David Lopez’s upbringing was everything his jet-setting, champagne popping Instagram is not, having grown up behind the walls of army bases in Livorno, Italy, Mannheim, Germany and Fort Campbell, Kentucky.
The son of a Warrant Officer in the U.S. Army, Lopez came of age with no concept of gay, what it meant or that one day he, himself, would identify as such.
Upon moving to New York after high school, he quickly became disenchanted in his pursuit of acting, deciding to pursue a lifelong passion: Hair.
His days of scrounging for supper are long past, with Lopez’s lengthy resume now including hair styling for Anne Hathaway, Kristen Stewart and Sky Ferreira – just to name a few.
Below we chat with David Lopez/@davidlopezzz.
To begin, what are your thoughts on this gray hair on the gays trend?
I don’t get why people hate on it. The problem is that you need to go to someone who knows what they’re doing. There’s so much bad gray hair out there. If you’re going to do it, do it right, spend the money to get it done well. If you want to go gray, look on social media, it’s so helpful for your research. Go to your hairdresser’s Instagram and see if they’ve done it before on someone with your natural hair color. You’re taking a huge risk on it, because it’s bleach. You don’t want to go to someone who has never done it before and have them melt your hair off.
What was your first job upon moving to New York?
Well, at the time I was so deeply closeted, not even like ‘I kind of knew,’ it was just something that was never a possibility, so moving to New York after being on a military base my whole life and living behind the fence, and then having free range that is New York kind of threw me for a loop during the first two years of college. I went to an acting school and couldn’t even finish it. All the stuff I had been holding in came out and I went a little… crazy. After a brief stint bartending at Diner 34 (and hating it), I decided to go back to school for something I really loved: Hair. After I graduated and began working at a salon, I was doing a lot of freebies, making $200 a week and picking up quarters to buy ramen, anything that I could. Even though I was crying all the time and falling asleep on the train, I was happier in a way and more satisfied with everything that was happening.
You mentioned being closeted upon arriving in New York, but did you have any suspicions that you might be gay growing up?
The first time that I ever had a conversation in which it came up was in kindergarten or first grade when we got a class picture. My mom asked me, “Oh do you like anyone in the class?” and I was like, “Oh I like him,” and she told me that I couldn’t like boys, that I had to like girls. And I was young enough to say, “Oh yeah, I’ll like girls,” so anytime that I played with hair or anything feminine I was told, “Don’t do that, that’s girly.” It wasn’t until fourth grade when I was in Italy that people started calling me gay, and even then I didn’t know what it was, but I knew it was bad. I thought it meant, “I’m a freak,” but I had no idea it meant that I liked boys. Going into high school, I had already internalized so much hate that I didn’t want to associate myself with anything. I had opportunities in high school, like theater, and I remember sharing a dressing room with this guy and he said to me, “You never look at me while I’m changing,” and I said, “Why would I look at you?” and he told me to look at his dick and I said, “No!” Even then I wasn’t mildly curious I was just like, “Absolutely not. That’s disgusting.” Meanwhile, I was jerking off to Sears underwear catalogs.
Do you remember the first time you self-identified as gay?
It wasn’t until my first boyfriend. For a short time I moved to Dallas with him, and we lived there for 6 to 9 months. At that time it was sort of undeniable. I never came out, but if you asked I would have told you, “Yeah, I’m gay.” Even after he and I broke up I still never had a big “coming out” moment with family and friends; it wasn’t really necessary at that point. Most of my internal struggle was about asking what does being gay mean for me. I realized I still felt like an outsider in the community. By my mid 20’s I had fully come to terms with the fact that I was gay and that it didn’t need to define me or how I live my life which was very freeing. It allowed me to be able to say “Yes, I’m gay” without any issue internally.
Do you think had you come out today, with the expanding climate of LGBT acceptance, you would have struggled any less?
Yes there is a lot of gay media, but there are still a lot of closeted kids out there. As much attention as there is to gay men, there’s still a disconnect, especially for someone like me, a minority Puerto Rican who grew up in a military life. I do, whoever, think it’s helpful because there’s representation that’s wide-ranging and a person can feel like less of a freak. Every generation will have it’s own issues with acceptance no matter what, but I like to think I would have come out sooner had there been more of an LGBT acceptance in the media. I am always in awe of the bravery of young kids being able to identify openly so early in life. But even still, with the attention that the LGBT community is getting today, many kids still need as much guidance and positive role models that are out in the open championing for them to be themselves and live without fear.
