In 1955, 16-year-old Lamar Stillwell was sent to Selans Beauty School in Chicago, which launched one of the longest, most successful careers as a hair stylist in the country.
Being successful at a relatively young age, Stillwell became a hair stylist for several celebrities and important people, like socialite Rose Kennedy and Kimberly Tomes (Miss USA 1977). His clients included actresses like Barbara Eaton and Sylvia Black. He even created the popular pin-box hair style and several other fantasy hairstyles that became popular.
“I feel very blessed that I have had these experiences,” Stillwell said. “No matter how wealthy, educated or vice versa — they are all the same and that is why I have come to love people.”
The bond is strong between Stillwell and his clientele. He has stayed in contact with several of his past clients since the 1970s, even after being in Tennessee for 35 years.
He said he has been drawn to styling hair since he was very young, explaining, “When I was about 12 years old, I saw this doll will long curls and my mom got it for me. It was about the hair. I’ve always been fascinated with hair.”
Staying dedicated, Stillwell, now 75, has been a stylist for 59 years and said he has enjoyed every moment of it. Continuing to work 12 to 14 hours a day and remaining booked most of the time, he has stayed a busy man over the years.
“I still look forward to getting up in the mornings to go to work. I love it (being a hair stylist) and people,” Stillwell said. “It is my life. It is a challenge, but I enjoy it. I feel when I make a commitment, I cannot break that commitment.”
Born in Copperhill in 1939, Stillwell was recognized in fifth grade by his teacher as a creative young boy. At age 10, he moved to Chicago with his family, which has had an immense impact on his future. Throughout high school, Stillwell attended the Chicago Art Institute and went to Moody Bible Institute for piano lessons. In 1955, at age 16, he moved forward to Selans. At 19 years old Stillwell received his first hairstyling trophy. He met the man of Revlon hair color and so his platform of work began with Revlon.
“I did too many shows to count until I was about 30 years old. Every three weekends per month, I was flying first class and having fun,” Stillwell said.
Showing off pictures from his past, Stillwell stopped at each one to go back to the time each was taken. At 19 he began working with the creator of Revlon hair color doing shows and soon after became a hairstyle director with Elizabeth Arden.
“I feel God gave me my talent and it’s my responsibility to please him by pleasing others,” Stillwell said. “I enjoy doing color and cuts and just being creative in styling it. It (hair styling) is always revolving into something new. It changes with the fashion trends. I always try to create hair cuts to blend with the bone features of the face. Also, keeping hair in good condition is one of my specialties.”
Stillwell lives in Cleveland working at Hollywood Hair and is father to Dr. Thomas Stillwell and Kendra Brannon, who have made him grandfather to four grandchildren.
“I am very proud of my children. God gave me them to raise, and I love them,” he said.