Gilda brings the juice. Not only did she co-found Wink with Christine DiBenedetto, she has been a stylist for 30 years. Her coworkers talk about her with reverence and deep affection.
Gilda (pronounced Jill-dah, in case you were wondering or haven’t met her yet) is from Los Angeles, was a Rusk International educator - a product line she basically introduced to the Asheville style community - and has trained stylists all over the US for 10 years. Beyond training, she has personally styled clients from LA to WNC and many points in between and inspired former clients and friends to start their own successful styling businesses. She is a grounding force at Wink, trains the apprentices at the salon, and easily accommodates clients with her philosophy that customer service means seeing happy faces, making sure that clients are met with smiles, being inclusive and meeting every client need - no matter what that means.
While Gilda’s got curls in a shop that specializes in them, she LOVES to cut straight hair, bobs and to create inventive, short and detailed styles. Most importantly, she’s wife to Gil, mom to Angelo and Nico and pup Sugar, friend to many, and an inspiration to the Wink family.
Christine is a prism. Depending on where you're standing, you'll get a designer and stylist, a business owner with a sharp mind and drive, a mentor and sister focused on the care and feeding of her clients, fellow stylists and team, or a devoted wife, mom, friend, motivator and tender human.
She opened Wink with Gilda Santiago a decade ago and has been stewarding an atmosphere of quality, care, excellence, education, listening, inclusion, fun and warmth ever since.
Before Wink was born, Christine was part of the master design team for Rusk International and she's been in the business for over 19 years. At the very beginning of her career, she met Lorraine Massey, author of The Curly Girl Handbook. Their meeting was before Massey's handbook, before DevaCurl's products and concepts and before the curl revolution that has been empowering curly girls since. It all sparked Christine's professional imagination. She’s been a devoted Deva Curlaborator since.
As a Senior Master stylist, she's amazing at pretty much everything, specializing in curly styles, fine hair, short hair styles, signature bobs and being a genius colorist.
Outside of Wink, Christine is the creator of Big Life, Thin Hair. When she realized that her own hair was thinning, she wanted to address it, alter its course and share solutions with others. It’s a passion of hers and she wants the conversation to be open and demystified.
Finally, Christine is a wife and mom. “I’m part of a sweet family of 4, with 2 kids.” She loves pilates, NPR, CBS Sunday Morning, being outside, smart comedies, documentaries and talk radio. As a Co-owner, she’s proud of Wink’s energy. “There are lots of laughs, loads of beautiful hair going out the door, great classes and education and happy clients. We’ve been non-stop since we opened.”
Sarah shakes structure out of her sleeve (say that three times fast). She is organized. She’s quick on her feet - literally and intellectually. She demonstrates customer service, savviness, tenderness and preparedness at every turn and she can produce answers before you’ve formed your question. Her focus could sway you to believe that she's all business, but don't be fooled. This one is a lovie, a den mother, your favorite sister and genuine in every way.
As GM, Sarah takes customer service seriously and has compared what happens at Wink to “hosting a fabulous party every day and our clients are our guests.”
“We want to create comfort, make sure they have what they need and leave happy.” Her goal when she walks into the salon, she says, is to think “how do we do this even better?!”
Co-owner Christine DiBenedetto says, “If Sarah were not our general manager, she would be a cheerleader or perhaps the owner of a summer camp. She is a forever loyal friend who makes everything look easy.”
Sarah may be slight of stature, but she has heft in heart and spine. She cares about Wink's clients, the business and celebrates her personal life with her hubs, dog Boots and cat Krikor. She also enjoys eating delicious food and drinking yummy wine with friends, spending time with family, exercising, seeing live music, laughing and traveling .... wherever the dart lands!
Diana keeps the wheels turning at Wink. She manages the schedules and greets you when you enter the salon. Wanna know what customer service looks like? Say, “um, help!!?” and she’ll be at your elbow ready to solve a problem or answer a question. She takes her job seriously, but is an integral part of the fun energy at Wink.
Diana is a working artist who immerses herself in painting, all kinds of media and design, literature, poetry, commercial photography and loves all kinds of creative energies. She’s also an explorer, diving into nature whenever she can and enjoying those aspects of the mountains that make Asheville and WNC so singular.
Wink stylist Kelly Kornuta says about Kayla, "I would like to have her coolness and her sense of humor," two attributes that are not only admirable, but absolutely necessary in order to excel in customer service in such a high energy salon. "Kayla's positive energy is an awesome addition to the front of the house team," says Diana Chmielewski, Wink's rock star coordinator.
Kayla jokes that she's Diana side-kick.
