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Leon’s lifetime of elegance

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Leon’s lifetime of elegance

A varied life has certainly kept Leon D’Aulnais on his toes and he wouldn’t want it any other way.

In the heart of Noosa lives a man whose life story reads like a script lifted from the golden age of Hollywood.

Leon D’Aulnais, at 83, is not merely a hairdresser: he is a living legend whose journey through the realms of dance, glamour and style has left an indelible mark on the world around him.

Born in Sydney in 1941, Leon’s fascination with the world of ballet was ignited at the tender age of five, when the ethereal performance of Giselle captivated his young heart. Raised by a mother whose passion for ballet was palpable, Leon’s destiny seemed preordained.

Though he entered the realm of dance relatively late at 16, his innate talent, coupled with unwavering determination, propelled him to the zenith of his class, proving that age is no barrier to the pursuit of dreams. However, the practicalities of life soon beckoned, leading Leon to pivot towards a career in hairdressing. Little did he know that this decision would open doors to a world of glamour and intrigue beyond his wildest imaginings.

His tenure at Elizabeth Arden’s Sydney’s boutique salon marked the genesis of his ascent in the world of hairstyling, where his creativity, eye for detail, and passion for his craft set him apart as a master of his trade.

Leon’s debut in the world of cinema came with the groundbreaking film They’re A Weird Mob (1966). Leon found himself not only styling the hair of the actors but also making memorable appearances in several scenes. Cementing his status as a maestro of style, Leon was asked to work on the production of Diary of The Plastic Surgeon.

leon DAulnais With Claire Dunn in They’re a weird Mob

After realising that his passion for style had turned into success, Leon wanted to explore the world. He booked himself a one-way ticket through the East, via Russia, with the final stop in Copenhagen, where he found a job and began to enjoy European life. But the cold winter wasn’t pleasant and prompted another change – to London, where his brother lived. Leon approached the renowned Elizabeth Arden salon on Bond Street and secured a job for the next three years.

As his career gained momentum, word of Leon’s talents spread like wildfire, attracting a stream of A-listers to the salon. Jazz singer Sarah Vaughan and actresses such as Jane Powell, Donna Douglas and Cyd Charisse left looking more glamorous than ever, thanks to Leon’s expertise.

Among his most-esteemed clients was the British actor Vivien Leigh, who found solace in Leon’s chair amid personal turmoil. Adorned in a red Christian Dior suit, she entranced Leon during her performances in Twelfth Night and Lady of Camellia, leaving an indelible impression of her stunning elegance.

The Elizabeth Arden Salon served as a playground for burgeoning talent, and Leon relished immersing himself in  British culture. Rubbing shoulders with famous actresses, models and societal luminaries, he indulged in fine cuisine  and high fashion, basking in the glow of pure glamour.

Amid his father’s health struggles, Leon made the difficult decision to return to his hometown of Sydney, where he assumed a position at the esteemed Alexander’s salon in Double Bay. Yet, the allure of the exotic soon beckoned, prompting Leon’s relocation to Hong Kong, where he embarked on his new chapter: working in a new salon alongside a trusted friend.

This period of his life spanned more than two decades.

In 1997, Leon found himself drawn back to Sydney once more, and soon rediscovered his passion for ballet.

Fast forward to 2019 and Leon retired in Noosa, but is still enjoying ballet in the skilful hands of Angelika Burroughs, who runs FitBarre: a fitness regime for adults based on the grace and beauty of ballet.

Angelika, a former professional ballerina, combines the core building exercises she learnt at ballet school in Kiev in the Ukraine with ballet movements and her own choreography, making getting fit an art form and stimulating for the brain as well as the body.

Leon (pictured with classmate Christina), relishes the classes and last  year performed a solo to Tchaikovsky’s Waltz of the Flowers at Eumundi’s Christmas Extravaganza.

Leon’s infectious charm, coupled with his witty banter and twinkling eyes, endear him to all who grace the FitBarre classes, and he continues to dance his way through life, spreading joy and inspiration wherever he goes.

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