The following segment aired on “The Balancing Act” on Lifetime Television. Joining the show was Giulio Verillo to discuss his new book.
The Balancing Act: Our next guest has lived quite the life, he’s travelled all over the world working with some of the biggest names in the hair styling industry; Vidal Sassoon in London, L’Oreal in Paris, John Paul Mitchell, and Jaques Dejohn’s in New York. No doubt a hairstylist by heart but now he adds a new title, that of author. With us this morning is Giulio Verillo, author of “A Slap on the Back of the Head.” Good morning.
Verillo: Good morning, thank you for inviting me.
The Balancing Act: I’m glad you’re here, I’ve got to tell you, when I first picked up the book I said “a slap on the back of the head, what’s that?”
Verillo: That means that is how my father used to wake me up every day, not for school but just for life in general. It was a good slap on the back of the head.
The Balancing Act: Kind of like my dad, you know that slap that says “wake up.”
Verillo: Exactly. I think we all need a few of those slaps on the back of the heads these days…
The Balancing Act: Let’s talk about your family, you are from Italy, your mom and dad were born and raised there, right?
Verillo: Yes, and so was I.
The Balancing Act: Talk to me about that.
Verillo: Well, I was born in Italy; we came over when I was about five years old. They had quite the great life but my dad and my mom decided that because of the economy they were going to come here; they were going to give us the American dream. They gave up everything, the selfishness, you know, everything for them, and turned it all for everything for us.
The Balancing Act: And I know for you it was hard because you were only five when you came to the states and no doubt a new language, new culture, new friends, and I read in your book pretty tough times for you.
Verillo: Yeah, I was bullied quite a bit when I was younger and I didn’t know that I had what they call learning disabilities. I call them gifts today. I was diagnosed later on by years with ADD, OCD, and dyslexia and phonics challenges, so I wasn’t the best student. However, it was rough because, you know, being downed by teachers and being bullied, your self-esteem is pretty low; I had quite a rough time.
The Balancing Act: I can only imagine, but yet you really made it. You kept moving forward, which you talk about in your book a lot, and you make it to college but yet one day you tell your father—and I’m sure he gave you a slap on the back of the head—that you are not going to finish college.
Verillo: Believe me; I was ducking what I was trying to tell him at the same time, because I didn’t know what was going to come.
The Balancing Act: I can imagine what my dad would have done to me.
Verillo: But, yeah, you know, letting them know that this wasn’t for me, I was trying to think of any excuse to make them proud of me, I’m like “I’ll go in the marines, mate they’ll shake me up.” That was tough but dad just stood there with that stare that was worse than a slap, that disappointment, you know, your brother is a doctor and what are you going to be now?
The Balancing Act: Oh…
Verillo: You know, change your name is pretty much what he was saying through those eyes (laughs).
The Balancing Act: And then you tell your dad you’re going to become a hair stylist. I’m going to assume that did not go over well.
Verillo: No, he was probably thinking is there more you want to tell me? But first of all, it was full of pretty girls; who doesn’t want to go to school where there are all pretty girls? That’s one incentive to get there, but as I did that I knew I had a gift, a gift that I didn’t understand I had before and it came naturally and it was fun and it was addicting, it was—I had a passion for it.
The Balancing Act: And you really became successful, Giulio! I mean, you really became a very famous hair stylist and successful in your own business.
Verillo: I had so much passion for it that I did it for the love not for the money. I knew the money would be the applaud for the great job that I’ve done, but my father most importantly, you know, he went from that disgusted look even though he supported me, to that okay, you got it going on. You’re not your brother, you’re not the doctor, but okay you’re doing well.
The Balancing Act: So we’re accepting now.
Verillo: Yes, I get to keep the last name!
The Balancing Act: You get to cut his hair, too.
Verillo: That was the one thing I thought in the beginning he wouldn’t let me do, but as we got more comfortable, I would tease him as I would cut his hair. I’m telling him I’m going to make him look like Frank Sinatra, I was going to make him look like this, you know, so we did have some fun time even though he was a very strict man.
The Balancing Act: I know a turning point for you also is when you get married and you have two beautiful boys, tell me about your kids and what that did for you.
Verillo: Oh, having two boys, you know, even though he wasn’t there to slap me, you could feel the slap, like “Wake up, you’ve got two, how are you going to teach them, what are you going to give them like I gave you? The etiquette, the respect, the integrity, and you’ve got to model that process like I modeled it for you.” So everything comes back and I took that seriously, too, and that’s how I raised my kids.
The Balancing Act: It’s a great autobiography, what inspired you to write it?
Verillo: It wasn’t a story about me; it was a story about letting people know that through acts of love and life lessons, you can have that journey to success. No matter what your past was like, no matter how many failures, which I call discoveries, they are not failures they are discoveries and you learn from your discoveries and you can do anything you want when you fall in love with you first. When you fall in love with yourself you can make it anywhere.
The Balancing Act: To end, I know your dad played a huge role in your life and I know he passed on and in your book you write about seeing him for the last time. It’s pretty poignant what you did, can you read to my viewers that part of the book?
Verillo: I would love to read it. I have a chapter here at the end that I’ll share with you: “At the funeral home I was invited to give him a last haircut. I went in to the embalming room and I found him on the stainless steel table waiting for me. I cut my father’s hair for the last time, and as I did, I continued to think about all that I had learned from my father. It was silent, it was quiet, but he was laying there as if he was smiling and I could hear him speaking to me in the sense of ‘I’m proud of you, you’re successful, I’ve done well, you’ve learned everything, go on and teach it to everyone else and thanks for the great haircut.’”
The Balancing Act: Thank you for your time, thank you! Great story, thank you, Giulio.
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