Cutting Yonit Levy's hair

Pulling off a striking, high-profile "changement," creating a dramatic, widely-seen new look, is how a hairstylist makes a name for himself.

In the middle of an interview in the basement office of his North Tel Aviv hair salon, Michel Mercier gets a call. "Tonight, at Latrun?... The prime minister's going to be there?... Some affair... Fine, see you." "The Wertheimers [one of the country's wealthiest families] are putting on a major charity event. They're my clients," Mercier says with a satisfied grin. Asked to name some of his other big-name customers, Mercier mentions Channel 2 anchorman Danny Kushmaro, Channel 10 anchorman Ya'acov Eilon and Channel 2 anchorwoman Yonit Levy - whose beauty, intelligence, cool and fiercely-protected privacy make her a sort of 21st-century Israeli Greta Garbo, the country's most elusive, mysterious celebrity. "I don't do Yonit's hair now that she's moved out of Tel Aviv - she has it done at the TV studio in Jerusalem - but I did the 'changement.' I created her look when she started at Channel 2. Ya'acov Eilon was working at Channel 2 then, and he brought her into the salon," Mercier says. What was the nature of the "changement," what did he do to Levy's hair? "I cut it shorter than she wears it now," Mercier says, implying that Levy was better off under his scissors. Pulling off a striking, high-profile "changement," creating a dramatic, widely-seen new look, is how a hairstylist makes a name for himself, he explains. Mercier says he did it with (among others) top local models such as Galit Gutman and Sheli Gafni, with the hosts of the Eurovision song contest televised from Jerusalem in 1999 and the hosts of the popular Wheel of Fortune TV game show. Mercier's style isn't flashy, it's chic. He shows photos of the changement his salon has done for summer 2008 - the "haute couture look." The photos show a model with straight, thick blond hair that cascades well below her eyes. I ask Mercier how a woman is supposed to be able to see where she's going with a hairstyle like that. "When you are creating a fashion, you can go to extremes, but that doesn't mean women are actually going to be wearing their hair all the way below their eyes," he explains. "Maybe a few women will, but others will just wear it long, maybe a little above the eyes." His breakthrough, he says, came in 1998, at the "alternative hair show" at London's New Royal Albert Hall. "Every important person in the industry watches the new styles that debut at that show," he says. "We called our collection 'Cyborg Woman.' We shaved our models' heads and had them wear natural wigs, which looked so lifelike that everyone in the audience thought it was their real hair. Then, in the middle of the show, the models switched wigs. It made a tremendous impact, both for the concept and the visual drama." Mercier, whose own light-brown hair is a bit thin and styled simply and neatly, believes this is the hairstyling concept of the future: wigs for everyone. "Evolution is giving us less hair, while people are removing more and more hair from their bodies. Why not just remove the hair on our heads and wear wigs with different styles? If people can change their clothes every day, why not their hair?" he insists. Attempts to reach Yonit Levy for comment were unsuccessful.