create | educate | elevate | love
create | educate | elevate | love
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 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.”
Please call to make your appointments. On line booking with Christine is not available.
* Thinning hair consultations with Christine are priced as a service $50 for 30-minutes. This is not applied to future appointments.
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 our guests have what they need and leave happy.” Her goal when she walks into the salon, she says, is to think “how can we make this an even better experience?!”
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!
Our front of the house team helps make us who we are and having Stephanie in the mix makes perfect sense. She's a social media wiz and that is probably due to the fact that she's a book lover and reader of the highest order. A new year's resolution to read 30 books was checked off the list by spring and her education is in communications and literature. She understands both the power and poetry of language. You gotta love that in someone who's going to make Wink's clients feel at home.
It's not all about words though, Stephanie is a high-functioning addict to fashion and clothing, so she's in thrift stores when she's not at Wink or perched with a book in her lap. This girl doesn't own a TV. What's the point when you'd rather be traveling, learning or stretching next to a barre. Yes. 10+ years of classical ballet stuck with her and she still loves to put her body through the motions and dance when given the time.
It's nice to have a coworker who is not a stylist, but appreciates and respects that all members of our team are vital.
"I think a little bit of kindness and attentiveness goes a long way. I like to try to affect cheerfulness onto the people around me. Customer service can be emotionally challenging; I think it's important to be consistently kind to everyone - no matter the circumstances."
Well, we've done it. We've added a client to our staff - one who has been getting her hair cut and styled at Wink for almost as many years as we've been open. Eliza will be helping us at the front desk and she's bubbly, charming and, needless to say, knows her way around the place. That's benefit number 1.
She's been in Asheville for 15 years, but as a talented drummer and drumming teacher, she's also travelled quite a bit on tour with her band. "I value being able to travel to play music and gain perspective on other areas of the country. I enjoy connecting with and learning from other people. I believe that knowledge and experience empower people and stepping outside of your comfort zone brings great possibilities."
This appreciation of different people and different parts of the country is something we prize at Wink. You don't have to be a stylist to make our front of the house service impeccable and Eliza understands this innately... benefit number 2.
She finds playing the drums and making music with her friends and fellow music lovers therapeutic and meditative and she brings that peace and collaboration to everyone at Wink, most especially to our clients. "Customer service requires being friendly and interested in the customer but in a genuine way, NOT a fake way. It's being eager to help, but not too eager, as well as making sure the customer is not afraid to ask for anything at all." And that's benefit number 3 of having Eliza on board.
"It's a great group of talented people who work in a supportive, accepting environment. I love that the business is mission-based and offers a variety of services to people with all hair types so no one feels excluded from having fabulous hair!"
“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 her darling 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.”
Settle in, because we're about to drop some names you know, but with complete humility, we promise! Alejandro has worked NY, Paris, Milan, and London Fashion Weeks, as well as at Victoria Secret Fashion Shows. He has also styled countless celebrities and worked on editorial and commercial shoots for Vogue, Elle, W, V Mag, Cosmopolitan, as well as Ferria, L’Oreal and Garnier, - and that's just a sampling.
He spent years training and collaborating with some of the best hairdressers in the world including Garren, Max Pinnell, Italo Gregorio, Ward and Laurent Philipon. Most recently, Alejandro worked as International Educator for Bumble and bumble and has trained thousands of hairdressers worldwide.
He and Gary Topple own and manage their own farm - Northlake Farm - where he provides love and care for the many, many chickens, goats, and dogs, as well as Gary's horse, Betty. They have a strong work-life balance between home, farm and Wink. Frankly, it's amazing to watch.
Finally, Alejandro is incredibly loving and focused behind the chair. He takes the same care of his clients that he does the other aspects of his personal and professional lives. People are instantly captivated with his knowledge, sincerity, talent and love. So glad he's part of the Wink family.
“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.
Jordan on Instagram
Gary began his career 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. 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…!
