CULVER CITY, Calif. — From female directors to LGBTQ+ nominees, the 2022 Academy Awards are shaping up to be a year of record-breaking firsts.
Frederic Aspiras' nomination is one of them. He's known as the man behind Lady Gaga’s mane and is the first Asian American hairstylist to be nominated for an Oscar and just the second Asian American to me nominated in the hair and makeup category. But for him, this means so much more than an award.
When he looks at the wall of Joico hair products in Culver City's Henkel Beauty Care Hair Professional headquarters, Aspiras sees a narration of the last 14 years he’s been a hairstylist for Lady Gaga.
"It’s like a wall of memories, honestly, and we’ve literally done every single hair color on this thing," he showed.
The creative is known for expressing boldly when it comes to Gaga's hair and there was no difference when styling her for her starring role in Ridley Scott’s "House of Gucci," a film inspired by the true story of the family behind the Italian fashion empire.
But when Aspiras received news that he was the first Asian American hairstylist to ever be nominated for an Oscar in the best makeup and hairstyling category for the film, he sobbed.
“I was more honest with myself as an artist than I have ever been," Aspiras said.
He had pushed himself to rediscover the happiness in his work, a joy he had lost to depression just months before filming began when his mother Suzie passed away.
She was the reason he first picked up a comb at just 13 years old, teaching him that hair is about humanity and kindness, first. It was actually Lady Gaga who convinced him that this film could become his love letter to his mom.
"Everything that she’s taught me, I was able to translate all that into the movie," Aspiras said.
Ironically, House of Gucci covered a span of three decades with all the hairstyles his mother used to wear in the 70s, 80s and 90s.
The director only initially wanted two wigs for Lady Gaga, but Aspiras knew it was going to take 10 wigs and 54 looks to accurately resemble the era.
One of them he said he had to fight even Gaga for was in the iconic scene where she says, "Father, Son and House of Gucci."
Aspiras said the frizzy, blunt bob she was wearing was the epitome of the 80s and Lady Gaga hated it.
"I almost had to chase her around the trailer. Please put this on…” he laughed.
Every day on set was like a test. He said it took nine months of planning to transform Gaga into Patrizia Reggiani.
Beyond asking Aspiras to dye her platinum white hair brown, Gaga told the LA Times’ Envelope Roundtable that she also spent an entire year learning and speaking in an Italian accent to really immerse herself into this role.
"Because it was important to me that the accent didn’t drive the story," Gaga explained.
A dedication to the craft Aspiras says was contagious and now, as the next generation of Asian American stylists look to him for guidance, he says the sky is the limit.
"Even if you’re given the variables and obstacles that you have," he added.
Because he is living proof that perseverance pays off.