Hair stylist and makeup artist Lily Ann Lam first caught my eye earlier this month, while I was composing an entry for this site. I was tuned in to the reality courtroom show Judge Judy (I’m a fan) where Lily was the plaintiff in a case that involved her former employee/tenant. Lily didn’t have to do too much talking to win the judgement, as the evidence was pretty well stacked against the defendant, but when she did present her case, I could tell she had her act together. I also couldn’t help but notice that she wore a off-the-shoulder top that exposed some very exotic-looking tattoos (which was a little risky to wear before Judge Sheindlin, and those of you who are familiar with her, know what I mean).
Intrigued and wanting to find out some more on Lily for a possible interview, I started at my computer keyboard. Armed with her name, occupation and city, I soon found out that Lilly owned and operated the Hanami Salon in Sacramento, CA until last year. (Even though her Judge Judy appearance aired recently, it was taped in November of 2010, when the salon was still open.) She’s currently working out of her home, but with her good reputation and ambition (not to mention her recent exposure from her appearance on Judge Judy), it won’t be long before a even larger Hanami salon opens in a new location. The above photo by JL Image, was taken before her shoulder artwork but you’ll see her current designs after the jump.
LILY ANN LAM: The Sacramento Press was my first interview on the Hanami Salon. It was admirable that someone I knew suggested me to be a piece to write about for my Salon’s grand opening. I’ve met some amazing guests and clients that are now very dear to me through that article.
CHRIS: As you know, I first caught you last week on TV, in Judge Judy’s courtroom. When was it shot?
LILY: I appeared on Judge Judy in November of 2010. I was contacted by Judge Judy’s producer, asking me to appear.
CHRIS: Has that appearance brought you a lot of attention since it aired?
LILY: I went on Judge Judy not for any media attention by all means, but to get justice from a person I thought was a friend. So going on the show clarified a lot. It definitely was an experience worth having. Well, not to toot my own horn, but haven’t you heard her verdict? I won! It was more for my sanity really. An eye-opener for me, of course. I was a plaintiff seeking lawsuit damages against an individual. Just hearing how Judge Judy spoke on my behalf was enticing. This is why we had a contract stating what was promised. The producer said it’d be best for me to be featured on the show. That I would benefit from the lawsuit settlement funding. She mentioned if I won, a financial arrangement would be set up to give me the funds I needed to take care of my immediate expenses right away.
So I took advantage of this plan to help me get the money I was owed. I don’t think I am anybody interesting. I have received fan mail from someone who was incarcerated. Said he saw me on Judge Judy and wanted to reach out to me. Couldn’t say I wasn’t a bit terrified. The fact that he is incarnated and still has access to find private information on my address is a little worrisome. I am however, rather flattered to have this interview right now, of course.
CHRIS: It’s my pleasure. So, I’m a big fan of Judge Judy because she’s a no-nonsense judge. Very stern but fair and she gets right to the truth. You stated she’s awesome, so you feel the same about her?
LILY: Judge Sheindlin demands decorum in her court, and sometimes will criticize or chastise participants, even audience members, for showing up in inappropriate clothing, and silence audience outbursts, even if they are in response to quips she’s herself made. She has gained a reputation as a judge in both family court and on television for her straightforward manner of speaking with litigants as well as her frequent bluntness and no-nonsense attitude. Lying is the main problem that the incredulous Judith Sheindlin has with both litigants and their witnesses. I read that Judge Judy is also convinced that “if something doesn’t make sense, it’s usually not true.” Judge Judy also tends to be highly irascible, generally towards both parties that appear before her, mostly in her startling explosions at litigants who speak out of turn, try to argue with her, or ramble. Trust me, I wanted so badly to speak when I heard such dishonestly (from the defendant), I bit my lip because I knew Judge Judy will makes such remarks as “I’m speaking!” or “Liar, liar, pants on fire.”
My reaction to her confirming these false accusations was timeless. I was laughing on the inside but I kept a poised attitude. I’ve studied her before I went on the show. I’d hate to be told to keep my mouth shut. I mean, she is rather intimidating. She is after all, a woman with prestigious matters. There are some people that strike criticism towards her, but I for one think very highly of her. Especially after she sided with me of course. Even so, I’d still think she made a fair ruling. I hate to be the person that is getting another A-hole ripped by her. Its on national TV! How embarrassing!
CHRIS: Even though you had a pretty solid case, were you still nervous appearing before her?
