Hairstylist to the Kardashian women, the Hadid sisters, and more Hollywood and fashion A-listers, Jen Atkin is exactly where the business of celebrity hairstyling is at. With an all-star roster of clients and a massive two-million following on Instagram, her influence can only get bigger from here on out.
But these are all just on the surface, mere manifestations of the actual grind that Jen has toiled to make it to where she is. It’s a glamorous job, for sure. But if you think that it’s all about the after-parties and getting chummy with Kendall Jenner, then you’re hugely mistaken. “You have to be disciplined,” claims Jen when asked about the real challenge of her work. “While all your friends are out drinking or going on vacation, you must stay put and hustle.”
And hustle she does. Aside from being the on-call stylist of a long list of high-caliber patrons, Jen has also founded the website maneaddicts.com, a platform on all things related to her expertise. And early last year, she launched OUAI Haircare, a now cult-favorite brand for women who want that effortlessly gorgeous touch for their tresses.
One of her most loyal clients and closest friends is It-face Bella Hadid, and when the superstar model shot her first campaign with Penshoppe, we got the chance to ask Jen – who did Bella’s hair for the shoot – a few burning questions about her incredible work. Here, she talks about what triggered her success, the real deal of the hair business, and what it takes to secure your place in this industry.
How long have you been in the business and how did you start?
A friend and I packed up our Honda Civic hatchback and moved to L.A. in 2000. We had $300, and we did not know one person. I took clerical, front-office jobs working for a music supervisor and an architect — anything to pay the bills while I was looking for receptionist jobs at all the top salons. After about six to eight months, I heard that Estilo Salon was looking for a receptionist and got the job.
What do you consider as your biggest break in the industry?
Getting a job at Chris McMillan as a stylist. I also got the chance to assist Renato Campora, Danilo, and Guido as part of his team in Paris.
What is it about hairstyling that interested you?
In high school, I started cutting my own hair which led to cutting my friends’ hair. That’s when it clicked for me that I wanted to be a stylist. I wanted to be a part of the glamorous and fun world I saw in George Michael and Madonna videos.
You’re known for creating an effortless look. Why do you think women love that kind of look?
It’s simple, chic, and clean. Women don’t have time to spend 30 minutes every morning with hot tools. Effortlessness is central both to my brand and styling philosophy.
What are your top essentials and tips for achieving an effortless look?
One tip for any hair type I suggest is sleeping on a SLIP silk pillowcase to keep the hair in the best possible condition. The OUAI Hair Oil can double as both a styling product and mask so that you can wear it while you sleep or workout for extra shine and treatment. When you wake up, add OUAI Texturizing Hair Spray to roots for an extra boost of dimension and volume then use a small amount of OUAI Finishing Creme to tame flyaway and add hold at the ends.
Where do you usually find inspiration?
I love looking at websites, Instagram accounts, and Pinterest for inspiration. I’m also constantly inspired by the women around me. The Kardashian/Jenner women, Bella & Gigi Hadid, Chrissy Tiegen, Jena Dewan Tatum, Jessica Alba, Rachel Zoe, Emily Weiss, Katherine Power, Sonia Kashuk, Pat McGrath, Andrea Lieberman – the list goes on! Just watching the female entrepreneurs in my life keeps me pushing towards my goals.
What made you decide to start your own line of hair products?
It’s always been my dream to have my own hair line. I’ve been listening to my clients and followers for years and they all have the same complaints: they want healthier hair and they have lack of time. I created OUAI as a real line for real life – it’s for the girl on the go who only has five minutes to do her hair. No more unrealistic hair campaigns – just multi-use products that cut styling time and nourish hair health.
What’s your process like when you’re coming up with a product?
Luckily, I have a wonderful team that understands our consumers, me, and my insane schedule. Together we use crowdsourcing to make the products that our followers and consumers want actually come to life. We consult them a lot – from the results they’re looking for in hair health to the colors they like best for our future products. The feedback is invaluable. The team then streamlines the processes to bring the vision to life, and pulls me in for brainstorming, feedback, and key decision-making steps whenever my calendar allows!
What is the most challenging part of launching a business?
You have to be available at all times and change plans at a moment’s notice. You have to be disciplined. While all your friends are out drinking or going on vacation, you must stay put and hustle.
How does social media play a part in your work?
I’ve always been obsessed with social media and technology, so creating a social presence came really naturally to me. I’m an over-sharer so it’s fun and easy for me to use Instagram and Snapchat. Social media has been such a great outlet for new talent and already established artists to showcase their work to a broader audience.
Can you tell us about running your own website Mane Addicts? How did this idea come about?
In 2013, I had an idea to start a website that’s just about hair. I wanted it to include inspiration photos and have video tutorials of girls doing their own hair, real advice women could use at home, and a directory of stylists to give them a place to shine.
You have a lot of clients and do business as well. What does your typical daily schedule look like?
No two days are ever the same. I’m constantly running around everywhere. But in general, I start the day at a client’s house for their regular haircuts or events, or head to set for photo shoots with other clients. Then I work from my office in downtown L.A., taking meetings and calls, doing interviews, product testing, etc. I’d be 20 times messier if my assistants and teams didn’t have my back and hustle so hard.
What’s your favorite way to unwind?
A massage at Spa Montage or The NOW in Los Angeles.
Whose career do you admire the most?
Kris Jenner because she’s #GOALS.
What principle has helped you grow the most throughout your career?
I truly believe there is enough work for all of us to go around. We should always choose to support and encourage each other.
What do you look for when hiring someone to join your team?
I’m looking for someone who takes initiative, is a team player, is willing to wear many hats, and has a non-competitive attitude.
What do you think is the key to finding success in the industry?
Always stay true to what you believe in, and try to say “Yes” instead of “No.”
What’s your advice for someone who’s aspiring to be a hairstylist?
Be humble, work hard, and don’t try to compete with anyone else. Don’t expect success overnight. It takes years of hard work to build a long-standing career.
Photos via @jenatkinhair