STYLED in SEATTLE
once a refugee from vietnam, hairdresser angela melini is putting down roots on this side of the pacific
"I'm a practical girl," says Angela Melini, and you believe her. Let others wish and wonder and hope and dream: Angela has things to do. She isn't looking around for a frog prince to kiss or waiting for a Hollywood producer to make her an offer she can't refuse. Miss June plans to go back to school, save money, invest. Someday not too soon, she'd like to marry and raise kids. Meanwhile, she works as a hairdresser in a cozy salon in Seattle, her adopted home town. You know this 22-year-old is unflappable when you see her taking care of business in the salon. Doubling as a receptionist and stylist on a recent Friday afternoon, Angela calmly minded the rattling phone, booked appointments, gossiped with co-workers, planned a ski trip and treated her clients to shampoos, haircuts and the psychic hand-holding that accompanies new dos. For one fretting male customer, she spun a long, bawdy tale about his having sex with a beautiful woman in hell. (The Devil's punch line: "Excuse me, Ron, what you don't understand is that she's the one trying to get out of here.") Later, digging into a seafood dinner at her favorite waterfront restaurant, she reviewed her day. "What I love about the salon is meeting people, working with people. I love the high energy," she said. "But cutting hair is what I do, not who I am." The more you learn about Angela, the easier it is to understand why she doesn't want to be defined by her work -- or by her remarkable beauty. "There are plenty of pretty girls," she muses. "You have to have more than that." Angela was born in Saigon, Vietnam, at the height of the war. She never knew her father, an American soldier killed on the battlefield. She has not seen or spoken with her twin brother, Duong -- she calls him Larry -- since he was trapped at their grandmother's house in a village overtaken by the Viet Cong when she and her mother fled Vietnam in 1974. Angela was five years old. "The next thing I remember," she says, "I was living in a big house at the end of the road, with woods and a creek out back." That was Fayetteville, North Carolina, where she began a typically suburban American childhood of bike riding, roller-skating and hanging out at the mall. Mom married another military man. A new baby brother, Peter, joined the family. Angela forgot much of her Vietnamese. Her stepdad was transferred to Fort Lewis and the family moved to Olympia, Washington. "It's weird when so much happens to you when you're so young," she says. "One thing you learn is to just get on with your life."
Photography by Arny Freytag