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A hair-raising encounter with Hillary

THERE aren’t many of us who will get to meet the American Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, much less fix her hair. But Deborah Knight, of Soul Hair Design, did just that during Clinton’s visit to Siem Reap on the weekend. This came about when the US Embassy contacted Knight a week ago, asking if she was prepared to do Clinton’s hair.

This meant that Deborah Knight had to keep her exciting news secret for well over a week. And she’s still not revealing any state secrets, because all she’ll say is: “She’s really lovely. Very down to earth, we had a lovely chat.”

It’s not hard to image that they’d get on. They are two smart, no-nonsense women with jobs to do. Knight is a gently straight-talking Aussie who moved here to work on a vocational training program for kids earlier this year. But this wasn’t her first time working with children or the disadvantaged. As well as being a hairdresser with 20 years’ experience, this wonderfully accomplished woman is also a qualified primary school teacher and spent the last two years working with marginalised young women and girls in the Northern Territory of Australia.

She created Soul Hair Design five months ago, in a specially adapted salon above Wild Poppy Boutique, opposite the Hotel de la Paix. The salon provides a cut and blow dry for $13 for women, $8 for men, as well as colouring, high- and low-lights, eyelash and brow tinting.

Soul Hair Design is open in the afternoons and early evening, from 3pm on, during the week, and on the weekends by appointment.

Best of all, being the only professional western hair dresser in town, she takes the “surprise” element out of getting your hair cut in Siem Reap.

Until she set up shop, one of Led Zeppelin’s immortal anthems, Communication Breakdown, was my theme tune for trips to the hair dresser in Siem Reap.

The howling lyrics, “Communication breakdown, it’s always the same! / having a nervous breakdown, drive me insane!” rarely failed to be apt as instructions for long become short, no was translated to yes, curly goes straight, and another glum hair cut is had. If you don’t have straight black hair, don’t speak much Khmer and don’t consider a trip to the hairdresser should be part of life’s great mysterious adventure, getting your hair cut used to be the sort of challenge I could do without.

Mercifully no more. Deborah is here. Just ask Hillary.

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