If the dogs on Jess Rona’s Instagram feed could talk, they’d ask, “Beyoncé, what’s good?” At least, that’s what we think considering the wind machine they sit in front of in Rona’s videos looks just as powerful as one Bey would use.
Thanks to a mix of haircut photos and the aforementioned slo-mo wind machine videos, which are always set to a perfect soundtrack, the L.A.-based groomer’s Instagram account has gone viral. Rona’s 117,000-and-counting followers keep her in their feeds to see the stylish cuts she gives her furry clients.
In-between double-tapping pretty much post-Rona has uploaded since she's started sharing her work on Instagram, we talked to her about how her grooming Instagram account came to be, the art of picking the perfect song for her dog videos, and all the hair trends that exist in the dog grooming world.
How did you get your start in dog grooming and what do you love about it?
I got my start as a dog bather actually. As an aspiring actress, it seemed like the most flexible non 9-5 type job I could do. In the beginning, I worked every odd job related to grooming; doggie daycare, front desk at a grooming salon, dog walking, assistant to a dog trainer, etc. I was lucky enough to have grooming mentors, and I started learning to groom slowly over the years. After juggling waiting tables at night and grooming part time during the day, I decided to stop waiting tables and really commit to getting as good as I could as a groomer. I love so many things about it. I get to express myself through dogs, I love the reaction of the clients when they see their clean babies, and I love being creative and playing with fun haircuts. And the best part about this crazy new Instagram success is that my two worlds are colliding.
When did you start capturing your work on Instagram and how did the videos come about?
Three years ago I started working for myself so I would have more time for auditions. I didn't have a ton of clients, so I was just taking my time with each pup. I created @JessRonaGrooming so I could post grooming-only photos. One day I was blow-drying a Pekingese named Noodle and her ears flew up in the air. I grabbed my phone and filmed it and posted it. (This was before the slo-mo feature.) I thought it was so funny. A few months later, I got a new phone with slo-mo and started playing around with music and timing. I listen to music all day, so it organically started to take shape when a song I was listening to matched the tone of the dog I was blow-drying. Then, it became my favorite thing to do.
Posting pet content has become a huge trend on Instagram. What are your tips for taking good dog/pet Instagram photos?
I love it if a pup is expressing a fun emotion. I look at other Instagram accounts for inspiration. I love @harlowandsage. I don’t know how she gets those dogs to pose the way she does, but it’s the cutest thing. I find that when I put some love into it, it’s genuine and from the heart, and people respond to it. Lastly, be inspired by your pet! If they’re doing something goofy or cute, snap a photo instead of trying to stage something forced.
How do you go about choosing the music for each dog?
There are a few different ways I approach the music side of my videos. Sometimes I'll hear a song and be moved by it and think to myself 'I gotta use this song in a video!'. Other times I will shoot a video and get footage of a dog that has a certain tone or emotion and then I'm on the hunt for the perfect song. I have old videos in my phone from months ago that I can't find songs for!
Are some dogs more camera-ready than others? What is the funniest outtake that’s happened when trying to set up the shot?
I was thinking of making an outtakes video! I think every video has an outtake. I just need a dog to look at me for a second to get a good video since it's in slo-mo. If they look at me longer, that's even better. That way I can move my phone around to create more emotion. One time I was trying to get a video of my friend's puppy who just turned his back to me and curled in a ball and got comfortable facing the other way. Dogs usually try to avoid the blow dryer, so if they really don't like it, I'll just have them sit there and I'll do it without the wind.
Some of the dogs with the wind machine seriously rival Beyoncé. What breed/type of cut is your favorite to do, and do you keep your Instagram in mind when you’re doing cuts?
My favorite breeds to give haircuts on are mini poodles, but a good video needs some big fur flowing. I always want to put my best work on my Instagram, so I do try to do a good job. But my favorite breed (besides @TheGoodLifeOfStella) is a Cavalier King Charles. They don't need much trimming but a good blow out never does!
How is doing dog grooming different than human hair?
Each breed has a different coat type. Human hair is coarser. And a hair stylist for people doesn't clip nails, clean ears, and shave rears. (At least most don't.)
How do you go about choosing the cut for the dog? Are there dog hair trends?
Ooh! I'm all about Asian Fusion inspired looks. Not to be confused with that groomer who trimmed a dog's head in the shape of a box (so many people sent that to me). I like a whimsical cartoonish teddy bear look. I follow some fun Asian groomers on Instagram that give me inspiration. I also know that a dog's expression comes from the eyes, the shape of their ears and their feet. So those are the areas I focus on.
How do you deal with the haters or customers who get upset their dogs didn’t get selected for a video?
I had one lady get really mad at me because I didn't make a video of her dogs. She thought it was included in the grooming. So since she unleashed on me (pun intended), I now have a disclaimer with new clients explaining that videos are things I make for fun, and I don't guarantee them.
What are some other pet Instagram accounts everyone needs to follow?