NORMAN — She has 50 years invested in her business, and LaDonna Heavner isn’t planning to quit until she hits the 60 mark — 60 years as a hair stylist in Norman.
“Nuts.” “Crazy.” “Never shuts up.” Those are terms she uses to describe herself in her self-deprecating humor, but none makes her smile more than knowing people refer to her as the “updo queen.”
“I love doing formal hairdos … proms, weddings, pageants. I love them all,” she said, although the day-to-day work is more likely to include colors, cuts, perms, blow dries, weaves and roller sets.
“I have a few customers I have done since Day One and now I am doing their grandchildren,” Heavner said.
Many of those former customers, current customers and friends are expected to attend the daylong party Thursday at Vin’s Salon on McGee Drive, just off Lindsey Street, in honor of her 50 years.
She is emphatic about one thing: “Make it clear that I am not retiring,” she said.
Keeping up with trends in hair styles and hair products has ensured she stays busy at Vin’s Salon. In those 50 years, Heavner has gone from working on commission to owning her own shop and finally settling in at booth rental many years ago.
“I have always loved doing hair,” she said, recalling the days at Norman High when she would backcomb girls’ hair in the restroom and when she did hair styling for musicals and plays.
“I wanted to go to beauty school right out of high school, and I promised my daddy that I would go to OU someday. I’m sorry, daddy,” Heavner said, having never fulfilled that promise.
While she breezed through beauty school and went right to work, Heavner said she really learned the trade from “the stylist in the next chair, and I have learned from some of the best,” mentioning the name of well-known Normanites in the hair business: Bob Mansfield, Clark Collier, Wayne Demastus and Betty West.
“I have learned so much just being able to work with these great people and so many more. I have worked with wonderful people,” Heavner said.
Her work wasn’t only well known in Norman. One former client who lived in Dallas would invite her to house parties at her home to do her friends’ hair.
“It was unreal what Texas women will leave on the table when it comes to their hair,” she said, recalling that she never mentioned a price for the updos they wanted but relied on their generosity. She earned hundreds of dollars at those two-day events, “and they treated me like I was a celebrity.”
She was so well-respected for her hair color expertise that she was employed for several years teaching at hair shows in Chicago, St. Louis and other cities.
Beauty pageant contestants have taken her with them to the pageant city, and her work has adorned many pageant winners. She even was hired for several years to go to El Paso, Texas, to style the hair of contestants in the Miss USA contest.
“I loved seeing their dresses, too. Love it. Love it,” she said.
Doing the hairdos of brides and their attendants has given her a lot of great memories. She smiled as she recalled brides and their attendants crowding into the salon on wedding day and she would produce updos for all, with the help of an assistant.
“I ask them to come with their hair clean and dry,” and we have a great time, Heavner said.
Sometimes she did two weddings in one week.
“I could curl and swoop all day. And I am always the loudest one in the salon,” Heavner said.
Once while doing the bride’s hair, she learned that through a snafu in planning, the bride didn’t have dresses for her attendants. Heavner made calls to two sorority houses, which produced an ensemble of black dresses for six attendants. A lovely wedding was enjoyed by all.
Having seen styles change over the years, she has put her talents to use assisting her daughter, Sooner Theater Executive Director Jennifer Heavner Baker, with hair styles, both for Baker’s own career on stage and for theater productions.
“She has come in many times and saved the day with period hair styles and wigs for Sooner Theater and theaters in other towns,” Baker said.
Heavner recalled the years when her phone was constantly on her shoulder.
“I raised my kids by phone,” she said. “My customers and other stylists helped me raise my kids, even taking them to lessons or practices when I couldn’t get away.”
Although she still works full time, she finds time to enjoy the activities of her seven grandchildren, age 8 to 13. Baker has two daughters, and Heavner’s son, Chris, an engineer in Dallas, has twins and triplets.