LILY: I’m no Actress. Yes I was indeed very nervous. I wish there were outtakes. After I watched myself, all my nerves I felt that day came back. I looked so mean, but really I am not a mean person. Feisty maybe, but reasonable. You never know what to expect. It was in front of a live studio audience. Cameras everywhere! I didn’t know where to look but at Judge Judy. I was highly excitable; unnaturally, acutely uneasy and apprehensive. I don’t like confrontation, especially with the cameras rolling. So glad I wasn’t on the Jerry Springer Show. Since then, I am totally aware of my appearance. I would smile more now, because I sure looked unapproachable.
CHRIS: Judge Judy, runs a tight ship and she often gets on the cases of litigants who don’t dress conservatively when they appear before her. I know what you wore was mild compared to some of the outfits I’ve seen in her courtroom, but you did wear an off-the-shoulder top that showed off your tattoos. Was that because your desire to be expressive with your body art won out over the concern of her questioning your attire?
LILY: I’m glad you brought that up. Unfortunately, tattoos and piercings are not yet protected by labor and/or discrimination laws. Employers are well within their rights to avoid hiring people with body art, ask you to cover them up, or fire you if you don’t. It’s a disappointing truth and it’s one of the many reasons I caution myself about where I would place my ink in public view. It could damage my chances of getting the job or put me in a place where judgement and criticism are constantly talked about. Since most of us need to work in order to survive, that’s a sacrifice that sometimes has to be made. I fortunately work for myself and I am in an industry that allows me to express my art. Yes, Judge Judy probably had every right to question my attire but in this case, it wasn’t the focal point. She judged me by facts and not by my appearance. In fact, she winked at me. I’m guessing she liked my body art. The producer did send me an order of what not to wear in court.
CHRIS: What do some of your tattoos represent and who did them?
LILY: I had half of my work done by numerous artists. Body art is like collecting timeless art pieces from various artists. Only I were them forever on my body and it is truly priceless. My latest art work was done by James Harvey at Painful Pleasures Tattoo in Sacramento. He did my left sleeve with the animated geisha. In Japanese, the word consists of two Kanji, “Gei” meaning “art” and “sha” meaning “person” or “doer.” The most literal translation of geisha into English would be “artist,” “performing artist,” or “artisan.” I got this because I find significant reinvents to my nature as an artist. I’m a hair stylist and a makeup artist. Though I am Chinese. The Chinese figures are a predecessor of the Japanese geisha. In ancient China there was no stylized differentiation of classifying names due to the general degradation of women.
There are educational accounts and texts that have adopted the Japanese institution, geisha, for referring to a certain class of Chinese courtesan. For in fact, some services of these ancient Chinese women were mostly dealt with classical Chinese arts; calligraphy, painting, music and poetry and even spiritual, mutual understandings with clients of the intellectual kind. There are traces of this geisha tradition in a more primal form, throughout the earliest dynasties of China. Where they observe many values of humanity as they live extraordinary lives, the accounts of the most famous of the Chinese geisha were recognized. I am woman who explored values of love, humanity and beauty. Its my expression of who I am today. I am Chinese, born in Hong Kong and raised in California. I embrace my heritage.
CHRIS: Do you plan on getting more (tattoos) or are you satisfied with what you have now?
LILY: Yes. Eventually I will get my right sleeve finish. James will be working on Chinese lanterns flowing in the wind along with a scroll of my Grandfather’s calligraphy on our family name. Lam, meaning “forest.”
CHRIS: I was sorry to hear you moved out of the salon you had. It was really eye-catching, I saw the photo of it. Any plans to open another one?
LILY: As an up and coming entrepreneur, I had great ideas for my business, but I needed guidance in how to proceed in a manner that gives me the best chance of success. America is still the land of opportunity, and even in a difficult economy, some businesses flourish and some don’t do well, so it was wise for me to prepare in every way possible. It was tough starting a new business when the economy is on the downturn. It took a lot creativity and ingenuity to get me there. I learned so much from this experience. I have a passion and love for what I do, and strongly believe based on my educational study that my company, product and service would fulfill a real need in the marketplace again. Failures won’t defeat me. I’ve learned from my mistakes, and use these lessons to succeed the next time around. Whereas a good business location may be my struggling to ultimately survive and thrive, a bad location could spell disaster to even the best-managed enterprise.
I made a poor decision on investing into my business into a certain location. My business very much lives on. I appreciate all the support from my clients and customers. Because of them, my dreams of re opening Hanami will definitely arise again. The greatest entrepreneur I’ve known had many failures before they made a big name of themselves. Which entitles them with that much more strength and knowledge. I feel this is just one of many obstacles I will overcome. You know the saying, “You must fail before succeeding.”
