Georgetown’s Violet in the White House


It’s always exciting to get that special call. From the White House. A personal call. Asking if you would be willing to come and help the first lady or the president with something that requires your expertise.

It’s happened twice now to Marcella Johnstone, a master stylist at Georgetown’s Violet Salon and Spa at 1513 Wisconsin Ave. NW.

“I’ve been invited personally to do first lady Jill Biden’s hair,” Johnstone told The Georgetowner on May 9 (rolling the r in “personally,” “first” and “hair” in her charming Scottish brogue). “She was very nice, very friendly. While I was there, the president popped in. He was nice, too, and looks much younger than he does on television.”

The first time Johnstone went to the White House was in the early evening. POTUS and FLOTUS had just returned from New Mexico and were preparing for the president’s “100 Days” speech. The second time, Johnstone was asked to come in the morning. Both times she had to take a COVID test at the White House and wait for the (negative) results before being conducted to the presidential living quarters and the small beauty salon located there.

“I brought all my tools, but they had everything, too,” said Johnstone. She spent about an hour each time with the first lady. They chatted. But Johnstone would not reveal anything that was said or what she saw.

The opportunity to do Jill Biden’s hair came about because one of Johnstone’s regular clients works at the White House. “The first lady had admired her hair styling and asked who did it. That led to the invitation,” Johnstone said.

Was she nervous?

“Oh, I’ve done people like that before,” Johnstone said, laughing. It turns out that, in London, she was on the “royal list” of hair stylists. “I’ve done Princess Alexandra’s daughter’s hair — Marina Ogilvy — and others when I lived there. It’s fun being on the royal list. You never know who will call you.”

Johnstone has been with Violet Salon for almost two years now. But she and others at Violet had been at a salon up the block for some two decades. When they faced an irresolvable labor conflict in 2019, they left as a team. Violet was expanding, so they moved together down the block.

“It was a happy move and we became committed to giving back to our profession and our community,” Johnstone told this reporter in an interview in 2019. Before the pandemic, they had started regular monthly meetings with young stylists and those opening salons to give them support.

Then the pandemic closed everyone down. In the summer of 2020, however, when Violet was one of the first salons to open up on a limited basis, it started giving free weekly makeovers to first responders identified by clients. Beginning in 2021, the salon has partnered with Northstar Tutoring on a necessities drive to help low-income children with learning needs.

“We believe that a business should be more than an amenity to a community, it should be a member,” reads the Violet Salon mission statement.

Now part of Violet Salon’s community: the first family of the United States.

Marcella Johnstone of Violet Salon and Spa in Georgetown. Courtesy Violet Salon.

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