Creativity could very easily be the one litmus test salons use when hiring stylists. We don't do that at Wink, because first it would be one dimensional and unfair, and secondly - and most importantly - we don't have to.
Extremely gifted and innovative stylists tend to find us.
Angie is a perfect case study. She came to Asheville 7 years ago for her birthday, found herself in Biltmore having dinner and saw Wink. She popped in and loved what we are about. Angie has been a stylist for 14 years and owned a salon in Chattanooga. Her experience is extensive and varied - she trained in NYC, California and major cities in between - and she's a perfect fit for us.
While she can create any cut or style, use any color technique your heart desires, she particularly loves short, structured cuts and up-dos. Just ask her and she's ready to listen and deliver in only the way a budding master stylist and lover of hair can.
All work is not her style though. Angie is learning to sew and upholster, so she may end up telling you about her other creative projects when you find yourself in her chair. She and her partner, Jamie love to cook and travel, watch old black and white movies, jazz and playing with their 4 dogs.
"I have lived all over the states, in Scotland and in Sardinia, Italy. While we were in Scotland, my little brother worked at a friend's salon and I would hang out with my friends and brother. The atmosphere was so open and inclusive. I liked watching people being pampered, seeing them leave with smiles on their faces and watching the stylist-client relationships. It was not until years, and many different jobs, later that I realized that I wanted to get in to the industry."
And she did. Laura has been a stylist for 8 years and said she wished she'd become one sooner. " It satisfies my need to make people happy. I love to see them transformed even if just slightly and watch them look, feel and act more confident with themselves."
While her favorite styles are pixie cuts, balayage, and shaping long layers, she's most passionate about making beautiful hair and providing careful and loving customer service. "Kindness is number one and if the clients feel comfortable and cared for, that's what matters the most."
Laura loves spending her off time with her family and people watching. She's a keen observer who is fascinated by what motivates others, what makes them tick and finding out more about their lives. She's a easy soul,... funny (especially when doing accents), charming and always, ALWAYS kind.
If that face doesn't say, "the cat that ate the canary is yours truly" then we're at a loss. Krista Kelly, "KK," has been a stylist for more than 8 years and Wink loves having her as part of our team. She specializes in bobs, long layered cuts, highlights/lowlights, balayage and Kerasilk. Her own waves are envy-producing.
While she has never been in a movie with either of the Affleck brothers or Matt Damon, she's a Boston girl and her family (all still in Boston) are absolutely everything to her.
KK said that when she walked into Wink, she knew the energy was just right. "The team environment is refreshing and continuing education is really important to me. No one wants to become stale and complacent." This down-to-earth girl is about honesty, making her clients and everyone around her feel "comfy and at home" and she loves becoming part of a community.
"I really believe clients should be pampered from the moment they walk in until the moment they walk out. More than anything, I want everyone to feel good about themselves, inside and out."
KK is a sweetheart and really funny. When she's not at Wink, she and her husband like to find adventure through travel, road trips, and playing outdoors.
Marla has been a stylist for over a decade and co-owns a very successful bridal company in Orlando, Florida. For Wink, she's another member of our bridal team, specializing in creative styles, up-dos of all shapes and designs, and making sure that the bride shines brightest on her wedding day or for her portraits. She not only takes care of their hair and makeup, but her understanding of the bridal and wedding business means she gets the entire context of a wedding and can put everyone at ease while having fun.
Her friends nicknamed her Marla Stewart because she is an avid baker, cook, and party host and she also loves decorating, refinishing and refurbishing furniture, sewing and staging rooms in her house. "I love home projects!" But she's pretty fearless too. "I'll try anything once, but it's a guarantee that I will hurt myself because I'm really accident prone."
Like many others at Wink, Marla is passionate about community engagement, giving and elevating those around her. She became a stylist because she loved the feeling of boosting another person's confidence through something as fundamental as a new hairstyle. She spent a year after graduating from high school working with inner city kids in Los Angeles and was a Big Sister with Big Brothers, Big Sisters for 8 years in Florida. We love that heart for the world outside the salon and she's a perfect fit for our culture at Wink.
