Great hair makes you feel like a million bucks. We couldn’t think of five women who deserve that feeling more. They’re pushing through heartache, hardship, or illness to start a new chapter in their lives—and New York salon owner Nunzio Saviano is sending them off in style.

By Heather Muir Maffei
Updated January 17, 2019
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Credit: Elinor Carucci

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In September 2015, Candace’s world was rocked when her mixed-martial-arts fighter husband of nearly two years, Jared, was diagnosed with stage 4 Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare bone cancer typically found in children. There were multiple rounds of experimental treatments and tough decisions to make. (Candace moved their two daughters, ages one and five, in with her parents to shield them from seeing their dad in pain.) Jared lost his battle only four months after his diagnosis. Candace is now a 27-year-old single mother in Oak Ridge, New Jersey, but she refuses to let this keep her down: “I need to be a fighter, like Jared, in order to raise our daughters to be strong women.”

Because Candace often pulls her hair back, Saviano kept her length and added face-framing layers to call attention to her cheekbones. To extend the time between salon visits, he opted for ombré color—dark roots and lighter ends—so that re-growth isn’t an issue. For easy beach waves, he wrapped sections around a large curling iron, leaving out the ends.

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Credit: Elinor Carucci

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After a 21-year marriage followed by a tumultuous 10-year relationship that recently ended, “I found myself single right before I turned 50,” says Dee Dee. “It was time to move on.” After devoting so much of her life to her two children, her partner, her work as a business manager, and her mother (who is fighting cancer), the Naples, Florida, resident was told by her girlfriends that she had lost the spark in her eyes. “I forgot myself over time, and now that I’m starting to get back together with friends and family and think about dating—I’m not out there looking for Joe Schmo—I’m ready for a fresh start.”

With a picture of Chelsea Handler’s lob (long bob) in tow, Dee Dee was finally ready to make the chop after having long hair for more than 15 years. Saviano snipped piecey layers that hit her collarbone and added movement. A deep side part, buttery highlights, and undone waves made Dee Dee feel “light, airy, younger, free, perky. I was hanging on to my long hair, and the past, and that’s got to be done.”

Credit: Elinor Carucci

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Five years after beating cervical cancer, Casey had a recurrence, in 2013—an isolated tumor in her lung, which was removed and followed by six rounds of chemotherapy. “The thought of losing my hair threw me,” says Casey. She underwent cold-cap therapy, which has been shown to help about 70 percent of patients minimize hair loss during chemo. “Two hours before and four hours after my already four-hour-long chemo, frozen caps were placed on my head,” she says. Now cancer-free, this New Yorker is doing things her way: She quit her job, divorced her husband, and started a jewelry website, where people can purchase meaningful pieces for loved ones going through hardships.

To give Casey fuller-looking hair, Saviano cut her wispy layers into one blunt length. He darkened her highlighted hair to match her natural rich brown and added one strip of clip-in human hair extensions to help blend her new growth with the rest of her hair. A volumizer and a smooth blow-out with a round brush gave Casey’s roots lift.

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Credit: Elinor Carucci

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After Kim and her husband of 34 years sent their last kid to college, they were excited to enjoy some time for themselves at home, in Washington, D.C. Then, Mark, a successful CPA, unexpectedly lost his job. That was when Kim first noticed that things were off. “I thought he was depressed, but when he started getting lost, I knew something else was wrong,” says Kim. At age 54, Mark was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s. “I said, ‘OK, we can do this.’” From reminding him to brush his teeth to becoming a runner so she can run with him, Kim manages it all. But, she admits, “sometimes when I’m in the shower, I lose it. Then I quit feeling sorry for myself and go on.”

Saviano wanted Kim’s hair to reflect her spunky personality, so he modernized her shoulder-length cut by raising the length and cutting long, sideswept bangs to soften her face. To mask the grays and flatter her skin tone, he added in a mix of highlights and lowlights. The result: a natural, ashy blond with lots of dimension. A straight blow-dry looks polished and is easy to do at home.

Credit: Elinor Carucci

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It took only one year of practicing family law in Chicago for Saren to realize that it wasn’t what she was born to do. So she quit to become a leadership coach, helping women navigate life’s obstacles—parenting, career changes, divorce, etc. After coaching clients for a year, Saren moved to Los Angeles to expand her business: The Glow Effect offers programs and podcasts on how to gain confidence and discover your passion. After being invited to speak at a leadership conference in Uganda, Saren was inspired to open a local Glow Effect Centre for Women & Girls, where they are educated on business, leadership, and health care. “If you know your self-worth,” she says, “you can accomplish anything—it doesn’t matter how rich or educated you are.”

Although Saren loved her long hair, Saviano wanted to give it more life, so he added long layers throughout. Caramel highlights were painted around her face for a subtle brightening effect. A side part and soft waves controlled Saren’s thick texture, and a dab of oil tamed frizz and added shine.