Behind the Chair with Lauren Tait

AwardsMay 7th, 2024
Charlie Miller, Styling since 1965

Behind the chair with Lauren Tait. She’s been Assistant Manager since the turn of 2024 at our salon in Holy Corner, and is a recent winner of not one, not two, but three awards at our annual Charlie Miller Achievement Awards! 

Molly and Lauren are presented with the inaugural Cat Nicholson award.

Our awards night is a huge event in the staff’s calendar, full of anticipation. It’s an honour to win anything, but three in one evening is no mean feat!

Lauren’s first award was in a brand-new category; The Cat Nicholson Award. So named for our dear friend and colleague who we lost in March of 2023. Cat had a flair and passion for creativity and show stopping avant-garde hair. She was a pioneer of out-of-the-box thinking, and this is what The Cat Nicholson Award recognises.

Lauren was joint winner with South St Andrew Street’s Molly Rufus due to their successes in the 2023  L’Oréal Colour Trophy. Lauren reached the Grand Final, (the second time she’s done so in her career) and for the support and guidance she offered Molly in her bid to win The Star Award at the same event. Molly went on to win in her category. Poignantly, some of the last conversations Cat had with the team was about how the photographic entries for The Colour Trophy were going.

You can imagine then, how incredibly emotional this was for Lauren to win, and this alone would have made her evening, had she not gone on to win ‘Head Technician of The Year’ and the biggest prize of the evening, ‘Outstanding Hairdresser of The Year’.

We can’t quite publish exactly what Lauren said when she heard her name called for this final award, we’ll leave it to your imagination!

Frozen in her seat as her colleagues got to their feet around her, it took a few seconds for it to sink in. Even after ‘a good few drinks’ Lauren was nevertheless able to deliver an emotional speech expressing her gratitude and disbelief to rapturous applause. “I never usually drink at the awards”, she says, “as I quite often drive. But this year I just went for it. I definitely wasn’t expecting to win!”

Lauren’s award categories are notoriously tough to win, and not many people would expect to win their first, second and third awards on the same evening. It’s testament to how much she has flourished since she first joined the company aged 15. 

Lauren’s career began with Charlie Miller in 2000.

It was only once the tough years of training, and the trials of qualifying gave way to running a column and a busy clientele, that Lauren truly felt she was doing what she was meant to be doing.  

I didn’t dream of being a hairdresser when I was younger, I wanted to be an artist,” says Lauren. “Once I joined Charlie Miller, learned about the company, and actually got better at hairdressing, that’s when I found a love for it. I don’t truly like anything until I’m good at it.” She laughs. It took qualifying to confirm that she really did have a talent for it. “I considered art college at first, because I didn’t want to stay at school, but then I realised I didn’t want to do yet more education in a classroom environment and not know where I’d be after that. So, I needed a trade. And I’m lucky, because I love the one I chose.” 

She does still paint, keeping it as a hobby. “There’s no pressure with it, if I want to paint something I’ll do it, but it’s for me. I paint whatever I feel like.”

Lauren’s been creative as far back as she can remember. 

Originally from Bathgate, Lauren’s first memory is playing with her little sister, Jennifer, four years her junior. She would build doll’s houses for her, stacking video cassettes to build the walls and cutting up her Mum’s tea towels for blankets. Jennifer is autistic, and she and Lauren have an amazing bond. Her best childhood memories are of creating, building, and generally making a mess.

School wasn’t bad for Lauren, she just, in her own words, “wasn’t the model pupil”.  

“I wasn’t bad! But if you read any of my old report cards, they all say, ‘Lauren’s a really nice girl but she’s very easily distracted.’ I’d get into trouble for chatting and then I wouldn’t like that class anymore. If I’d applied myself a bit more, I’d probably have been a straight A student. I enjoyed Art, Craft & Design and Religious Education. They interested me so that’s what I flourished in. I survived! But it was more of a laugh than anything else. I left in fourth year as soon as I finished my standard grades. I was 15.”

Young Lauren told her parents she was leaving school, and as her mum, Lyn, had been a hairdresser, talk inevitably turned to a career as a stylist.

“My mum had been following Charlie’s career since since she had watched him in a hair show. She felt this was the a great opportunity for me, and got me the application form herself.”

But in case that didn’t work out, Lauren’s dad Bill wanted to ensure she had some other options. “One morning, my dad had a meeting in Edinburgh. He asked me to get up, get dressed and do my make-up, then dropped me off at the West End, and told me to hand my application into Charlie Miller, then go into all of the salons I liked the look of and ask for more application forms.

