The Aveda student stylists move into a huddle, hands on hands, the scent of essential oils heavy around them."Go, team," they cheer. "Let's rock some hot hair."
Gone are the usual Euro-black uniforms. For today, there are red vinyl belts, red cowboy boots, red mini-dresses. There is a deli sandwich platter, red and white balloons and signs that read: "Love your heart."
The chicness of the Aveda salon gives way to the cheery, in-your-face marketing of the American Heart Association.
It is Wear Red Day. More than 60 women who have survived various cardiovascular diseases fill the room. For free, they will receive haircuts and styles. Their nails will be painted red. Their lips will showcase red lipstick. The brave will even agree to have their hair dyed red.
Undoubtedly, someone will learn something, even if by accident.
As the event kicks off, Ashley May, a South Carolina belle with cat-eye liner and teased blond hair, leads heart attack survivor Susan Hopkins to her chair.
"This is going to be so much fun!" May assures her new client.
Hopkins gives her hair history: she was blond in high school, then strawberry blond. Since 21, she has been a redhead.
"Red is the hardest color to sustain because of products," Hopkins and May say nearly in unison.
The women giggle and crack jokes like Miley Cyrus at a slumber party.
How old are you?
"I'm 21," May says.
"I'm forty twelve," Hopkins replies. That's 52 in sassy.
May is a week away from graduating from Aveda's basic training program. She used to be a flight attendant with Hooters Air.
What was the uniform like? You wear the Hooters outfit," May replied.
Now she wears black all day, per Aveda's rules. When she heard she could wear red Friday in honor of the event, she picked out a red jumper, black pumps and red lipstick.
"I was so excited I didn't have to wear black," she says.
"Oh, I hate black," Hopkins agrees. "It washes me out!"
There is a short pause. May knows something BAD happened to the woman in her chair.
She asks, "so tell me about the Red event, inform me."
February is heart awareness month, Hopkins shares. She rattles off facts. Heart disease, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases are the No. 1 killer of American women.
For a long time, there was little awareness. When women suffered chest pains, men told them they were being irrational, sensitive, getting too worked up over nothing.
"Then you know, the women dropped dead right there on the floor," Hopkins says.
"Wow," May answers.
"When my heart attack happened, I didn't have chest pains. I had upper abdominal pains, like stomach pains," Hopkins goes on. "I could have died. I'm a walking miracle."
"Oh, my gosh," May says, her mouth wide open in shock.
May gets quiet. A lot of people in her family have heart problems. Some don't eat well. They could have a heart attack, too.
But today is a day for fun, not just talk of clogged arteries.
May takes out her pick comb and starts to tease Hopkins' hair.
"I get to use my favorite comb," she exclaims, bubbly once more.
Hopkins solemnly nods.
"Backcombing is your friend sometimes," she says.
Cristina Silva can be reached at (727) 893-8846 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Women and heart disease
Family history plays a significant role in whether you might be at risk for heart disease, but there are things you can do to keep your heart healthy, said Gwen Streeter, director of the Edward White Hospital.
Starting at a young age, develop a habit of eating properly, exercising regularly and drinking plenty of water, she said. Also, remember to see your physician regularly and maintain a healthy cholesterol and blood pressure level.
"It's the habits you have in your 20s and 30s that will impact what happens in your 40s," she said. "Live your life as if you were at risk. Be healthy."