Letting down her hair... | Daily News


Letting down her hair...


Elegant and accomplished Ramani Fernando is a dynamic key figure when it comes to the beauty culture in Sri Lanka. Outstanding Personalities features Ramani Fernando a remarkable and stylish lady who has really transformed the beauty culture industry in Sri Lanka. 


Q: How did a childhood hobby of messing with friends’ hair turn into a huge business?

A: From the day I remember, I was very interested in fashion and I was always messing around with my dolls’ hair and my mother’s hair. While being boarded at St. Bridget’s Convent, as a boarder of 10 years, in my spare time, I used to cut the girls’ hair and do girly things like doing their face up. If it comes to a concert or something, I used to do their faces when I was around 12 years. This was the 1960s. I was always very interested in fashion and I was really interested in dressing up. I always wanted new clothes!

Q: Where does this remarkable talent come from?

A: I really don’t know where this inspiration came from. I was brought up in a town called Kuliyapitiya and my father was a lawyer. Kuliyapitiya was a very sleepy town with professionals like lawyers and doctors. At that time we didn’t have television or fashionable magazines around.

I don’t know what inspired me. I think it was destiny. My granddaughter who lives in England has also been like me. I see her messing around in the salon with brushes, clothes, hair and nails and I could imagine what I was like at that age. I was also a vain child as well! I was always looking in the mirror and doing my hair.

Then of course after my O/Ls I thought of doing Fashion Designing but at that time there was no school for anything like that. So then I went for hair dressing. One of my friends asked my father: “Do you want your daughter to become a barber?” At that time there were only barbers around. There were only a few lady hairdressers. It was not even a profession anyone thought of doing. It was not a profession at that time either. So anyway I did this course. I met my husband around that time and then got married when I was quite young. I had the opportunity of going overseas with him to London. So when my husband was busy with his cricket I just walked around London and saw a small shop asking for a hairdresser. So I went in. Then I was given to cut someone’s hair. I was stopped halfway and I was told that I had to really learn and come back.

That’s how naïve I was because I thought I knew it all. So obviously, I didn’t get that job. And then I walked down the street furthermore and saw another advertisement wanting juniors in a salon. So I walked in and I got that job. I was lucky enough to be in this salon because there were 25 operators and this was in 1975. I was junior to one of those hairdressers.

I was really amazed by what was happening. It was nothing like Sri Lanka. It was really magical for me. I learnt so much by watching, and with the training evenings. So that was a great opportunity to get to work with models and train ourselves. The tips were really good. That was extra pocket money and I was just 19 years old at the time. Anyway then I came back after about a year. I never thought of it as a business. It was more of a hobby. I’m not a business woman. I just love the creative side of it, and luckily I have people controlling my business.

I started cutting hair and I charged Rs. 30 for a haircut. I was like a trailblazer in doing fashion haircuts and at that time people were not cutting hair much because they were more towards long hair. I cut so much of the long hair and made it short. This changed the look. I may have been the first one who introduced ‘blow drying’ to Sri Lanka. So then the word went around and I had no problem in getting clients.

Q: Describe yourself.

A: I am very passionate about my job and I still enjoy it. I am a bit of a perfectionist where anything is concerned. Of course, I have had my challenges. I am with young people, and my staff is very young. They are very talented people. I still learn so much from them. I learn from my clients and it is an ongoing learning process. I still go to England once a year and refresh myself.

In the hair and beauty business you never stop learning. It is evolving all the time with new products coming in and methods coming in. It is very important that you are up to date. I am given the freedom to work freely and I have four kids as well. It was a bit tough when they were growing up. My mother, mother-in-law and sisters were all there to give me a hand with the kids when they were small. That was the time when I was busy with my business expanding to Taj and Hilton.

Q: What is the latest in your life?

A: I have been involved with Sunsilk for 30 plus years. Sunsilk is going to be celebrating me for my 40 years in the business. Also in July this year Ramani Fernando Salons was awarded the Outstanding Business Award in Hong Kong by the Asian Hairstyling and Make up Association. I am busy with the up coming show in November.

Q: What is the most important to you in life?

A: My family. I have my family supporting me all the time. My husband is a great strength to me. I am blessed with four lovely children and four grandchildren as well now. Though I am a busy person I make time for my family life. I think that is very important.

Q: What is your greatest accomplishment in life?

A: Where work is concerned just appreciating what my staff does, and what I do and just being satisfied. We are trying to better ourselves. Of course, I have won competitions and I have been woman entrepreneur of the year. All of those things have come because we are committed to our job. The greatest achievement maybe doing my day to day work. And the other things follow...

Q: How did you get to be such a canny business woman?

A: I think I am quite lucky in having people to run my business. I am involved in it, of course, but I am really involved in the salon still. I have about 175 staff and I would know 150 by name. That is the personal touch I have with them. I don’t have a human resources person. I am the one who talks about all the little problems. I have to see about all the complaints and I deal with them personally. Though I am saying I am not a business woman I would say it happens automatically. I am always striving to be better. There is competition within my staff who have left me and I give them my blessings because some of them have worked with me for 16 to 20 years.

Q: What kind of movies are you into?

A: I like love stories and light movies. I love ‘The Theory of Everything’. It is about Stephen Hawkings.

Q: What kind of music are you into?

A: I love Jazz. Frank Sinatra is my favourite.

Q: What kind of books are you into?

A: I am not into very heavy things but I enjoy reading autobiographies and biographies. I also launched my book a year ago. I loved the biography of Oprah Winfrey.

Q: What inspires you to do what you do?

A: I am involved in fashion shows a lot. Those things really gives me energy. Fashion shows and competitions really keep me going. Lots of things inspire me. I look forward to the day’s work: dressing up, coming to the salon and mixing with my staff. I enjoy meeting clients. I dress a lot of brides and that is a beautiful area to be in. A girl’s most special day in her life is a wedding.

Q: What sustains you in life?

A: I am very religious but I don’t overdo it. I have to start my day with my prayers. I believe in God. It is a very private matter. I try to do whatever charity I can. I do that too in a private way.

Q: Who is your role model in life? Who do you admire the most in life?

A: I don’t have one particular person. I look up to a lot of people in Sri Lanka. People like Otara have done so much. Shan Fernando has brought style into another level. I really admire those two people.

Q: What is the most memorable day in your life?

A: My childrens’ weddings. They were very special. I dressed my daughter and my two daughters-in-law. The birth of my grandchildren too are special to me.

Q: What is your best ‘beauty secret’ that keeps you looking youthful?

A: Do cleansing, toning and moisturizing twice a day. It should be the first thing you do in the morning and last thing you do at night. Have a facial once a month. Try to exercise three times a week. I started this quite recently.

That has really done me good. I get energy and stress release from it. Try to drink eight glasses of water. That too had helped my skin. Try to have a good sleep.

Try not to be stressful in things that you cannot manage. Some things are beyond your control. 

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