He dropped her off on Stafford Street, right outside Charlie Miller. “Everyone looked so cool, dressed in great clothes and the girls all wore heels. I knew that was where I wanted to be.”

The following week, her dad dropped her off again, armed with the now filled-in applications, and she handed them all back in.

Three other Edinburgh salons offered Lauren a position as an apprentice, but her heart was set on Charlie Miller. They were the last to offer her a position, and she remembers her first day vividly, not least because she was wearing four-inch heels, took them off as soon as she left and walked to the train station in her bare feet. The first and last time she ever did that!

Lauren remembers one of the stand-out days as a trainee was when everyone was busy making pompoms with real hair in the run up to the 2003 MTV Europe Music Awards in Edinburgh.

“I remember watching it and seeing the pompoms we’d made for the backing dancers, and being so excited that I’d helped make them, and now I was watching them on stage at the MTV Awards.”

Lauren reflects on how much she’s grown as a hairdresser, even down to which celebrity she’d choose to do the hair of. “Someone asked me this years ago, and I said Slash from Guns ‘N’ Roses… but thinking back, that’s really not my cutting style!” Now she’d choose Julia Roberts. “She seems like a nice person and her hair is beautiful.”

Through our long-standing partnership with the Edinburgh International Film Festival, Lauren has actually styled a number of celebrities in her time. “I try not to do too much research into them beforehand, or else I’d get nervous. I want to treat them the same as I would every other client.”

One of her fondest EIFF memories is doing Jamie Campbell’s hair.

Also known as Fifi la True, Jamie is a British drag queen who was the inspiration behind the musical ‘Everybody’s Talking About Jamie’ and its film adaptation. “He was with his mum and Gran that evening, and I ended up doing the hair for all three of them,” recalls Lauren. Whilst she was doing Jamie’s hair, his mum was ironing an incredible fuchsia pink, French Renaissance-style gown that had been made by his grandmother, and before Lauren left, she helped him into it, whilst he towered over her in beautiful 6-inch Louboutin’s.

Another stand-out career moment was assisting on a shoot for Rachel Scott Couture at the Balmoral Hotel.

Charlie Miller had been enlisted to style the hair at a special shoot for Rachel Scott Couture*, one of Edinburgh’s luxury bridalwear retailers. Rachel was launching Vivienne Westwood Bridal in her Dundas Street store; the first time VW ever launched outside of London!

Lauren was sent a mood board full of braids and crimped hair, and by the time they were finished, the model was wearing a stunning satin gown and a crimped mohawk. “I didn’t want to leave!” says Lauren. “I wanted to stay and watch the photo shoot, and watch every shot taken by Blue Sky Photography, but I had clients booked in, and I went back to the salon on a high”.

Lauren credits her three experiences with the prestigious L’Oréal Colour Trophy as defining moments in her career.

“It taught me a lot. I was given trust and freedom from Jason to do what I wanted with my model’s hair,” she says.  

“I got to support Molly during the photo shoot too and doing that made me realise I knew more than I thought I did; I didn’t feel nervous or out of my depth in that situation.” 

She credits Company Director Jason Miller with teaching her so much on previous photo shoots. “I’ve always been part of the Colour Trophy shoots over the years, assisting in the background and watching.”

Lauren’s inspiration for her entries comes predominantly from social media.

Her love for hair colour means she always tries to have her finger on the pulse and has gotten to the stage that she finds herself picking up on trends before they happen. 

Having a mum who was a stylist has also been a huge influence for Lauren. Her advice and support has always been invaluable. Particularly so when it came to preparing to enter the L’Oreal Colour Trophy from helping her choose outfits to calming her when she has a bit of a wobble. “She’s always unbelievably proud of anything I achieve. When I phoned to tell her about the three Charlie Miller Awards I won, she was in tears.”

When Lauren was newly qualified, she worked in the salon we used to have in Harvey Nichols, where Cat Nicholson was her manager. Cat taught her the art of communication, and Lauren, who describes herself as naturally shy, values this immensely.

A great consultation comes from asking investigative questions to get to the root of what the client truly wants, as well as the skills to help them understand their own hair shape and texture. As someone who’s passionate about colour, it’s important to Lauren to impart her knowledge on the vast differences between professional colour and box dyes.

“It takes experience to be sure you’re explaining things properly, and confidence in your abilities to give the correct advice,” she explains.   

Lauren is open and honest, which has created a great relationship with her clients. “I just want them to be happy!” she says. “That’s my main goal. Becoming part of a client’s life, doing their wedding hair and their hair for their birthday is a great feeling.” Her favourite element of hairdressing is working with people; “to show a client the end result in the mirror, see them smile and know I’ve contributed to that; well, it’s just amazing.”  

