Beauty Boss: Jen Atkin on Her First Big Break and How She Made Her Teenage Dream Come True
Welcome to Beauty Boss, a reoccurring series in which we spotlight the power players driving the beauty world forward. Consider this your chance to steal their get-ahead secrets, and grow from the real-life lessons they’ve learned on the job.
Jen Atkin has been called “The Most Influential Hairstylist in the World” counting everyone from Kim Kardashian and Katy Perry to Bella Hadid and Chrissy Teigen among her devotees. She also has a hot new haircare line and is the celebrity ambassador of the revolutionary Dyson dryer. How does she handle the pressure? “I do hair like no one is watching.”
When you were younger, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I have always loved the idea of making women over. I was obsessed with movies, with shopping montages, or makeover scenes. I was also obsessed with Gwen Stefani (still am!) and when I got to work with her for the cover of Vogue, all my teenage dreams had come true. I also loved the supermodels of the 90s, Sade, and Paula Abdul.
How did you start on this career path?
I’ve always loved doing hair and was obsessed with Natalie Imbruglia’s short haircut in her “Torn” music video when I was a teenager in Utah. No one could give me the cut I wanted, so I went to the store, bought a pack of shaving razors, and started cutting my own hair. Soon I was cutting all my friends’ hair in my parents’ garage. After high school I drove to California with literally only $300 and my Honda Civic hatchback. I called all the salons in Allure’s beauty directory until finally someone returned my call and I started working as a receptionist at Estilo Salon in Beverly Hills. I remember running out to feed meters for Bette Midler and I was so excited. After a while I met Andy Lecompte and started assisting him right before he went on tour with Madonna, so I ended up styling all the dancers’ hair and traveled the world.
What was your first big break?
Getting a job at Chris McMillan as a stylist. I also got a chance to assist Renato Campora, Danilo, and work the shows in Paris on Guido’s team.
You style some of the most famous hair in the world – do you still feel pressure? Do you ever get starstruck with new clients?
No, I just always do my best to do a great job and make the person I’m working on, whether it’s a celebrity or not, feel beautiful. Honestly, I think it’s best I’m in denial about how famous my clients are. I literally am doing hair like nobody is watching.
What’s the question you get asked the most?
I probably get 200-300 DMs, Snaps, and Tweets from people asking me for personal hair advice. I always answer with: For haircut, color, and style inspiration I have made a whole website to help you get the ideas and advice you need, MANEADDICTS.com. Our Pinterest account is so incredible; I use it for every client I work with. I also made a hair consultation service on TheOuai.com called #MYOUAI. You literally get a personal prescription for your hair.
What are you most proud of professionally?
I’m so proud of OUAI. It has been the result of so much hard work for the past 1.5 years and it feels great to finally share it with the world.
What’s next for your brand?
We are continuing to listen to our social followers so we can innovate in our product categories and give them the products that shorten the time it takes for them to get ready. We have some exciting new products releasing in March and April. I can’t say just yet, but I’ll tell you they’re very different from everything we already offer, and we might be developing a product that can be used for more than just your hair. Stay tuned!
What advice do you have for people wanting to start out in hair?
Be humble, work hard, and don’t try to compete with anyone else. There’s enough to go around for all of us to be successful.