CHRIS: Do you prefer clients who give you specific instructions on how they want their hair to look or those who leave it up to you and let you get creative?
LILY: I always tell my guest to prevent a hair disaster at my salon is simply a matter of planning ahead and communicating with the stylist. Some people have difficulty articulating their real desires to their stylists. Whether it’s because they’re stuck in a rut with the same old style, too shy to discuss venturing to other styles, not sure of what they really want, or afraid of awkward confrontations with me, everyone seems to have a reason for giving in to the pressures of what the stylist says is best. Of course I will input my professional opinion, but I can’t read minds. Its best to hear exactly what they desire first. The most important thing I remember is that this is a professional relationship, and I am acting as their employee. Ultimately, they’re the one who has to sport the style once they have left the salon, so I encourage them to speak up. I tell them if they’re not sure of what they want, but you know that they want a change. I ask them to peruse the Internet and some magazines for pictures of what they want. I will be more open to they’re ideas and have more direction if they have a picture. Usually it’s a celebrity they’re trying to emulate. I usually will tell them in a professional manor if it fits their facial structure or if they have the type of hair that won’t work, and I offer some suggestions as to how to alter the style to better fit they’re needs.
CHRIS: Do you do also do hair and makeup work on photo and video shoots?
LILY: Yes I have, many for local TV stations and magazines like Sactown Magazine. I’m currently working on a upcoming Music Video with an amazing and talented local designer and a great friend, Richard Hallmarq.
CHRIS: As you probably know, there’s a huge zombie craze going on these days. Have you ever done any horror/FX makeup?
LILY: Not ones being published, but I have for Halloween for Federico Beauty Institute. We were featured on the local TV station for that subject. I had a blast doing it.
CHRIS: What was the wildest Halloween costume you ever wore?
LILY: I was Chung Li, the animated video game character based on Street Fighter. I figure I am Asian and extreme die hard fans of video games will get it.
CHRIS: You’ve also do many types of modeling, but not nude. Most of the girls I’ve interviewed who don’t do nude modeling and make it clear that they don’t, still constantly get offers to do nude shoots. Same with you?
LILY: Yes I’ve done some modeling, mostly for some events and magazines. I’ve had many offers to do nudes and I would decline. I was naïve and young once in my early modeling career and unfortunately along the way, encountered some unprofessional losers that have used my photos without my knowledge and exploit them on websites. They’ve taking it down of course after pursuing legal actions. What was funny was it was my face they have use and implemented on someone else’s nude body. They made my boobs look enormous! They’re are crazy people out there, so I strongly encourage other models to always sign a contract for use of their photos. I hate to see this happen to anybody.
CHRIS: Is it more fun for you working behind the scenes or in front of the camera?
LILY: I love variety. I have great times working as a model, and I get my inspiration working behind the camera. I’ve done makeup and hair on gorgeous people and it is so inspiring. It motivates me to go in front of the camera. We have one body and though I am hoping to age gracefully. It’s great to have photos of you for keepsake.
CHRIS: What are your hobbies?
LILY: I love to cook! I didn’t go to any culinary school or anything, but cooking makes my stomach happy. I say I’m pretty good at it. My girlfriend, Mari and our kids says so. I guess if all else fails …maybe a restaurant may be in the near feature perhaps.
CHRIS: Do you have any hidden skills or talents most people don’t know about?
LILY: I definitely have hidden talents people don’t know about. Of course, in my apple-minded head, I like to believe I can sing and dance! I’m sure it’s hidden for a reason. I spend a lot of my down time in my house when kids are away, girlfriend is at work. I’d turn up the music and sing my heart out and dance ’til I sweat bullets. This is my form of exercise. Most people ask me how I keep my figure …I guess the secret is out.
CHRIS: Well Lily, now you can add this to list of positives brought on by your appearance before TV’s toughest judge. In closing; any shout-outs, announcements, or plugs?
LILY: Thank you for all of my supporters, clients, guest, people I have encounter throughout my business entrepreneurs. Even those who are not in my life anymore. Thank you Chris for this lovely interview, I am truly, genuinely honored. I am especially grateful to my wonderful partner, my girlfriend, Mari and our amazing kids. Ariel, Autumn, and Ashton!
Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, Chris flirted with the music business there and in Nashville before joining the U.S. Army and serving in South Korea. He remained in Asia for several years afterwards, teaching English and covering the regional entertainment scenes. Currently in a mindset between Seoul and San Francisco, besides Idol Features, you can also catch his writings in the print edition of the quarterly magazine, Effective.
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