Soapbox: Tabatha Coffey

There may be no other name in reality TV that sends more shivers down your spine than Tabatha Coffey. (Well, probably Kris Jenner, but that’s a given.) Bravo’s tough-talking, ass-kicking salon diva is back, but this time with a new trick up her tailored sleeve: Tabatha is taking over all kinds of businesses! From B&Bs to, yes, a SoCal gay bar, Tabatha is playing corporate therapist in the new season of her hit show—but first she’s giving us the details on growing up in strip clubs, getting out of her comfort zone and proudly standing up for her community. 

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The thing that I love about my show is getting in there and giving people a fresh set of eyes. And now we’re expanding! We’re taking the principles that we have always taken with Tabatha’s Salon Takeover and expanding into other businesses. I’ve always personally had the philosophy that business is business. Although my expertise is being a hairdresser, running a business, whether it’s a salon, a bar, a coffee shop, is the same across the board. You still have to be a good leader, make sure you take care of your customers and give them a really good experience, have a really high-end product and manage your staff on a day-to-day basis. 

 I think this was a natural expansion and progression for us. I’ve had so many people reach out to me and say, “I love what you’re doing for salons. I wish you could do that for my business.” Or, “I do this, but I learn so much from watching your show. I wish you could come here.” So it really was just very organic to go into other businesses and help them. 

I was up for the challenge, and it was really exciting to be able to go into other businesses and, in a way, be taken out of my comfort zone. The thing that I found interesting was that whether you walk into a frozen yogurt store or doggy day care, the issues aren’t really different than what any business owner is facing out there. They’re all challenging in their own way. But come on. You know what happens: Everyone asks me to get there and then all of a sudden I walk in and they say, “Oh my God, what did I do?!” I think the thing people will enjoy is seeing different businesses and different elements of that, and that was exciting for me. And come on! Me taking over a gay bar! What’s better than that?!

It. Was. Fabulous. Club Ripples is an institution in Long Beach. It was actually the first gay dance club in the area, which truly means a lot. But the owners kind of rested on their laurels and didn’t realize that times have changed and competition is fierce. The gay community has changed! So this was kind of getting men out of their old-school thinking and bringing them into the new millennium, which was challenging.

Now, listen: I grew up in strip clubs. It was actually my first job ever, working in my parents’ club. So growing up in strip clubs prepared me for life full stop. Ripples and the clubs my parents owned were two very different animals, but did it prepare me for taking over a gay bar? Sure. I essentially grew up in gay bars and clubs. 

I really am still in shock when I walk into some businesses for the first time. It really amazes me that some people are so stuck in their ways or truly don’t see the forest from the trees that they don’t see the problem is staring them in the face. But it really is the payoff of seeing someone turn their business around that keeps me coming back for more. Either that or I’m insane. But I truly love helping the businesses and it’s been really gratifying for me as well. It’s tough because I go on an emotional journey as well. I get pissed off, I get frustrated, I get mad that people aren’t listening, but at the end of it, when I get to sit back and see when people have changed and made things better for them, and sometimes not, that is really gratifying for me.

The show is truly about transformation, but not just on the physical level. It’s about people transforming their ways in doing business and sometimes changing the way they look at themselves. I think everyone at some point in time has been their own worst enemy. So part of what I do is hold a mirror up and show everyone who has a part in the business what they can do to be better. 

What you see of me is one dimensional. It’s accurate and I’m no different in my own business than I am in other people’s business, but you only see one side of my personality. That’s Tabatha in work mode, and elevated work mode at that. I am a little bit like a bull in a china shop, and I think people have a misconception that that’s the only side of me.

I’m still gobsmacked and thrilled by all of this. I can’t believe how lucky I am to have the opportunity to do this amazing job. I don’t view myself as a celebrity—I’m well known because I have a television show. But the nice thing about having people follow and listen to you is being able to help people the way I do with the show, and being able to have a voice and talk about gay rights and the things that are going on in our community. I think the more people that are in the public and can reach people—especially when it comes to gay rights—it’s great because the many different faces that we have and the many different people that we all are shows people how diverse we are and helps break some of those stereotypes that people have. 

Moderated by Jeff Katz; art by Dave Arkle. Catch Tabatha Takes Over Tuesdays on Bravo