by Jamee Larson
Many people dream of living the glamorous lifestyle of a celebrity. The allure of travelling the world, enjoying unlimited bank accounts, and feeling revered by millions can seem inviting as we see these lifestyles portrayed in today’s popular media. But for some, that appeal isn’t exactly what it appears to be when seen up close and personal. Amy Wagner was able to become a part of the celebrity world, working one-on-one with some of today’s biggest musical names. Ultimately, however, she found the glamour of family and home to be far greater than anything she found on the road.
Amy grew up the youngest of ten children in nearby Ada, Minnesota. Being part of such a large family, she currently has twenty nieces and nephews and sixteen grand-nieces and nephews, giving her a strong sense of belonging. “At a very young age I realized I was a natural caregiver,” she said. The majority of her youth was spent dressing people up and doing make-up. “I’ve always had a passion for colors, fashion, and design; always been very creative,” she explained. Those skills, however, did not lead to a great deal of success in high school. Wagner spent the majority of her formative years “undecided” as far as possible career paths. It wasn’t until her hairdresser suggested attending hair school that Wagner felt like she had any direction.
Amy decided to enroll at the Horst Education Center in Minneapolis, now called the Aveda Institute, after graduating from Ada-Borup High School. The small town girl admits to struggling a bit in her new surroundings, saying that it was her father’s hand-drawn map that helped her navigate the “big city” for several months after her arrival. “I had that map in my car for almost a year,” she said. Wagner excelled at Horst and finally felt like she had found her calling. Interested in obtaining more training, Amy continued her education at the Vidal Sassoon Hair Academy in London. “This was a really significant part of my training,” she said. “I finally realized that I was truly on the right path.”
Wagner returned to Fargo and a job at Hair Success. Despite moving up to manager within a couple of years, Amy always had the desire of becoming someone’s personal assistant in the back of her mind. “I just really like making people happy,” she said, attributing her personality to a childhood spent taking care of people. After a brief move to Phoenix, Wagner secured a job at Aveda Corporate in Blain, Minnesota, eventually becoming the Internal Sales Manager, continuing to do hair on the side. “I would always tell people, ‘remember when you become famous who’s your girl,” Amy said. Someone did in fact remember her, and Wagner soon found herself meeting with Lorrie Line about becoming the musician’s personal assistant. “It was a totally freak thing,” Wagner explained, adding that Line simply called Aveda’s 1-800 number on the back of a product bottle looking for someone to accompany her on the road. Amy had just done the hair of the woman who answered the phone, who promptly referred her to Line. The rest, as they say, is history.
Wagner was hired as Line’s personal assistant, originally traveling with her holiday tour. “We hit 42 different cities in 45 days,” Amy explained. “It is hard core work, but it was my dream.” Wagner loved the road and thrived in the environment, relying on her ability to multi-task. The only catch was the time spent away from her family. “Holidays are a huge deal in a big family,” she said. “It was very difficult.” Wagner decided to leave Aveda Corporate and work for Line full-time, initially working in the office and eventually accompanying the singer on her expanded tour. When the recession hit in 2009, however, Amy’s life was once again thrown a curveball.
“The entertainment business took a huge hit during the recession,” Wagner explained. “People just didn’t have the money they used to.” Line was unable to take Amy on the road with her during the spring and summer months, so Wagner once again turned to Aveda. “The initial plan was to find something until the holidays or until things got better,” she said, but unfortunately that never happened. Amy worked as the Manager and eventually General Manager of Aveda Salon in Minneapolis, trying to adjust to the return to everyday life. “I really enjoyed inspiring the other hairdressers,” she said. “We did really great things there.” The entertainment business wouldn’t leave Amy alone, however, and contacts she had made while touring with Line began reaching out to her. At the time, Lady Gaga had just released her first album and was preparing for a worldwide tour. Wagner was asked to accompany her. It was the opportunity many people can only dream about. For Wagner, however, the need to settle down and establish some consistency outweighed the allure. The thought of being displaced with no family and being asked to deal with the demands and attention of a megastar wasn’t appealing. “I wasn’t interested in chasing a girl around the world that’s not wearing underwear,” she said. “I’m still a small town girl at heart.”
Staying in Minnesota has not prevented the opportunities for coming Wagner’s way, however. Industry contacts continued reaching out to her for short-term, local gigs. A day with Tom Jones at Mystic Lake, an assistant to Def Leppard while they performed at the Minnesota State Fair, three days with Wilson Phillips in Minneapolis – Amy took advantage of the opportunity to have the best of both worlds. “I was able to stay involved in the industry while still living a normal life,” she said. “I really realized that these people are all just people,” adding that she had made it her mission to help people understand that. “I see my teenage nieces obsessing over magazines and want them to understand that at the end of the day, when the makeup and hair is gone, celebrities are just like you and I.”
Wagner quit working at Aveda last year, heading into a new chapter of her life with a different mindset. “I wanted to take care of myself for once,” she said. “I wanted to go home where I belong.” After one more holiday tour with Line, Amy left the hustle and bustle of the Twin Cities for the peace and tranquility of her hometown. Like many people, Wagner’s priorities have changed as time has progressed. “I just want to be a really good wife and mother,” she explained. Amy and her boyfriend Eric are currently expecting their first child and Amy is adjusting to life on the farm. “My life is harvest now,” she explained. “It was what I was born to do.” Even after all of the celebrities Wagner has worked with and all that she has experienced in the entertainment industry, her hero is still someone close to home. “I hold my mom on the highest of pedestals,” she said. “Regardless of how many kids there were, we always had breakfast on the table in the morning and supper prepared from scratch at night. She’s definitely my biggest role model.”
Although her future path may be uncertain, Amy knows that it will involve something creative. She has been creating feather hairpieces and clips for over ten years, something she is still passionate about. “My life motto is to be inspired by what inspires you,” she said. “That’s how I try to live.” Regardless if that involves catering to the stars or helping out around the farm, Wagner is certain things will turn out as they are supposed to. “My future is unsure,” she said, “but I’m on this path for a reason.”
To the Stars