Last night at the 2019 Fashion Los Angeles Awards, Lady Gaga presented her longtime wigmaker and friend, Frederic Aspiras, with Hair Artist of the Year. “It’s long,” she said of her speech when she got onstage. “So take a sip of your drink and lay back.” For the next 15 minutes she gave one of the most heartfelt introductions of the night, recalling how she and Aspiras met, the moment she knew they would be collaborators, and why they are such close friends. Read her full speech below:
To be honest, I don’t know where even to begin. There are no words that I could say, no speech I could give that would adequately express the deep love, admiration, and respect that I have for Frederic Aspiras. Even saying his full name, as the rockstar artist he has become, I find myself thinking, no. He’s not just in my eyes the greatest hair artist in the world. He’s the brother I never had, and I call him Freddie. A boy who was born in San Francisco who then moved to Los Angeles to pursue his dreams, and he has done beyond that in spades and that is why we are standing here today. We’ve worked together for over a decade. And although I have had the honor of working with many legends in this world of hair, for me, Freddie is beyond legendary. And to quote Sam McKnight: It doesn’t matter if the makeup and fashion are good, if the hair is bad, everything is wrong.” And he was right.
I met him through Kim Kimble, he was going on tour with me to do my hair for the Monster Ball. And after six months or so of us going through the same routine and styling which he did perfectly, I remember one very special moment: as I was sitting in the glam chair, slowly his hands pushed a ripped out page from Italian Vogue with a model who had piss yellow hair. I said Freddie, “What is that!?!” He said, “I know I just was thinking…” and stopped talking, not sure if I wanted to hear his ideas or collaborate with him. I said, “Freddie with this hair style I would look like a Lichtenstein.” He said, “Yes!” I said, “This is Pop Art!” Then he said, “What if we added a root to give it your own edge?” I remember I asked him to make the wig right away and began wearing it in my show immediately. That was the beginning of me and Freddie and I pray to God there will never be an end.
He’s sewn three wigs together on my head because I wanted it more bombastic, he’s developed quick change techniques to pull or put on sculptures of hair on and off my head for my stage performance, he’s changed my lace front and the pieces in 35 seconds while I’m panting catching my breath changing my costumes, screaming to make my cue to hit the stage. The genius of this man is simply unparalleled. No matter big or how small the occasion, Frederic operates on the highest level of professionalism, focus, and above all: heart.
He’s always creating, he never stops. Whether its building wigs from scratch masterfully, hair sculptures, coloring hair with diamond cut like precision, bleaching hair to blonde perfectly, with never a single strand of my hair falling out, cutting my hair or my wigs—and my favorite, watching him cut them with my music playing in the bathroom while he dances with the wig imagining how it will move with me on stage, he’s always inventing without ego. He wants the people he works with to feel beautiful, for artists to come together and make history from their hearts. For Freddie, it isn’t about the hair at all, it’s about the inspiration that runs endlessly through him in a spiritually talented effort to make me feel strong, empowered and ready to do what we both want — to not make people love us, but to love themselves.
I have been through many highs and lows consistently throughout my career and Freddie has been there for it all. To dance and celebrate with me through all our achievement, for example his many award nominations including one for the Emmys, we have always been there for each other. But what I really want to say, on the most personal of levels, is that man sitting right there has picked me up off the floor and told me I’m strong and can persevere more times than I could ever count. If I was on the floor, he was right there with me, and then he’d pick me up and work his mastery on my hair and say, “Look at yourself. You are strong. You can do this. This is where you belong.” And Freddie, I am here today to tell you this is where you belong. I have watched you fight from being someone who was seen for doing my hair, just for the stage, to making there way to the cover of American Vogue and beauty magazines, shoots with Steven Klein, Peter Lindbergh. And I’ve also watched you cue up Don Henley’s song “Dirty Laundry,” our song, to help me stop crying and make me laugh and dance and remind me that life is beautiful.