There’s nothing that a client could ask for that would faze her, and she would take on any challenge, but experience has taught her that when it comes to a couple of colour techniques like balayage, that it’s okay to say, “I’m happy to do this, but my colleague here is even more amazing at it!”

Lauren feels like an entirely different person from who she was a decade ago. “I’ve had a good few years,” she reflects. “I’ve had great experiences at the L’Oréal Colour Trophy, won my [Charlie Miller] awards and become Assistant Manager.”  

She’d always known she wanted to lean into the artistic side of hairdressing, but her rise to Assistant Manager was a natural progression.   

“I remember Charlie himself doing an interview where he said that everything that’s happened with the business was organic. And I feel like my journey has been, too. I’m not naturally the first to put my name forward for things.”   

“My life really changed about 7 or 8 years ago.”

“I moved out when I was really young but found myself properly on my own a few years back. I lost my dad around the same time, and he was my go-to, the one who would fix anything for me.”

It’s clear that Lauren’s dad was her rock. “He was amazing. Incredibly supportive. That forced me to grow up; I was entirely responsible for myself. I came out the other side of that, 6 or 7 months later, much stronger and clearer. I got through it with constant support from my mum and the rest of my family, but it became obvious that if I wanted something, I’d have to do it myself.”  

“I was always a bit wild.”   

Lauren recalls that she and her fellow trainees worked hard, but always had a laugh. She remembers one of the girls getting into a towel box, but Amber came in for her lunch while she was in it, so instead of just getting out, she stayed in said box until Amber left the staff room. She’s unsure if Amber ever found out; of course, she will now!

Lauren loved a night out (or an all-night rave, to be exact) and has experienced many a hungover Saturday as a trainee, but would never have dreamt of phoning in sick. It just wasn’t the done thing. “You just got on with it!” Lauren’s generation of hairdressers have certainly grown up now. “We’re all into wellness, yoga and matcha lattes now!,” she says.   

Lauren has a novel way of relaxing on her breaks that might surprise a few people; she listens to Julio Iglesias!

“He was my dad’s favourite.” she explains. She’s also a fan of Andrea Bocelli. Her favourite genre of music however, is rock or metal. She does throw us a bit of a curve ball though, when we ask what her go-to song for karaoke would be… “Without Me, by Eminem! I know every line, and Karen from Stafford Street will vouch for me on that!”   

She also loves watching Schitt’s Creek, her comfort show, and an ideal day off would be spent with her little sister and mum. They often drive together to places like Callander or Kenmore. “Anywhere with fresh air and water.” She also loves quality time with her partner, Murray, who’s she’s been with for 7 years. She describes him as “incredibly supportive, encouraging and gives me space to do what I want to do.”   

Murray has encouraged Lauren’s love of travel, contributing to her exploring more of the world than she has before. “I love travelling with him, he’s a lot of fun, really funny. He’s helped me feel confident about travel and I think I’d be able to go away on my own now.” Her favourite place so far has been Croatia, which is also where she had her favourite meal of all time, a traditional Croatian dish called Cevapi.   

And on the subject of food; if she were one- what would she be?! She gets some input from others on this one, and two people say ‘melon’ (apparently, it’s a ‘chilled out’ fruit?!). Two others inexplicably say strawberry… Ultimately though, Lauren goes with “marshmallow, because I’m the world’s biggest softie!” 

We ask Lauren if she happened upon a magic lamp, what her three wishes would be; she’d choose for her friends and family to be happy and healthy, for inner peace, and to be able to give her loved ones a comfortable life. If she could choose a super power, it would be to become a healer.  

Ultimately, she’d like to be remembered as someone who was kind, chilled out and funny.   

We’d go a little bit further than that; Lauren is a great support to the team at Holy Corner, a very talented and creative stylist and a great mentor. As much as Lauren credits others for teaching her how to communicate, her salon manager Amber tells us that Lauren’s abilities are very natural. 

“It isn’t taught, it’s a feeling.” Amber tells us.   

“Apart from her fantastic ability to look after each client with a great level of care and remembering all the details of previous visits, Lauren is incredibly intuitive at looking after staff and really listening to what they need. Lauren never seeks praise & always tunes in to the emotional well-being of the team.”

“And,” adds Amber, “she always knows when I need a cup of tea.”  

It’s word like these that show exactly why she’s a fantastic Assistant Manager, and a great asset to the Charlie Miller family.  

You can also keep up to date with all the things our wonderful teams get up to by following us on our social channels, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Tiktok.


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