She's embraced and been embraced by the Wink family in a relatively short period of time. "The staff are quickly becoming a group of my favorite people. Even when we're busy, I love all the fun that is interspersed with the chaos."
Kayla has many layers and many roles. When she's not at Wink, she's a student at UNCA, majoring in Management with a concentration in Music Business. She's fluent in Spanish, an amateur sociologist and has always had the companionship of pets. She has had dogs, cats, hermit crabs, rabbits, fish, iguanas......
So, let’s get the many bona fides out of the way:
Grooms is a former National Technical Trainer and Educator for KMS California (which she pursued and conquered since joining at Wink), former Goldwell Certified Colorist, former KMS IQ Cutting Specialist, former member of the show team for KMS, Goldwell and Arrojo, a contributor to Austin Fashion Week, Formula 1 and Tribeza magazine and an expert wedding stylist.
Amy specializes in short and curly cuts, coloring blondes and redheads, and creating versatile styles that clients can easily recreate at home. “Obtaining beautiful hair is perfecting the balance of structure, fluid movement, and the client’s personal style.” She loves food - calls it a hobby - and testifies that Chicago has her "foodist brain on lockdown.” And she indulges in travel - “Hawaii has my heart and Austin has my soul.” Amy also loves dancing - especially to swing or honky-tonk. In short, she's shy.
Customer service comes naturally: “It’s when you listen, offer your professional advice and tailor it to the guests’ needs. Give all of your clients the best experience possible.” Clients have said to her directly, “I love coming to you because it’s like you know what I want intuitively.” “I like when you cut my hair; it always falls into place.” “I love how quickly you work. You gave me the best haircut of my life in about 10 minutes flat!”
“I take pride in hair craft and I promise my clients that I’ll always be honest about what I think would look best on them. I’m a great listener and will always steer them in the best possible direction based on their lifestyle and overall maintenance levels.”
Jennifer is extremely keen on authenticity, both as a stylist and with her clients’ hair. She wants each one to get exactly what they wanted, but better - and with an eye to healthy hair. According to her, “the health of my clients’ hair is always number one.” Her specialities include balayage, and Ombre techniques and she LOVES working with reds. “I have in-depth knowledge of color. I love it, live it and breath it.” She also loves trendy and edgy haircuts with great texture and full of soft movement.
Jennifer’s out of the salon time is spent playing her guitar and “singing terribly out of key,” cooking and dancing (frequently at the same time), listening to Ray Lamontagne, Ryan Adams and Damien Rice tunes and exploring the area with herdarling King Charles Cavalier “Sassy Popcorn.”
“I have a passion for old suitcases. I feel that they have large stories to tell, places they’ve been, belongings they have held.” Evidence of an imaginative heart? Likely, as people prone to travel and adventure are often drawn to those items that act as accessories to adventure…. maps, stamps in a passport and suitcases. Jennifer clearly has this sense of exploration: she drove through Asheville as part of a road trip from NYC and felt drawn to the mountains and signature artsy vibe. “Not long after I returned home, I saw a post that Wink was hiring and knew it was fate. 3 weeks later, I was packed and on my way to NC with no looking back.”
Sarah is the complete stylist. She is an expert colorist. She does perfect brows. She wields scissors like the master stylist that she is and has 12 years in the business and 7 at Wink.
According to Wink’s Co Owner Gilda Santiago, “if Sarah were not a stylist at Wink, she would be a Sergeant in the Marines. She pays attention to detail, is focused, and I LOVE WORKING WITH HER.”
Do not let the military reference scare you. Sarah is in the family way ..... as in, after 8 years of commitment to her main man, she is now a wife and step-mom to 3 handsome boys. She is also beloved by coworkers and clients alike and a lot of that comes from her honesty. Her careful and direct approach allows her to deliver perfection to her clients, whether it's a cut, color, blow-out. or brow wax. And they love her for it. She wants each person to get what THEY want, so she asks questions, listens carefully and executes with accuracy. She’s the sergeant who’s on your team.
“Newman” loves being married and especially loves to travel. She’s a big fan of Folly Beach, SC and Charleston, SC, has been all over the U.S., but has also spent time in Costa Rica and St. Lucia. Her next destination is Spain!
While she rarely gets enough time alone, she relishes it when she does. And she loves to eat and cook, but that’s a whole other thing.
“I love balance, short cuts, and the geometry of creating those - - - when geometry meets art.”
Jordan is about creativity, warmth, tact and unbridled energy. He very well may be the smiling man with a beard who breezes by you talking and gesturing when you first enter the salon. Part of his POV has been developed by listening (a word you're going to hear a lot in the bios of Wink team members), being in a collaborative community at Wink, traveling nationally with KMS to train other stylists and being part of a positive environment.
