Lady Gaga’s transformation into Patrizia Reggiani in Ridley Scott’s “House of Gucci” is one of the highlights of the awards race, landing the film on the Oscar shortlist in makeup and hairstyling prior to the Jan. 30 bake-off. Should the film earn a nomination, Gaga’s hairstylist, Frederic Aspiras, who is of Vietnamese-Filipino descent and is part of the Oscar shortlisted team, would be just the second Asian American to be nominated in the category.
Japanese-born American special make-up effects artist and visual artist Kazuhiro Tsuji is the only other Asian American to be nominated and win for “The Darkest Hour” and “Bombshell.”
Aspiras, the personal hairstylist to Lady Gaga for more than 13 years, created 52 looks from 10 hero wigs for Patrizia. spoke with Variety about bringing the character to life.
How are you finding this awards journey?
It’s an honor, but I find it to be socially responsible to bring light and positivity to my heritage and to my community as an Asian American. As someone whose parent was a refugee, I feel it speaks to a lot of young and aspiring artists striving to make an impact in this country to do more.
In the Asian community, we are taught to strive to always do perfectly and to be successful. For my mom, it was her work ethic of being honest, hardworking and providing for the family. She worked three jobs so we didn’t have to worry about our future. That’s what Asian parents do. They sacrifice everything for their children and give up things that they would want themselves and let the children reap the benefits of the hard work. It is something I need to pay her back for.
If I can do that for other Asian Americans who are looking to step out of the norm and be more than what they think they can be, then there is a future for Asian Americans and the possibilities are endless. My drive has always been a reflection of my mom’s upbringing in that if something doesn’t work out, you have to keep trying, and you never give up.
I’ve worked with Lady Gaga for 13 years and fans write to me and tell me that they have become hairdressers. To me, that is probably one of the most rewarding things.
Your mom paved the way for you to get into hair, but what was it that made you want to pursue this as a career?
I was 13 years old and I knew I had something different about me, and my mother saw that in me too — that I could pick up a hairbrush and start styling someone’s hair. I would watch her do it, and I saw how she made people feel. It was something I just loved to do. I’d go to her salon every weekend and sometimes on weekdays, and she would teach me.
My mother saved every penny. Her determination affected me. I’m the first generation in my family to go to college and break that mold. When I look back on it, it’s something I will cherish forever because it was something passed on to me.
What was it like telling Patrizia Reggiani’s story through your work?
To contribute to the storytelling through Gaga’s hair and the way she delivered that performance, I had to nail it in identifying the appropriate hair look for every scene. It was sitting down for five months and going through every single page in the script and writing every hairstyle and why are you using that hairstyle. I ended up creating a 400-page directory with all the hairstyles.
There were few photos of her — some when she got married and some in her 30s —but otherwise, it was about interviewing locals and watching Italian films from the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s and what influenced her. I tried to get inside her head, understanding what she would have done to her hair and what products she would have used, because she was this real person.
It was like creating a forensic board and mapping everything out. When I presented it to Gaga, she saw the look and understood the character and it helped her go further into her characterization.
Originally, Ridley Scott wanted two wigs, but it would have been a different movie if there were just two or three, and you wouldn’t see the changes and her change. We were able to manipulate her age through hair, and I could age the hair by creating texture, and go through those little things like she can have this hair because she’s this age, and she has children now, so her hair looks like this. Finding references wasn’t easy because in America we just know Sophia Loren, so I had to dig deep into Italian research and look at what Italian actresses were looking like, and that’s how I found her look.