South Beach celebrity stylist Oribe Canales touts himself as a savior of hair, his hands weaving the tresses of A-listers over three decades, from Tyra Banks to Jennifer Lopez to Rihanna.
But an Instagram image of Canales likening himself to Jesus — it depicts his stylized avatar nailed to a cross, blow dryer in hand, surrounded by a sea of beautiful blonds — has landed him in a messy legal tangle. His own business partners are suing him over it, arguing it opens the brand to “hatred, distrust, ridicule, contempt and disgrace.”
The Instagram post, which boasted the caption “Kinda Genius,” has been removed since a judge granted a temporary restraining order in the lawsuit brought earlier this month by Oribe Hair Care.
The trademark infringement lawsuit was filed in South Florida federal court, the latest rift in a business dispute between the company’s co-founders and Canales, who also runs a renowned Lincoln Road salon.
Canales’ career has spanned three decades, marked by his colorful curls on runway models in the late 1980s, his work with super models like Cindy Crawford in the 1990s, the permed wigs of Jennifer Lopez in the 2000s and models on many magazine covers today.
The Cuban-born stylist started Oribe Hair Care in 2007 alongside industry veterans Teyva Finger and Daniel Kaner. Using a stylized “O” logo, the company sells everything from high-end styling gels to shampoos to hair brushes.
But court records show ongoing company infighting. Two years ago, he sued Finger and Kaner in New York, claiming they were undercutting business by launching cheaper competing brands. That lawsuit is still ongoing. Then this month, his partners sued him and his Lincoln Road salon, saying he turned over all of his rights in the “Oribe” brand to the haircare company.
At issue is Canales’ personal Instagram account, which features artsy photos of his high-profile clients such as Naomi Campbell, Christy Turlington and Linda Evangelista, plus photos of his haircare line of products. He boasts over 47,000 followers.
The haircare company itself maintains a separate Instagram account.
The Jan. 16 post showed Canales, wearing a black suit and shades, attached to the cross, a pair of scissors in his left hand, a hair dryer in his right. The cross acts as the “I” in a large print of his name.
The lawsuit pointed out that many of the 75-plus comments included negative comments from Instagram users:
“Love the originality, but NO.”
“Jesus walked on water. Oribe walked on Jesus!!”
“If this came out on any product, bag, shirt, display ANYTHING it would not go in my salon.”
The images in the post are “deeply offensive and distasteful” and “create confusion as to whether they have been approved or sponsored by” the haircare company itself, the lawsuit said.
The stylist could not be reached. Canales’ lawyer, Jeremy Anderson, declined to comment. But in an e-mail included in the lawsuit, Anderson wrote that Canales had every right to promote his salon as long as it wasn’t promoting a rival brand.
“It is not competitive with [Oribe Hair Care] and is artistic expression that is designed to create publicity, which may ultimately drive business to the salon,” Anderson wrote.
The company’s lawyers also declined to comment.