Of all the things he has done, Frederic is simply the greatest hair artist on the planet when it comes to blondes, with a library of information in his soul from women of any decade or century, he’s constantly researching, studying, practicing. He doesn’t campaign his work to win awards, nor does he participate in using me, or any one else on social media to amplify himself to be famous. Freddie does not care about these things, he cares about people. He always reminds me of a famous Marilyn Monroe quote: If you don’t love me at my worst, then you don’t deserve me at my best.
You remind me of that Freddie all the time, and although you’ve done my hair thousands of times with hundreds upon hundreds of iterations, the greatest part of you is your heart. You are not here to be a celebrity. You are not here to say, “Look at me.” You are here because you are the purest form of an artist, you simply MUST create, for you it’s breathing, and you breathe life into me and everyone around you whenever you are there.
He even inspired me to write a song on Born This Way: Freddie you don’t even know this…but I will leave you with this, as a sign of love and passion I have for you as I witness your fearless passion everyday, I dedicate this song to you.
To quote my song “Hair”…
“Whenever I dress cool,
My parents put up a fight,
And if I’m hot shot,
Mom will cut my hair at night,
And in the morning,
I’m short of my identity,
I scream, Mom and Dad,
Why can’t I be who I want to be,
I just want to be myself,
And I want you to love me for who I am,
I just want to be myself,
I want you to know, I am my hair,
I’ve had enough this is my prayer,
That I’ll die, living just as free as my hair.”
Freddie I love you with all my heart. You help inspire me to love myself and be my self everyday.
But the love didn’t end there! Aspiras then took to the stage to accept his award, clearly touched by Gaga’s words. His deeply personal statement highlighted the importance of fashion and the arts as an outlet for creative expression. When he was done there was not a dry eye in the room. Read his full acceptance speech below.
I don’t even know where to begin. Thank you Gaga … for ruining my makeup. No seriously, you are, for everyone, especially me, my inspiration for the past 10 years. For that I am forever grateful because we’ve created such beautiful work together. You are my sister, you are my family. Through this journey of life, that goes beyond work, beyond what we do every day. This is what it means to succeed.
I want to thank Kent, my agency The Only for being with me since day one. And I love you guys. I want to thank The Daily Front Row because you’ve acknowledged my work. For me, that means a lot, and I am truly grateful and honored for that. Eddie [Roche of The Daily], wherever you are, thank you very much for listening to my story. I have never been very candid about my life and my journeys and my struggles, and you took the time to listen and I am grateful for that because people don’t do that in this industry. I appreciate you.
I grew up very, very different from all this. I’m very humbled at getting this — if you only knew. I also grew up with a lot of mental health issues, which is something that is very serious and that I want to talk about because of the person I am and being different, growing up gay, being Asian, not being able to express yourself. And at such a young age and having a gift and a talent and not being able to express yourself because you are being bullied, because you are being beaten up every single day, because you love to do hair and you’re 13 years old and no one cares or is calling you names. All it did was just make me feel very lonely in this world. What I want to do is dedicate this award tonight to my mother because my mother can not be here tonight. She’s a hairdresser, she’s an immigrant from Vietnam. She’s a woman, a business owner who saved every single penny to start her own business. I am the American Dream. It is to fight hard. It is to work through all of your adversaries. It is to fight, it is to demand, it is to believe in yourself, and I wouldn’t be here tonight without my chosen family, my friends, who are here tonight also. Without them, this could not happen also. And I believe that.
I am going to go home tonight and I am going to post this — I’m going to tweet this. What I’m going to do tonight is I hope to inspire the young generation of artists out there who hopefully hear my story and see this tonight and follow me and believe that this can happen to you to. Thank you very much for listening to my story and for listening to us because this is what all that matters — having all of this tonight. Thank you very much.
A very special thanks to our incredible partners: Maybelline New York, Moroccanoil, Sunglass Hut, PrettyLittleThing, Fiji, HG Contemporary, Whispering Angel, and Kronenbourg 1664 Blanc.