Acting and the Art of Hair: Bristol Branson

Posted in Feature, More Stories, Theater and Dance, Visual Art

Whidbey Life Magazine Contributor
November 19, 2014

Second Street Hair Boutique sits across the street from the Star Store in Langley. Guests coming in to get haircuts, colors, special event styles or other services enjoy a delightful view of the center of the town.

The salon is always humming with a mix of walk-in guests and regular clients. Owner Bristol Branson prides herself on providing a warm and welcoming environment with talented stylists. Her outgoing nature and aptitude for conversation come from her experiences as an actress.

Branson in the title role of WICA's 2005 production of "Sylvia"  (photo by Adam Michard)

Branson in the title role of WICA’s 2005 production of “Sylvia” (photo by Adam Michard)

Whidbey audiences may remember Branson from her time onstage at Whidbey Island Center for the Arts, where she played Sylvia the dog in “Sylvia,” Brooke/Vicky in “Noises Off,” Maria in “School for Scandal” and Shelby in “Steel Magnolias.”

Branson is a founding company member of Island Shakespeare Festival. With ISF, she has played Celia in “As You Like It,” Lady Capulet in “Romeo and Juliet” and Titania in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” She continues to work with ISF as the company’s Resident Hair Designer.

I’ve had the pleasure of working with Bristol in the theatre on a few occasions,” said Eric Mulholland, local actor and ISF Associate Artistic Director. “One thing I love about acting with her is her generosity on stage. Every actor hopes his or her scene partner will meet them with openness and curiosity; Bristol has both qualities in abundance. It’s a real joy to ‘play the play with Bristol.’ I think she’s a very talented actor!”

She was raised on a sixteen-acre farm in Freeland with her incredibly supportive parents William and VonnaLee Branson. “I spent many a summer day braiding my horse’s hair out in the pastures,” she fondly recalled. After high school, Branson left the island to travel the country. Her travels made her realize what a special community Whidbey shelters.

“It gave me perspective and appreciation for the island.”

Returning home, she wanted to find a way to integrate her love of people, the Whidbey community and her artistic expression. She had started doing hair in the dressing rooms backstage at the theater and other actors began coming to her for similar assistance. She delighted in the experience of helping them transform into their characters.

Deciding to capitalize on her skills, Branson started attending the cosmetology school— Gene Juarez Academy—in 2008; while there, she won awards for combining artistic vision with technical skills.

The 2nd Street Hair Boutique in Langley  (photo by Kathryn Hunter)

The 2nd Street Hair Boutique in Langley  (photo by Kathryn Hunter)

In 2013, Branson heard that Langley Village Bakery was closing. Although she was sad to see the bakery leave, she recognized a great location and an opportunity to expand her business by opening a salon of her own.

Branson has staffed 2nd Street Hair Boutique with three full-time stylists in addition to herself. All of the stylists were raised in the South Whidbey School District. The owner takes pride in her stylists’ artistic and community interests: Natasha Nichols is a local musician, Eva Sherlock has performed with Whidbey Island Dance Theatre and Chava Hill, the Salon Manager, was active in 4-H.

Hill has known Branson since she was six years old. “I’ve always admired her,” she said. “She makes things look effortless, with class and grace.” Although she’s known Branson as a friend for more than twenty years, she said she’s found that working with Branson professionally has highlighted her skills of hard work and dedication.

Branson’s commitment to her craft has created a new, bustling business and she treasures her salon, her family, and her community.


Branson in the role of Titania in the ISP Production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” (photo by Michael Stadler)

“My heart is in Langley. I love how it makes me feel—our village by the sea. Everyone is so supportive of each other’s art…People appreciate each other, and I love it when members of the community come in and we can give them a truly personalized, genuine experience where they feel welcomed. My hope is to add to the fabric of Whidbey by helping people get the things they need to get done in a really lovely way.”

Learn more about 2nd Street Hair Boutique by visiting

Image at top: Bristol Branson near her salon in Langley. (photo courtesy of Branson)

Read other stories about the dual lives of Whidbey’s actors in this series “Acting and the Art of…” by Katie Woodzick see:
Acting and the Art of Communication: George Henny
Acting and the Art of Graphic Design: Morgan Bondelid

Katie Woodzick works at Hedgebrook as an External Relations Manager. She is also an actor and director who can be seen on local stages. Learn more at


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