He’s been in the business for 10 years and at Wink for 4 and his travels to train other stylists provide him with new info, new friends and faces, new opportunities and a honed education. But like others at Wink, Jordan says, “returning to Wink is like coming home.”
At Wink, he says “we help each other get better and succeed.” But he is a family guy - loves to be with his girl Scarlett, his boy Oliver and their pup, Lou. He's fueled by being outside, running around with family and enjoying a good, hoppy craft beer.
Fun fact 1: He knows every word to every single song by Van Morrison and credits his mom. So quiz him when you arrive for your appointment.
Fun fact 2: If he won the lottery, he’d wear a new pair of socks every day for the rest of his life.
It’s the little things.
Gary is the newest stylist to the Wink team and to Asheville, but he’s not new to the hairstyling world. He began as an apprentice and 10 years, 3 salons and 2 continents later, he is a man of many techniques. His specialties include, but are not limited to balayage, masterful but subtle coloring to all styles and lengths of hair, Wella Special Blonde and Bumble & Bumble razor cuts.
Like basically all Wink stylists and team members, Gary is extremely client-focused. “I would like my clients to see me as the person who going to take care of them and pay close attention to the integrity of their hair. I’m someone who will give them a thorough consultation and listen to their needs and wants. I’m going to help them out while styling in the salon, but can show them how to maintain the condition and health of the hair at home.” [And clients everywhere rejoiced, because let’s face it: leaving the salon with a great style is always topped when you can recreate it yourself on your home turf…]
We’re thrilled that he’s a Wink enthusiast too. “I just love how passionate everyone is and that we can all learn from each other.” Gary actually came to teach a class at Wink University, having already met Christine DiBenedetto and “loving her energy and style,” and everything fell into place.
Gary is from Portsmouth, England, where his hairstyling life began, but he started his American chapter in NYC, where he met his partner. He finds Asheville as so many others do: artistic, friendly, diverse and engaging…. kind of like Gary.
His out-of-salon passions include working out (yep, he’s a gym rat), going for drives, hiking and dining with friends, good music and spending time with his horse.
Jay comes to Wink from Atlanta with 7 years of experience in the industry. He first started cutting hair while volunteering his barbering skills at a homeless shelter.
Pretty solid, huh? Before long, he was apprenticing under Candy Shaw at Jamison Shaw Hairdressers in Atlanta. He quickly became an educator there, as well as for Sunlights Balayage highlighting for 3 years, Jamison Shaw French Haircutting System for 4 years and a leader in mens’ cutting techniques. He loves creating natural highlights, long layers, short trendy and textured styles and ALL men’s styles. He is really both barber and stylist.
There’s a persistent stereotype about hair stylists: they are therapists. You sit and can talk about yourself for about an hour, but in the case of salon therapists, you leave looking, and often feeling, better than you did when you sat down.
Jay has embraced this.
“While making my clients beautiful, we have wonderful conversations. They have become people for whom I truly care and I tend to know just about everything going on in their lives. From exciting things like marriages and babies to sad things like breakups, I listen. While I always give my clients a hug when they leave, I pride myself on being professional. I am on time and ready to work with them to achieve exactly what they want.”
Jay is a creative, like so many of our stylists: (i.e.) he plays guitar and writes his own music and even proposed to his wife with a song her wrote and played for her. He also hikes, kayaks and loves the arts and embraces new things “150% … my friends and family call me ‘extreme Jay’.” One of his passions is cycling. “I truly love cycling. It's my happy place. Not something I'm naturally good at, but I like the challenge. Seeing places on a bicycle is completely different from seeing them in a car.” Keep an eye out for him…!
Jay on Instagram
DESIGNER 2 STYLIST, GOLDWELL EDUCATOR, DEVACURL CERTIFIED STYLIST, RELATIONSHIP-BUILDER, INNER TOMBOY
Jenna has a strong passion for this business (3rd generation, gang - She's a THIRD generation stylist) and focuses on healthy hair and building strong bonds with clients. She is a DEVACurl certified stylist, Goldwell educator and has had Vidal Sassoon training. Her styles and preferences range from messy, beachy waves to the most chic bobs, to cuts with precision bangs and angles.
Jenna listens. She considers it a big part of her modus operandi and she loves Wink’s family vibe and being a part of it.
When she’s not making her clients feel perfect and regal, she’s dancing, hiking, traveling, rock climbing and practicing yoga. She talks about her inner tomboy, but she embraces her girly style too. Seriously, look at her, both are there.
