Janis Levy has led a remarkable life. Having intermittently modelled from the age of four, victory in the Face of London competition in her teens and a life-changing encounter with John Frieda culminated in her starring as the iconic Cadbury Flake girl and enjoying a 14-year Hollywood career. Coming face to face with the lady herself, The Leaders Council looks back on her unique life and career and explores how she eventually came to swap the glitz of showbiz for the glamour of Hair Development - the family business founded by her late beloved father, Stanley - of which she remains Creative Director today.
In this third chapter exploring Janis Levy’s life, The Leaders Council uncovers how the arrival of her daughter prompted a move back to her roots, and how she made the transition from a successful model and actor to an expert businesswoman in the family trade.
Becoming a mother had undoubtedly changed Janis Levy’s life forever. Completely and utterly devoted to her child, life on stage and screen was flung to the sidelines and replaced by a longing for stability within which to raise her daughter.
In search of that stability, Janis chose to return to her roots and become involved in the family business, within which she enjoyed so much of her formative years.
“It just made sense going back to the family business because I grew up inside it,” Janis smiles fondly. “My grandmother lived in Petticoat Lane and had eleven kids, my father was always at work, and I still remember sitting under the hooded dryer with my hair in rollers grabbing a salmon sandwich from Booba’s handbag! The salt of the earth come from the East End, I think we may be the longest established business there. My father should have been the Mayor of Stepney Green, he brought so much expertise and innovation into the area and industry, much employment to the locals and never turned his back on East London even when everyone else moved away.”
Janis has been involved with Hair Development full-time for many years. Working within the family business has also enabled her personal and professional relationship with her cousin, Managing Director Mark Burns [pictured, left], to flourish.
Mark first became involved with Hair Development as a co-director 12 years ago after spending nineteen years working in the fraud department at Barclays Bank. Mark and Janis have headed up the business since company founder and CEO, Janis’s father, Stanley, passed away in 2018. Their input has helped the company consolidate its position as the longest-established human-hair extension and replacement experts in the country and now Hair Development has become an award-winning, much lauded company.
HD’s work to date has included designing and supplying hair for feature films such as Pirates of the Caribbean and Lord of the Rings, the original Spitting Image, when Stanley designed the hair for Miss Piggy and Margaret Thatcher, TV, theatre, celebrities, people who suffer hair loss due to chemotherapy, alopecia or genetics, supplying hair extensions and hair replacement systems wholesale and retail worldwide and training the industry in the expertise of hair replacement and laser hair re-growth therapy. Janis and Mark also draw immense pride from having been named a Best Practice Representative in the hair industry for The Parliamentary Review in 2021, and also being made members of The Leaders Council.
Discussing her relationship with Mark, Janis candidly says: “When I was in LA, Mark arrived having flown in from Las Vegas. He stayed in my apartment for a week or so, I showed him all around the city, and from that time we became close friends. “I think of Mark as my brother. Mark and my father had a wonderful partnership, working closely together for many years. Now Mark and I have taken the helm at Hair Development. We have a superb HD team who have been with us for many, many years and a wonderful client base which we’re looking to expand.”
Janis adds: “I became Creative Director about eleven years ago. As a lover of the written word, I write editorials, adverts, and edit everything that comes through. I’m starting to work more on the website too. Mark is very much the left side of the brain for the business and I’m the right side.”
Today, Janis’s passion for the hair industry is infectious in all aspects of her work. Hair Development is a member of The Trichological Society and continually strives to establish new methods of treatment, hair replacement, enhancement and pioneering techniques. Mark and Janis are so invested in upskilling those currently working in the hair industry and inspiring the next generation of hair stylists, and HD have formed a training academy with a specialist programme specifically for professionals in the hair industry and for barbers to become certified in expertly dealing with clients that present with hair loss.
“Barbers are incredibly creative people, but many don’t know what to do when people suffer hair loss and that sees them lose out on clients,” Janis explains.
“Hair Development have created a programme which enables them to keep their clients for life, whether through hair replacement or laser hair re-growth therapy. HD is also expanding, and we are in the process of opening another location in Essex.
“We are also incredibly excited to be launching our very first own brand, HD Elite Weft, exclusive to Hair Developments in the UK, and the most gentle, undetectable, unique and secure extension method.”
In many respects, Janis’s life - in which she has crossed the divide from TV and film acclaim to success in the world of business - has seen her come full circle and provided her with a unique insight. She has both been the one being prepped before going on camera to being the one helping actors and celebrities look fabulous before venturing onto the screen. While life on both sides of the camera has been both stimulating and rewarding, one thing Janis never truly lost sight of was her childhood passion for writing. With that ambition left to achieve, Janis is hoping to fulfil another dream by finding a literary agent.
For one who has never let her love of writing fade away, even in an extraordinary world which saw her become a successful model, actress and businesswoman, it seems somewhat fitting that for her next major accomplishment, Janis should fulfil her enduring childhood dream. Come what may as the page turns into her next chapter, Janis Levy’s story, for the incredible rollercoaster it has already been, is far from over.
Photo: Janis Levy [right] alongside her cousin and HD Managing Director, Mark Burns [left]. Photo provided by Janis Levy