When asked to name celebrities whose hair she's styled, Sallie Ciganovich draws a blank, laughing as she pulls the phone aside and asks a friend to jog her memory.
They brainstorm a few names. Comedian Sarah Silverman. Actors Seth Rogen and Dennis Quaid, "So You Think You Can Dance" host Cat Deeley, and "Franklin & Bash" star Garcelle Beauvais. And that's just off the top of their heads.
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Ÿ "So You Think You Can Dance"
Ÿ "X Factor"
Ÿ "The Sarah Silverman Program"
Ÿ "This is the End"
Ÿ "Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay"
Ciganovich, a Naperville native and alumna of the suburban beauty school, Pivot Point International, doesn't get star stuck despite a decade of styling hair for dozens of well-known TV shows and movies, including "Glee," "X Factor," "Entertainment Tonight" and "Gilmore Girls."
"It doesn't really faze me," said Ciganovich, 36, whose professional name is Sallie Nicole. "One time, I was on the red carpet ... and Angelina and Brad walked by. I thought, 'Oh my God, they are so beautiful!' But then it went away. If I was at a grocery store and someone hot walked by, I'd say the same thing."
Sallie Nicole probably struggled to name-drop because, during our interview, she was rushing to pack for Puerto Rico -- a work trip where she'd style hair on the set of "22 Jump Street," the sequel to "21 Jump Street."
"I'm just doing (hair for) the doubles there. I have to make their hair look exactly like Jonah Hill's and Channing Tatum's," she said. "Sometimes you have to do the same hair for the same scene, every single day."
That's just one challenge of the demanding, Hollywood hairstylist's job, which sometimes requires Sallie Nicole to be on the set as early as 3 a.m. and spend all day on her feet.
While she's privy to a lot of celebrity gossip ("I hear everything," she says), she refuses to talk about it or dish dirt.
"(That's) because I'd like to keep working," she joked. "You get to a certain point where you become numb to it. I don't speak. I don't get in people's business. But if you're sitting with them for an hour every day, weeks on end, of course you're going to learn something about them and their likes and their quirks. Those daily life things -- girlfriends and boyfriends, and who's being obnoxious."
Sallie Nicole built a reputation in Hollywood not just for discretion, but for skillful hair design, focus and speed, which comes in handy on live TV. During one "So You Think You Can Dance" episode, she had to transform a dancer into a Greek goddess during a commercial break, sewing a metal helmet into her hair braids.
"It was like a pit stop in a car race," she said.
But as her high-fashion portfolio reveals, Sallie Nicole is as much an artist as she is a hair stylist.
Growing up in Naperville (she's a Naperville North High School alumna), she wanted to enroll in drawing or ceramic classes at the Art Institute of Chicago. It was too expensive, though, so she came up with a Plan B. Always impressed by her neighbor's styled hair, she consider using her passion for art on hair, enrolling in the Schaumburg location of Pivot Point International, a top-rated beauty school chain.
"I was more about art. But my grandmother on my father's side was a very wise woman. She said, 'If you want to be employed, you could cook, clean or do hair.' So I did hair," she said. "I was trying to sort out the best way to have a career."
Sallie Nicole started out assisting at Mario Tricoci salons, but at age 22, she spontaneously packed her possessions into her Toyota 4Runner and followed a friend to Boulder, Colo. She stayed there for three years before moving to Los Angeles -- also on a whim -- 13 years ago.
While working in L.A.'s Rudy's Barbershop, her boyfriend at the time wrote a movie called, "Wonderland." She got invited to be a production assistant on set, where she was mesmerized by the behind-the-scene workings. When they found out she did hair, she started helping out the stylists. That experience opened doors for her, and one gig led to another.
Sallie Nicole's now working on the 11th season of "So You Think You Can Dance," having just finished working on the film "This is the End," and a comedy TV pilot starring Jaime Pressly called "Jennifer Falls."
"There's nothing else that I'd rather do," she said of her career. "I think, maybe I'll go back into a salon. That'd be normal ... but I love this."
-- Jamie Sotonoff
• Dann Gire and Jamie Sotonoff are always looking for people from the suburbs who are now working in showbiz. If you know of someone who would make an interesting profile, email them at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.