Jen Atkin is the epitome of Hollywood hairdressing royalty, counting the Kardashian/Jenner sisters, Chrissy Teigen, Gigi and Bella Hadid, Katy Perry and Jennifer Lopez as some of her most loyal clientele. Jen began her career in Hollywood 15 years ago, and has since worked backstage in Paris where she was inspired to launch her haircare line OUAI in 2016. Today, with over 2.9 million followers on social media, she’s what the New York Times calls “The Most Influential Hairstylist in the World”. That’s no small feat! Jen will be touching down in Sydney this June to headline Hair Expo 2019, thanks to an exciting collaboration with industry giant, Dyson.
Hair Expo chatted with the self-made superstar to gain insights in to her journey to stardom, where she sources her inspiration to constantly be at the top of her game, her greatest career ‘pinch me’ moments and what she’ll be bringing to Hair Expo this June!
Hair Expo: You’ve become the go-to hairdressers for Hollywood’s elite. Tell us a little about your journey to get to this incredible position, and where it all started.
Jen Atkin: I’ve been working in LA for 15 years now doing hair and just tried to focus on my work and being a good person. I’m in a service industry so it’s always been about taking care of my client’s needs. I started in a salon, then assisting doing hair for the runway shows in New York City and Paris. Then worked with John Galliano for his shows, then worked with Sofia Vergara which led me to Kim Kardashian in 2011 and the rest is history!
Who or what is your biggest creative inspiration?
My girlfriends who I see on social media making their dreams come true. Whether that’s being a stay at home mom or building a brand, it’s incredible to see how driven the women in my life are.
The New York Times called you “The Most Influential Hairstylist in the World” – How did that feel and what impact has it had on your career since?
I still can’t believe that happened. It was 2 months before OUAI launched and it really helped give me the boost of confidence that I needed that this was a good time to start a socially connected haircare brand.
Your client list includes some of Hollywood’s biggest A-listers. Who is the number one person you’d love to add to the list?
Gloria Allred or Sade.
What are some of the ‘pinch me’ moments you’ve had in your career?
I think my pinch me moments were working with John Galliano, doing the cover of Vogue with Gwen Stefani, working PFW with Kim Kardashian West, and starting OUAI and Mane Addicts.
OUAI is taking the industry by storm and has a really unique approach to the haircare game. What was your vision behind OUAI, and what’s in the pipeline for this game-changing brand?
We’re a socially driven brand and establish credibility with our customers so it’s been so fun to create products with them. We are rare as we don’t plan our products out 3 years in advance, we are working hard to meet deadlines because we really crowd-source as we go along. As for the future? We are definitely excited to experiment with new categories while leveraging social to begin convos with our community.
What would you say to hairdressers who look to you for career inspiration?
I talk a lot about collaborating and not competing. Sharing your skills with other artists in your salon, or on set will only make you ALL better artists. Watch YouTube, follow Mane Addicts…Slide into photographers, makeup artists, and other hairstylists DM’s and COLLABORATE. There truly is enough out there for everyone.
My advice to you is to use the tools we have – social media is a TOOL…it’s just as important as your scissors and your irons. You all have a platform and your unfiltered voice, please don’t take it for granted. Putting your work on Instagram isn’t just about a picture that will get likes, but it can inspire someone in any time zone! The world is moving so fast now and it’s so inspiring and exciting. No longer is there just one exclusive group telling you what’s good and what’s not.
Don’t get caught up in comparing your work to other artists because that will only make you question yourself. Don’t be afraid to put your work and ideas out into the universe! Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box and don’t let anyone label you as only a “hairstylist”. Trust me when I say when things don’t work out…another door will open for you.
What makes your masterclass at Hair Expo Australia a must-attend?
I want to try to utilise my time on the mic to not talk about just hairstyling but also to hopefully share some ideas from what I’ve learned with a newer generation of hairstylists. I like to give advice on business, social media, and more.