Real Life

Kiwi dog groomer’s celebrity tell-all

Some of the biggest stars brought their pampered best friends to this talented stylist. They'd have been barking mad not to!

From the diva dogs with designer Louis Vuitton collars to Brad Pitt’s rescue pup (a British bulldog called Jacques) and Katy Perry’s vegan poodle Nugget, Erana Ferrone, 39, has performed many a trans-fur-mation as an award-winning “dog groomer to the stars”.

The mum-of-one spent a decade working at one of Hollywood’s most elite pet salons before returning to Auckland and opening her own grooming business, Hollywoof.

She tells the Weekly why moving to Tinseltown was the best decision she ever made.

“As a little girl, I was never into dolls – animals were my only love, and I had every pet imaginable and went on to ride horses. One day at Northcote College, the Servilles hairdressing academy came to school for careers day, and I said, ‘That’s what I want to do.’

Erana’s styles reflect the pooches’ personalities.

“So at 16, I left school to go there and ended up graduating as the top student. Four years later, I co-owned a salon and one of my clients was a dog groomer. I had never really heard of it but told her, ‘Oh, I’d love to do that’, and she offered to train me for free if I helped her out on a part-time basis.

“In 2007, I went on a three-week trip to Los Angeles to visit a friend over there. There were grooming salons on every corner and the dogs walking the streets were accessorised. Some of them were in baby strollers or carried in bags inside restaurants or taken to the gym while their owners lifted some weights. I was like, ‘Wow, this place is crazy about their dogs.’

“I fell in love with LA – then fell in love with my future husband Jason, whom I met at a Hollywood nightclub in the last week of my trip. His dad Steve Ferrone used to be the drummer for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. He said one of the other band member’s wives owned a dog-grooming day kennel and that I should come and check it out.

Erana and husband Jason on the red carpet.

“After returning to New Zealand, I made the decision that LA was where I wanted to be. I rented my house out, sold my share of the salon and moved there on a tourist visa. My first job was at a pet spa, where I saw my first B-list celebrities.

“I never got star-struck. Growing up, you learn to treat everyone the same, so moving to a culture where it’s all about who you know, how much money you have and how you look took a while to get used to.

“A friend I worked with became very famous very quickly after winning a US reality TV show called Groomer Has It. So it was just him and me running his shop in Hollywood.

‘One day Katy Perry bought $500 worth of cat toys for her cat Kitty Purry’

“That’s where I saw a lot of celebrities one-on-one, where we’d have to shut the salon down for them. Sometimes we’d be waiting around for up to two hours because they’d be so late.

“Before actress Brittany Murphy passed away, she came in all the time with her little Maltese, Clara. She was so sweet and always brought us lots of sushi to apologise for being late.

“That salon tragically burnt down, but I got a job with the season-two winner of Groomer Has It at his business Tailwashers – a prestigious salon for dogs and cats at the bottom of the Hollywood Hills. And that’s where I stayed for 11 years.

“Actors Harrison Ford, Katherine Heigl, Bob Odenkirk, Mandy Moore and Channing Tatum were some of the celebrities who brought their dogs in for me to groom.

“Katy Perry would often come in with her teacup poodle and one day she bought $500 worth of cat toys for her cat Kitty Purry in our adjacent retail shop.

“Actress Kristen Bell had two dogs that she would often bring into the self-wash area. Then we would give them lion cuts – shave them down, but keep big, boofy manes and a lion’s tail. Brad Pitt – or his brother – used to bring his British bulldog Jacques into the salon once a week for a medicated bath, as the dog had some skin issues.

Kristen’s two dogs get lion cuts.

“Of course, we were not allowed to take any photos of the dogs or ask the celebrities for autographs or selfies. It was very strict, very professional and the celebrities came to us because they knew they wouldn’t feel harassed.

“My most embarrassing moment came after I had no idea I had just been grooming actor Kevin Bacon’s dog. There used to be a Blockbuster DVD store next door to the salon and I had been telling my husband about my favourite movies as a kid. The film Tremors was one of them, starring Kevin.

“So I went in and hired Tremors and walked back into the shop and held the door open for the person behind me… which was Kevin Bacon. He saw the DVD I was holding and laughed, ‘Good movie!’ I was so embarrassed and quickly mumbled, ‘Yeah, you were great in it.’

“Due to celebrities travelling for work a lot and not always being with their dog 24/7, a lot of pets were left in the care of assistants. So while some were fussy about every piece of hair getting cut on their dog, I often had to say, ‘You need to take this dog to a vet because I think it’s got an ear infection or a tooth is falling out.’ It was often vanity before humanity.

“I was happy living in LA until I got pregnant with our daughter Zanya [now 10]. I didn’t want to raise her in LA where it is a stressful, busy lifestyle. Our salon only shut two days a year and I would often work seven to 14 days straight.

“One day, we were locked up for hours in the salon after a man shot a cop outside and was on the loose. Zanya was in daycare across town and I thought, I can’t live with this anxiety on a daily basis any more.

“In 2017, while Jason and Zanya remained in LA for school and work, I moved home to Auckland’s North Shore and told my parents, ‘If you don’t mind, I’m going to start grooming dogs out of your garage.’

“While I built up my own business and clientele, I flew back to LA every eight weeks and groomed in both places.

Finally, a year and a half later, Jason got a job down here and we settled in New Zealand together as a family.

‘I saw a lot of celebrities one-on-one, where we’d have to shut the salon down for them’

“I’m so proud of myself, especially after leaving high school early. Although I won’t live anywhere else but New Zealand now, moving to LA was the best decision I ever made. It taught me so much and also gave me a very thick skin.

“I dealt with so many demanding, entitled people – Kiwi dog owners are so laid-back by comparison.”

Quick fire

Can you share an interesting Hollywood experience?

“Being an on-set dog groomer for a Vogue magazine photo shoot in Bel-Air. The article was called The Pet Set and was about the rise in emotional support dogs. I had to be there to fluff the dogs up and create a ‘dog grooming environment’ and teach the models how to realistically hold the dogs for grooming. There was a lot of standing around, but I’m glad I did it and managed to get my name in the magazine credits.”

What’s the biggest misconception about being a dog groomer?

“People think it’s glamorous, fun and we play with dogs all day, but it’s not like that. It’s hard, sweaty work – where the dogs pee a lot – so you have to be physically strong but also mentally patient.”

Have you had a celebrity encounter where you didn’t recognise them?

“Yes, but not at the dog salon. I used to go to a lot of my father-in-law’s rock concerts and once had singer Stevie Nicks chatting away backstage to me, but I didn’t know who she was at the time!”

I think Kiwi dog owners should…

“… be more adventurous with their pet’s hairstyles. I’d love to do more mohawks and temporary colours.”

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