When Antoine Vella was only 11 years old, he tagged along with his father, who owned a hairdressing salon in Birkirkara, toing and froing for five years during his school lunchbreak to gain experience in order to be able to follow in his father’s footsteps.

At the tender age of 10, he joined the Society of Christine Doctrine (MUSEUM), which is close to his heart and in which he is still very much involved today.

“Both my passion for the art of hairdressing, as well as my strong commitment to the Society, have filled my life with a sense of achievement,” says Vella, 72, who has been Villa Messina’s official hairdresser for the past 24 years.

Having started his career in 1964 in his very first salon at the Police Headquarters in Floriana, where he spent four years, Vella then moved to the Phoenicia Hotel – “a beautiful and completely different experience which started me off on my long journey”.

After three years of hard work, during which he established his first real client base, Vella moved once again in 1971, this time to the Verdala Hotel in Rabat, where he spent 25 long years.

“I was happy here and the lessons I previously learnt – mostly about the importance of building a good rapport with clients – came in handy. In fact, my clients have always shown me great respect and loyalty,” says Vella.

In 1997, when the Verdala closed down for refurbishment, Vella tried moving to Villa Messina.

“This was a providential opportunity! I believe God works in mysterious ways, closing one door while opening another. In three weeks, I miraculously moved lock, stock and barrel into my new hairdressing salon at the CareMalta home.”

Vella’s new adventure here was enriched by his deep spirituality and willingness to lend a helping hand with the running of the chapel and other spiritual services for residents. Having been part of MUSEUM for so long, he was the perfect person for the job.

“I feel ever so happy to be doing the two things I love most – hairdressing and being spiritually part of the community at Villa Messina. The residents are all happy to see me. They know me well. Together, we have built special bonds. Many also come to my salon for a hairdo every week,” Vella says.

“There has not been a single day when I did not look forward to being at my salon. These last 24 years at Villa Messina have been an amazing journey. Each day feel exactly the same as my first working day with my father.”

Vella’s salon at the care home is currently closed due to COVID-19 restrictive measures in place.

“2020 has been a strange and disruptive year, during which I missed being in contact with the residents and being there for them spiritually.”

Apart from taking good care of the chapel, Vella organises daily Mass, says prayers and assists in administering the sacrament of Holy Communion.

“The residents not only miss me as their hairdresser but also spiritually,” says Vella, who looks forward to better times… and the day when he can return to Villa Messina, which he considers as his second home, to carry on with his work, both physically and spiritually.