She knew Wink was where she wanted to be because of the emphasis on teamwork and education. "I believe that the moment you think you've arrived, you stop growing. Life is a journey and there is always more to learn and always more ways to grow.
Olivia is a Designer 1 Stylist and our in house make up artist. She is a 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 new to the industry and loving her career at Wink.
Liv's a true lover of the world of beauty. She is obsessed with watching Guy Tang and Jaclyn Hill videos, keeping up with all the latest trends. She is our own beauty whisperer.
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.
There is daring and then there is daring. For some, it’s moving across country. For others, it’s taking the risk of asking someone out. For Jesse, daring often takes the physical form. She goes spelunking, sky-diving, and white water rafting. ON THE SAME DAY. Ok, not really, but she’s done them all and is always looking for the next adventure.
If thrill-seeking for you is a hair-cut (and let’s face it, it can be), then Jesse will have you safely in her palm and won’t let you down. Of the things that attracted her to Wink, VERY high standards and a devotion to education were two biggies. Jesse sets incredibly high standards for herself and knew when she first entered the salon that it was where she wanted to be.
“I love the atmosphere at Wink. There is a commitment to quality and a fun, family vibe that allows everyone to be more creative and more successful.”
Jesse loves the process of transformation, through beauty, make-up and hair and in particular she relishes creating short cuts, like pixies and bobs. “There’s something incredibly intuitive about short cuts.” She also loves other structured and textured looks, razor cuts and long layers.
Like all the stylists at Wink, Jesse is about listening and is completely client-focused. She’s also about laughter and gratitude. When she’s not at work, you’ll find her hiking and playing outside with her wife, Jamie, spending time with her family (which includes TEN nieces and nephews) and having the presence of mind to know that each moment in life counts. She puts a premium on kindness and says, “I’ve never met a stranger… rather a friend I’m meeting for the first time.” So, consider this your invitation: come get a killer new cut and a wonderful new friend.
OR Salon adjoint, explorateur, nounou, et amant de la sculpture.
Abi loves the French language and French culture, hence the parlance above. At 22, this assistant at Wink has already taken on both the professional and personal work she hopes will allow her one day to open her own salon/spa.
She trained at the Aveda Institute in Charlotte, NC, where she won the regional competition as a beginner student and found herself recognized among the Masters at the Institute. She is working on a degree in cosmetology and hopes to get her massage therapy license as well, all the while learning more about becoming a colorist at Wink.
Abi loves exotic food (curry, curry, curry), considers styling hair an exercise in practical sculpting, detailed design concepts, exploring the Blue Ridge Parkway and painting hair. [She started the painting hair gig as a child using her Barbies……]
When she’s not at Wink, she’s practicing her French, baking, watching travel shows [she LOVES Anthony Bourdain] reading fantasy and watching Project Runway.
“I thrive on making guests, clients and my coworkers feel relaxed and valued and I love the art I see being created at Wink. We have creative stylists and happy clients here.”
"Walking into Wink is an experience everyone should get to have: the energy and family vibe you get in that moment. It's such an amazing feeling."
Bubbly and fun, Madie is an assistant at Wink and a master colorist in the making. (She loves working with color.) She grew up in NC and has been in Asheville long enough to feel like a native. She is a fresh graduate from cosmetology school, but she's been in the service industry for six years. We tend to attract people who love to serve and care for others and Maddie fills the bill. As she learns at Wink U and grows as a team member, what we're appreciating most is how outgoing and friendly and excited about growing as a stylist she is.
Madie has been a dancer her entire life. Ballet, tap, jazz, lyrical and hip hop are her passions outside of being a stylist. She loves Halloween and horror movies, and claims that you could call her a modern day Elvira.
"I am so eager to learn, and the fact that wink is so teaching oriented makes me feel so grateful to be apart of such and amazing group of stylists."
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.