"It's peaceful but it's also happening."

That's how Robi Martin describes Castlecliff, Whanganui - a world away from her past life amongst New York's glitterati. But Martin is loving every minute of her new life in provincial New Zealand.

This week Martin and her husband Dr Michael Caruso were putting the finishing touches on their new salon Hyper Real Beauty, next to the Castlecliff library.

Just like the beauty salon they ran in Denver, Colorado, it offers treatments customers might expect on Rodeo Drive rather than Rangiora St.


As well as traditional hairdressing and makeup, Hyper Real Beauty will provide "medical aesthetic treatment".

"Treatments such as botox injections as well as filler injections for the face and lip creases and lines that sort of thing," Caruso said. "We'll also be doing some sclerotherapy which is treatment of spider veins."

Once the business becomes established, Dr Caruso will offer laser hair removal and other aesthetic medical procedures, slightly different operations to his day job as medical director at Whanganui Hospital's emergency department.

"I oversee the hiring of senior medical officers, training of the junior registered medical officers, and any number of other administrative tasks. Half my time is actually working in the emergency department on the floor, providing care to the emergency patients."

The husband and wife team were welcomed by locals with a blessing and an official opening by the Whanganui Chamber of Commerce.

Martin is relishing running her own business but says she will miss Vivo Salon in Victoria Ave where she was manager. Just as much as she misses the being makeup and hairdresser to the stars.

"It's just how I started my career, in New York City with Saturday Night Live, all sorts of TV shows and runway work - all sorts of fabulous things."

She's determined to provide the same customer experience, with care given to interior colours and chandelier lighting, which she says compliments skin tone. And the walls are covered with images of fashion icons... and glitter.


"It's all about good lighting. Nobody wants to sit in the hairdresser's chair for two hours and think how nasty they look being lit from above by can light."

Hyper Real Beauty is another sign of change at Castlecliff, one of New Zealand's fastest gentrifying areas.

"It was really quite bleak," Caruso said. "And now there's a real vibrance, vitality and community spirit.

"It seems so trendy when you come here on a Sunday morning. There's people out and about. It's a really lovely place to be. We feel quite privileged to be here."

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