Giorgio came to Canada September 24th 1953 at the tender age
of 17. He recalls his landing in Gander and the strange smell
in the air. He later on discovered that this smell was that
of the heaters! Being from Catanzaro, Calabria, the smell
a heater would make was quite foreign to him, as was the snow
on the ground and the icicles hanging from the trees.
had many jobs before his famous career as a hair stylist took
off. He had several jobs in construction ranging from the
workers' water boy to the remover of nails. He could not speak
English, so his options were fairly limited
Giorgio lived in Toronto until July 1958. A Yugoslavian hairdresser
in North York gave him a job and took a chance on another
young immigrant trying to make his way. At night, Giovanni
attended Marvel Beauty School in Toronto. He then established
himself at the King Edward Hotel's salon. It turns out that
the owner, who went by the name Jean-Claude (Zago), was actually
an Italian from Verona who had lived in France for years.
Giovanni describes Zago as being "
a fantastic artist."
1958 Giovanni took a vacation to Ottawa and stayed at the
Lord Elgin Hotel. He talked with the manager of the salon,
and was offered a job on the spot, as well as a substantial
raise! He was only 22. And so Giovanni Giorgio came to Ottawa.
didn't take long for our young Italian star to gain enough
recognition to open his own Salon: Giovanni di Roma at 244
Slater. He soon expanded his salon to twice its original size
and employed 35 people.
also attended numerous events in the hair dressing circuit.
In 1961 he won the Ontario Grand Prix in Toronto (for hairdressing).
He was also part of the Canadian team that went to Amsterdam
in 1962 for the World Championship of Hairdressing and won
an award for Outstanding Achievement. For the trip, he and
the members of his team left 2 weeks early to get to know
each other and practice the styles they would create on select
few models. They practiced on 22 models, aged 18-24, for those
couple weeks. Giovanni remembers the hospitality of the Germans:
he mentioned he was hungry and a model got up and made a platter
of food for everyone. "[Germans] have a lot of respect
for Italians." He has attended countless compitions in
New York, Chicago, etc
of his former students, apprentices and assistants are now
big names in Ottawa: Antonio DelCiotto (Estetica), Santino
Testa, Lorenzo Mancini and Claude Florant to name a few. Claude
now has 10 salons and his own hairdressing school.
also had a young assistant, Anna, who had a talented barber
for a husband by the name of Rinaldo. He brought Rinaldo to
a hairdressing school in Montreal where he caught on very
fast and now has a thriving business in the heart of downtown.
Partnerships were also established with La Giaconda (Pietro
famed stylist can't even go on vacation without being asked
to do women's hair. When he vacations in Cuba, he is often
asked to do hair in the salon of the local hotel in which
he stays. He asks for no payment, but for a tip to be given
to the salon manager (since Castro owns everything). All the
women comply with overwhelming generosity, thankful to have
their hair elaborately done by our Italo-Canadian star.
a fantastic business, I really enjoyed it," remembers
Mr. Giorgio. He's not the only one! Celebreties from all over
have flocked to be done up by Giovanni di Roma. People such
as Denise Bodette, wife of the director of the NAC and Pauline
Jewett who came from British Colombia to have her hair coiffed
by Giovanni all rave about the wonders of his talent.
After spending 16 years in Canada, Ottawa's favourite hairdresser
went back to Italy on vacation. There, he met Pina. Seven
months later, he flew back to Italy and married the woman
of his dreams.
has been there every step of the way ever since. She is his
secretary, business advisor and wife. Mrs. Giorgio has also
become a keystone member of the community. She volunteers
at the Grace Hospital and is on the board of directors at
Villa Marconi. The Giorgios "believe in the community"
and give generously of their time and money to numerous charities.
"The community is our heritage and we need to teach our
children to support the community," says Giorgio.
Giorgios have 2 children: Nicolas and Dino. Nicolas runs the
family business now (Byron Rental Properties and Giorgio Rentals
& Holdings) and Dino runs CMN for the Workman's Compensation
Board. In the future, Pina and Giovanni plan on travelling,
letting the boys run the business and supporting Villa Marconi.