Meet the former Charlottean who styled Caitlyn Jenner’s hair

Oribe Canales.
Oribe Canales.

Behind Caitlyn Jenner’s eye-catching hair on the Vanity Fair cover gone viral is an internationally known stylist who grew up in Charlotte.

Oribe Canales, based in Miami and New York City, moved with his family from Cuba to Charlotte in 1962, when he was 6. Schools he attended included Devonshire Elementary and Independence High School.

“When people ask where I’m from, first I say Cuba, of course, but I consider myself from Charlotte – and I’m very proud of that,” said Oribe (pronounced or-BAY), now 58. He dropped his last name when he entered the fashion industry.

Long before Bruce Jenner became Caitlyn, Oribe – with his dark hair and signature tattoo sleeves – had become one of the most influential hair gurus. His celebrity clients include Jennifer Lopez, Miley Cyrus, Chris Evans, Penelope Cruz, Naomi Campbell and others.

But none of his work, it’s fair to say, has been seen by as many people as his work with Jenner on the Vanity Fair cover released last week.

“This was such an important shoot for me in my career, because she’s about to change the world,” he told the magazine.

Having traveled all over the world for magazine shoots and fashion shows, Oribe is like a jetsetter – only “they go on vacations, and I go for work,” he told the Observer on Friday in a brief phone interview from Los Angeles International Airport.

When the Canales first moved to America more than half a century ago, the only people they knew in Charlotte were Oribe’s great-aunt and uncle, who had moved from Cuba earlier.

“There weren’t many Cubans in Charlotte. ... We (Oribe, his brother Cisco and sister Gracie) were very popular,” Oribe said, adding that Cisco, his wife and three children still live in the area.

Life was particularly sweet for the Canales kids when they got to have doughnuts and coffee from the Krispy Kreme shop on Independence Boulevard. His sister, Gracie Canales Cuervo, said she remembers stopping by there every morning before school.

Oribe came back to Charlotte for his Independence High reunion about five years ago.

“When I go back to Charlotte my accent comes out pretty strong, which I love,” he said.

After Charlotte, Oribe first moved to Florida and then New York state. He said New York City, with its glamor, was always his dream. But his Charlotte upbringing, he said, has influenced him throughout his past 38 years of hairdressing.

Oribe has had various hair salons since 1986, but now the only Oribe Salon, co-owned by Oribe, is in Miami. Women’s haircuts start at $100 and men’s, $75.

In 2008, Oribe launched an eponymous hair product line including shampoos, mousses and fragrance. Six hair salons in the Charlotte area carry the products, the company said.

Oribe said he might visit Charlotte this summer.

“I always dream of buying some kind of home there,” he said. Staff Writer Katherine Peralta and researcher Maria David contributed.

Cao: 704-358-5384