What would you say is more difficult in terms of cultural acceptance, being gay or being Puerto Rican?
Say that I walk into a store with a brown trench coat and a baseball cap, you still see I have brown skin, that’s not something I can assimilate as easily. I’ve had boyfriends that are white that didn’t understand. I’m not saying one is worse than the other, but it’s different. You can go somewhere and someone isn’t going to look at you before you open your mouth and think, “They’re different from me.” Especially right now, being a Latino, it’s frustrating because I come from a set of parents, especially my dad, who gave everything to the army. Both of them face real challenges. Being gay is never going to hinder me from my career, but being a Latino does sometimes pigeonhole me. I’ve had times where people told me, “You’re too tan,” or “Too specific.”
Why does it seem like the LGBT community discriminates against non-white members of its own community?
Oh my God [Laughs]. I feel like there are times that, especially for my Instagram, where I get messages and they’re instantly fetishizing me. I do have to take responsibility because I am playing into; there are times where I enjoy it but other times it’s like, “Why are you trying to call me Papi? You’re from Wisconsin,” just let it be what it is. Or they assume I’m uncut or have a huge dick because I’m Puerto Rican. The one thing I always get, 100%, even if they’re not trying to be offensive is, “Oh you’re Puerto Rican. I know about Puerto Ricans, y’all are crazy.” I do find that I attract a very specific kind of person, but 60 to 70% of the time someone is attracted to me because of my ethnicity.
How did you get your “big break” doing Jill Zarin’s hair for The Real Housewives of New York?
My boyfriend at the time was Jill Zarin’s social media person. I was working at the salon when he told me, “Jill needs someone to do her hair and I recommended you,” so I left the salon and went to do her hair. She’s intense, and I still attest to that today, but she kept calling me back to style her hair. When they film Housewives, there are some scenes that are more important than others, they definitely want hair and makeup done for those scenes. But Jill is not that person. For her, every scene is an important scene, everything is a big deal, and she always wanted her hair and make-up done all the time. For Ramona’s wedding when she renewed her vows, I did her hair and everyone said it was the best it ever looked. I left the check that she wrote me on the table by accident (which was for $100) and emailed her assistant asking if they could mail it to me. I got back an e-mail that read “Jill said she’s keeping the check, but you can use her name for your book.” This was before social media, so I couldn’t even capitalize on her name, and plus there were other things that happened with her that left a bad taste in my mouth.
How did you first get connected to Chrissy Teigen?
We first met through a photographer who has since passed away. When I first met her, I fell in love in an instant. She’s one of those people who really is who she is on social media and behind the camera. She loved the way I did her hair and she continued booking me for red carpet stuff. As we continued working together, we attached to each other because she’s just so lovable and made me so much a part of her team. A lot of other celebrities keep it separate where I’m just their hair and make-up, but she’s very, “We’re all in this together.” We were both on the same flight coming back from L.A. one time, and she had me come in her car with her and took me on her whole VIP status. There’s no greater feeling than seeing your work on someone like that.
Can you recall a moment when Chrissy made you laugh?
We were shooting a commercial for Captain Morgan Rum in this village, Sayulita, on the coast of Mexico. The video was being directed by Diana Martel, who directed Miley’s “We Can’t Stop” and she had this amazing idea to have Chrissy be a Peg Leg’d pirate. Of course this was done in post but for the shot Chrissy had to walk on one heel in the sand and one barefoot foot to simulate the peg leg. The combination of her trying to have a fierce walk with one heel, while serving to the camera was too much to handle. I had to turn around to keep myself from making eye contact with her because every time I did we would just die laughing.
What do you want people to know about you?
It’s not something I want people to know necessarily, but that I don’t think people find out, and I don’t think it makes me special or different, it’s just that I’m incredibly insecure. I’m always in my head and second guessing myself. I think that’s so important because from social media, people message me and say things to me that make me believe they think I live a very #blessed life, which in a lot of ways I do, I’m very lucky, but there isn’t a day that I don’t question what I’m doing. This is me.