The World at His Fingertips

Salon Owner Provides Head-To-Toe Advice for Multicultural Clientele and Radio Listeners by Cristina Bollings

If Charlotte is fast becoming an international city, Marco Astopilco should be crowned its international style-maker.

Tropical music plays in his relaxed beauty salon on Park Road, and a mix of languages and accents flows – Spanish, Jamaican, Polish, Portuguese.  He and most of his staff speak English and Spanish.

            He takes his expertise to the airwaves every Friday morning on Radio Lider WNOW-AM (1030), one of the region’s most popular Spanish-language radio stations, helping listeners with tips about la belleza (beauty) – everything from home hair coloring to leg bronzing.

            Today, Marco is in Lima, Peru, styling hair and applying makeup for a 15-year-old girl’s debutante-style birthday party, called a quinceanera.  The teen is a Charlotte client’s niece.

            Marco, who is in his late 30s, left his hometown near Lima for New York as a young man with dreams of being a clothing designer.  When he realized the money it would take to train in that industry, he turned to beauty school instead.

            He trained in New York, Boston and Miami before settling in Charlotte in the late 1980s.  He worked at several area salons before opening his own in 2000.

            “The first couple of years in Charlotte, I saw a lot of potential.  Charlotte was growing,” he says, settling into a gold colored chair in his salon’s waiting area.

            The city’s increasing diversity made him realize this would be a good place to stay.  “I wanted to stay in a place that was relaxing – not too wild.  I feel like I’ve grown with the city.”

            His vision was to open a salon where people from any background could settle in and feel comfortable while getting beautiful.

            “People can feel like they are in Miami or in New York,” he said.  “I wanted a place where people can feel at home.  Everybody can speak a different language and it is not a problem.”

Beauty not tied to bucks

            About six years ago, radio talk show host Aura Maria Gavilan-Posse began inviting Marco on her morning show for discussions about beauty issues.

            Marco knows the listeners range from construction workers to housewives to business people, so he makes it a point to pick topics that appeal to a range of interests and incomers.

            His biggest message: No matter how much money you have, you can take care of yourself.  “That has to be so important – to take care of the inside, not just the outside.  We talk about food, vitamins, exercise.”

            He and Gavlin-Posse chat like two friends over coffee.  On the recent shows, they discussed the importance of wearing a well fitting bra, tips for using bronzers and how to make exfoliating creams at home.

            Marco estimates that about half of his salons clientele hails from Latin America, but he and his three other stylists serve lots of native Carolinians and people from all parts of the globe.  The salon’s customers are diverse in age, ranging from teens to those in their 70s.



Trusted with more than hair

             Sometimes, his clients need help with a little more than hair and makeup.

            They’ll bring him four or five outfits they are considering for a job interview or major event, to find out his favorite.

            “I feel like all females are beautiful.  There are no ugly women, only those that don’t know how to take care of themselves,” he says.  “Everybody has taste, but some just need a little help.”

            Charlotte corporate attorney Ana Flynn loves chatting with Marco in Spanish about world events and legislative developments during her cuts and colors.

            “We talk about a million things, and he never gossips.”

            Her trust in him is so great that she faces away from the mirror during the entire session.

            “I tell him to do whatever he wants to do, I trust him so much,” she says.

            When Barri Helms first took a seat in Marco’s chair a dozen years ago, Marco had hair down to his waist and Helms’ locks hadn’t gone gray.

            She says she doesn’t speak a lick of Spanish, but she enjoys hearing it around her at the salon. The cuts and her chats with Marco are what keep her going back.

            “He’s honest about what he thinks will look good,” she said.  “Every time I would show him pictures he would say, ‘That’s fine, but let’s change this or that a little.’”