The zombie amongst Turkish hairdressers

„Being Turkish and a hairdresser in Cologne is a cliché, I know that. But I am not that cliché. I am the zombie amongst Turkish hairdressers“ says Gülay Toprak. She is the owner of “Mythos – Hair & Style” at the corner of Händelstraße and Richard-Wagner-Straße. Her story:

“I opened the shop at Händelstraße in 2010. Before that, the shop was located at Eigelstein since 1995. I had to leave there because the house was supposed to be gentrified. I sure liked it at Eigelstein. It is a neighbourhood where people know each other and say hello to each other. Plus, it’s super-multicultural. Since I am from the very colourful disctrict of Cologne-Mülheim, this was very important to me.

Yes, I am a “Müllemer Mädche“, a “girl from Mülheim”, as you would say in Cologne dialect. I was born in 1967 and belong to the first generation. My parents came from Turkey as guest-workers. When I was put to school in the seventies, there was only one other Turkish child in class. They seated me and the boy right next to each other, thinking they would do as a favour. However, it didn’t work out. We painted each other with markers all the time until we were separated and we didn’t make peace until fourth grade.

Nowadays, my mother and my older siblings spend more time in Turkey than here. I will never do that. I feel more at home in Cologne. During puberty I was very uncertain of my identity. I felt, I had to decide for one identity or the other. But there is nothing to decide. A human being is a human being and I don’t have a national feeling. I am a cosmopolitan, a girl of the world.

I live in the centre of Cologne now, close to my shop. But once a week I volunteer at Sozialistische Selbsthilfe Mülheim [socialistic self-help Mülheim]. It is a commune founded in 1979 and it still exists, because everybody involved really fights for this project. I prepare meals and do haircuts for donations. I enjoy seeing that such a thing works. I am critical of capitalism, yet I know, I am a part of it myself. I am happy to have a compensation for that.

Becoming a hairdresser wasn’t my plan from the beginning. In school I was convinced, that hairdresser have boyfriends with sports coupés and permanent waves. I did not want to become that cliché. I was good at biology, chemistry and I was interested in skin. Hence I became a beautician. One day, this bored me and I wanted to become a makeup-artist. In order to do that, you must pass a hairdresser-training. So I brought myself to do that. As a beautician I worked all by myself a lot. When you work in a hairdresser’s shop, you divide work and you can pass your knowledge on to younger people. I began to like that a lot.

I opened my own shop, because I wanted to be free. I used to have all kinds of ideas that were not appreciated by my former bosses. Like doing a social project in the shop or an art vernissage. At “Mythos” I often have young independent artists show their work. I have a curator who chooses the work very precisely. I don’t get involved in that. But sometimes I ask him: Can’t all of this happen more quickly?

What’s my style? Well, I am not a Gothic, I am totally Gülay. But I do like the dark side of life. I like to have some funny horror-decoration in my shop the whole year. Like skulls made of plastic, balloon-skeletons and creepy puppets. It all began, when I spent a lot of time in London. I enjoy macabre stories from the old times and I like steampunk-fashion. I like everything occult, mystic and magic.

With the people from Art of Dark [a boutique in Cologne] I once organized a zombie-walk. It’s a demonstration, where everybody is dressed as a zombie. It was meant to be against capitalism. It is actually a peaceful walk, but it looks violent. All that artificial blood is just a means to get people’s awareness, you know. In advance, I taught people how to paint their faces and dress themselves as zombies. I would like to repeat that one day. And I would love to shoot a zombie movie. That’s my dream: to shoot a movie for eternity.“