Changing lives is no illusion

Jessica Debnam | 5/20/2013, 11:37 a.m. | Updated on 5/20/2013, 3:56 p.m.
Lisa Perry is called The Illusionist because of the magical way she transforms women’s lives through their hair. At first, ...
Photos show before and after hair stylist Lisa Perry creates seamless custom hairpieces for each lady suffering hair loss. Illusions by Lisa Perry

Lisa Perry is called The Illusionist because of the magical way she transforms women’s lives through their hair. At first, walking through the doors, Illusions by Lisa Perry may seem like any other beauty salon in Addison. However, after passing entire sections filled with framed magazine covers and red carpet pictures, there are noticeable differences.

Perry tells of her journey to help women, especially women of color, find themselves again. The journey begins with Perry’s grandmother and mother. The two were active in the industry of beauty and style.

Her own humble beginnings were at a salon in Dallas at the age of 21. She soon blossomed into fashion shows with celebrity appearances and over 1500 people in attendance. With Perry’s skills as a stylist, consultant and businesswoman, she was invited to assist a number of companies, actors, actresses, musicians and professionals in their careers.

The path as The Illusionist, however, began when her sister was diagnosed with breast cancer. Perry

recognized how difficult it was for her sister to find good quality hair with appropriate textures. Inspired by the difficult journeys of her sister and two friends, and soon to follow the difficulties of many others, Perry dedicated her time to find the best quality of hair. She was determined to have women of color have an option regarding hair; a good option that would allow each individual to look their best.

“I got on a plane and went city to city … country to country,” Perry said. The goal was to create custom hairpieces, each piece being made by hand for one individual with only 100 percent virgin hair. “My first priority is to ensure my customer is taken care of. That they get the best.”

Every African American woman has a unique type of hair that is not easy to replicate. Because of this, each custom piece must pass a series of rigorous tests regarding texture and distressing, volume, color, shape and density. With a process known as ventilation, every strand of hair that passes this test is individually sewn to a nude cap with a large magnifying glass and specialized tools to guarantee a seamless look.

The impact of Perry’s work in the community is seen when speaking to her clients. Melissa, for example, is a vivacious 39-year-old woman who was diagnosed with cancer a month ago.

“The doctors told me 17 days after my first chemotherapy treatment I would lose my hair.” Melissa explained. “You have no idea how precise that 17 days was. [That day was] my lowest moment … the first time I felt terminal.”

Melissa worried that her “Sasha Fierce,” the feistiness she said all women have inside, would disappear.

After searching the mainstream beauty supply market high and low, Melissa found herself coming up short. The options were of poor-quality, superficial-looking and faux-feeling. After receiving her custom piece, however, Melissa said, “I can still go through a process as traumatic as this [cancer] and feel healthy again.”

Pat, an avid spokesperson for Perry and her business, also knew a friend for over 30 years that suffered from alopecia, the partial or complete absence of hair. Pat encouraged her friend to check out Perry’s work for herself and both women were not disappointed.

Perry continues to help the community by training, teaching and testing others to better understand hair loss, the highest quality hair, real textures and the process of ventilation. Her dedication to the industry of beauty has benefited many since the early 90s to today. Her shop saw its second birthday in November 2012 with 300 clients and growing.