“Bring on the Education!” (this is an actual quote)
For Jess, this is a big part of her growth at Wink. She loves the sharing that goes on between stylists, embraces Wink U, and makes a point of listening to clients when starting a relationship or perfecting a style. She stays open in receptivity and care.
She’s a pro at upstyles for weddings, working with color (natural-looking and trendy hues alike) and showing clients how to make their styles easy to manage and recreate at home.
Finally, Jess has light flowing out of her, beyond her luminous personality and love of the hair industry. Some of that light is outer beauty, but much of it is inner light (as many a grandma said, “pretty is as pretty does”). Jess has a strong belief system, a Christ-centered marriage, a love of travel and adventure with her hubby and also the family she’s found at Wink.
Kelsey loves being a stylist and her emphasis is focused on love. In conversation you'll get comments like:
“I love to create short, funky, pixie styles and textured bobs. I love learning and the educational atmosphere was what initially attracted me to Wink. I love making clients feel at home and showing them how to make their hair look amazing. I love animals, hiking, music, good friends, adventure and all kinds of crafting.”
You could say that Kelsey is another of Wink's lights. She’s experimental with her own hair and crazy talented, but some of her light is a reflection of what she finds at Wink. “Our salon is full of positive vibes, comfort, quality, creativity and I’m so happy to be a part of this amazing operation.”
Her co-stylist, Jordan Carlson, said that anyone first meeting Kelsey for the first time can expect "lots of smiling, goofiness, gratitude, the best shampoo, and great conversation."
Kelly is new to Wink, but not to the biz. She’s in her 4th year as a hairdresser and loving the environment she's found at Wink - especially the professionalism and warmth. She's having a blast learning at Wink U and happy to be a part of the team.
As Fresh Talent, Kelly is a stylist with legs (and by legs, we mean Superb Skills) and moved to Asheville from south Florida to “escape the heat,” but then fell in love with the mountains and “weird Asheville vibe.”
When she’s not creating styles and perfect cuts for her clients at Wink, she’s exploring. She wants to expand her knowledge of her craft, but also to explore in every sense of the word.
Kelly loves for her clients to know that she’s listening and puts an enormous amount of emphasis on communication and integrity.
Heather has been a stylist for several years, but just joined the Wink family and is enjoying the salon's focus on education, customer service and commitment to creativity. “I love the atmosphere at Wink - the people, the environment - everyone works together to create a low stress and relaxing vibe for the staff and clients. It's so upbeat!”
She moved to Asheville after traveling to 38 states in 82 days (WHAAAAAAAT?), loves swimming, traveling (clearly), cooking and “eating good food.” What matters most to her personally? “Treating others and myself as well as I can. I always treat people with respect, offer help and make others feel valued.”
When Heather gets requests from clients, she listens to details, appreciates honesty and does her very best to deliver exactly what they want or deliver better.
Olivia is an apprentice and recent graduate from cosmetology school. She couldn’t have found a better home, since Wink has been focused on education from the moment its doors opened, with monthly educational classes and a commitment to sending stylists to conferences and offsite training in chic cities nationwide. Olivia is all in. She’s brand new to the industry and loving her new career at Wink.
Now to the more personal. Olivia is not your mama’s Betty Crocker. She may not do traditional apple pies, but she LOVES to bake. It’s her new hobby and she creates amazing things like 5-tiered ombre cakes. Her new co-stylist pals will do well to put in orders for beignets, crumb cakes, raspberry slumps, chewy chess squares and flour-less torts.
As for the camera, she’s not out there posting selfies all over the place, but she is a shutterbug. “I literally LOVE photography. I’m 20 and I have almost 15 photo albums of my own stuff and they are packed to the max.” She calls her camera her baby and takes it everywhere she goes.
Annie Lebowitz: watch your back.
Fully-licensed cosmetologists who have graduated from hair school and are receiving advanced education through our in-house Wink University program, as well as assisting stylists in order to learn their cutting and color expertise.
Fresh Talent Stylist
Stylists who have successfully completed our Apprentice Program and transitioned to being stylists.
Designer 1 / Designer 2 Stylists
Seasoned professionals having at least 3+ years of experience as hair stylists. They are masters of our color line, as well as advanced color techniques.
Stylists with an even greater number of years behind the chair and further advanced training.
Master stylists develop trends, set salon standards and act as mentors in the salon. With over 10 years of experience, each Master Stylist has a large customer base and many continuing education credits. Masters also serve as the artistic team for any salon-based photo shoots, capturing current trends. These stylists are the most experienced in the salon.