsby so it was a no-brainer to get involved, but styling was not for me. So I went the management route!
What are your favorite cosmetic products and brands?
Gatsby’s Structura Shaping Spray saves my hair on many days. It took me a long time to find a signature perfume, but I found Flower Bomb by Viktor & Rolf and it rocks!
What are the values your mother taught you that you’d like to pass on to your child?
My mother and father have always been big on family. We would spend every Sunday at my Grandma and Pop’s house for Sunday dinner. And every chance we got to see each other, we did. My family is very close, and I hope it continues to be as it grows.
How was it like dealing with your pregnancy while filming?
As you saw, my feet and legs swelled quite early on, which presented its obstacles. It was crazy and tiring, but I trucked along and now have those memories through the Jerseylicious episodes. I like to think I was a trooper.
Did you have any unusual cravings during your pregnancy?
The only craving was chocolate chip cookies. Prior to being pregnant, I never really ate sweets, but when I was pregnant with Daniella, I would eat them all the time, for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, if I could. I was obsessed with them.
Describe the moment when you first saw your daughter.
I was amazed, just absolutely amazed. While I was pregnant, I truly did not have a preference whether I had a boy or girl. But when she was born and my husband Danny told me it was a girl and that she was beautiful, perfect, and amazing, I got really emotional. This made me realize that deep down, I must have really wanted a girl.
How did you get back in shape so soon after giving birth?
I tried sticking to a healthy diet during and after being pregnant, which I think has helped a lot. But I wasn’t allowed to do any exercise right after giving birth to get back into shape, because I had a C-section. So I feel lucky that eating healthy was all that I needed for the weight to come off. Now, I try to work out once a week to keep tone, but that’s all.
Are there any major lifestyle changes now that you’re a mother?
Of course. I try to not let my life revolve purely around her eating and sleeping schedule, but it’s really hard. I feel guilty when I don’t keep her on her routine and be at home for naps and whatnot. Danny and I used to go out for dinner every Saturday night, and now we go for the “early bird special” with Daniella before her bedtime. We’ve tried to stay true to ourselves, just modified.
What are your mommy must-haves?
The first is my Timi and Leslie diaper bag. I need a stylish yet practical bag because you need something big enough to hold all of your baby needs, yet stylish enough to pass as your purse. The second is the DVD player in my car. Daniella hates [riding] in the car! So to keep her occupied and from screaming while I’m trying to drive, the DVD player distracts her. And I love my Helen Ficalora necklace with Daniella’s initials so I feel her with me when she’s physically not with me.
What do you like shopping for when it comes to Daniella?
All girly clothes. I can’t get enough of them. I love getting her entire outfits from her tops and bottoms to matching headbands and shoes.
How is Danny like as a father?
He’s great. Danny has always been very good with kids, having our niece and nephew as practice. But with Daniella, he’s very hands-on, helping out with everything. We split everything for the most part down the center–from feedings to changings. There is no dirty diaper that he’s afraid of.
What are the best and worst traits you are finding out about yourself now that you’re a mom?
I’m extremely organized, which helps with my everyday life with work, filming, and family. I found that when you become a mom, you can be overly obsessed with little things. So learning to let things go has definitely been therapeutic and relaxing for me. The hardest thing has been punctuality. I’ve always been early for everything, but now I’m finding that I run about ten minutes behind. Learning to juggle life with child has been good, but an on-time life with child is still difficult to achieve.
Photo Courtersy of Style Network
Story from BC US Spring 2011 Issue