#CAREERGOALS: JEN ATKIN, OUAI HAIRCARE
In 2015, the New York Times declared that Jen Atkin might just be the most influential hairdresser in the world.
But in my mind, there really is no question of whether or not she is an absolute powerhouse. Since moving to Los Angeles at age 19, Atkin has hustled her way to become the most sought after hairstylist in Hollywood and beyond, a successful businesswomen and a Snapchat/Instagram Queen (the millennial’s version of a business card). Here’s a little rundown of just how hard this women has worked to get to where she is today, and remind us all that it’s not where you come from that matters it’s about where you are heading…
Jen’s love of hair started in the same way most of us discovered our love for all things fashion and beauty: pop culture. She had a very sheltered upbringing in Hawaii with her mormon family and attended high school in St. George, Utah where a Natalie Imbruglia music video (who else remembers that song Torn?!) changed everything. She became obsessed with the choppy, short hairdo Natalie had and couldn’t find anyone to recreate the look, so she bought a pack of razors and spent two hours hacking away at her own long locks. She was also fascinated by makeover montages in films where the geeky girl is transformed into a beauty queen and suddenly her whole life changes. Call it superficial or dramatic, but Jen truly saw the power and potential in a “new look”.
Despite her parents plan for Jen to marry her high school boyfriend and start a family, she knew she wanted more and decided to move to Los Angeles with her best friend, no connections and $300.
Jen’s first industry-job in L.A. was a receptionist role at Estilo Salon. It was here that she worked under and studied legendary hairstylist Andy Lecompte for three years. But Jen was smart enough to know that if she wanted to have a long and successful career being good at hair wouldn’t be enough, she needed to learn the ins-and-outs of running a business as well. She worked her way up the ranks to managing the salon and also attended beauty school Friedman Occupational Centre, working seven days a week assisting other stylists to earn hours towards her cosmetology license.
Andy Lecompte saw potential in Jen, but more importantly he saw her insane work ethic, and invited her to join him as a hairstylist on the Madonna “Confessions” tour. Jen was only 26 years old at the time and was travelling the world with one of the most famous pop stars on earth.
But even once Atkin started making a name for herself among Hollywood’s cool crowd (she has spent almost every morning for the past four years doing Khloe’s hair!), the hustle never slowed down. In fact, Atkin found herself almost always working on her days off, declining social invitations and holidays to make sure she could be available at a moments notice. This earned herself a reputation as a hard worker who is always cool under pressure, and in Hollywood “word of mouth” can be everything. For Atkin, this meant that if the right publicist came in for a blow wave with her and they got along like a house on fire, it would often lead to a new celebrity client. Her client list now includes Gigi Hadid, Jessica Alba, Chrissy Teigen and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley.
Atkin once said “The success of hairstylists is 30 percent talent…the rest is personality.” She understands that, as a hairstylist, you spend a lot of time in people’s homes and in the thick of their lives: throughout the good press and the bad. You need to build a reputation as someone who isn’t going to air their dirty laundry to others, someone who is loyal, and calm under pressure.
Jen’s career today is exhausting to even think about. She runs her own hair content website ManeAddicts.com as well as professional hairstylings classes with world renowned stylists at Man University, and in February this year she launched her own range called Ouai Haircare (pronounced “way”, but in like, a cool French accent…). Ouai came to fruition because Jen saw a major lack in cool hair products that would cater to her time poor friends and clients. While working backstage at fashion shows like Alexander Wang and Louis Vuitton, Jen was accustomed to doing each model’s hair in 15-20 minutes and she wanted to give that power to women at home. Essentially, Ouai is about creating #HAIRGOALS without the glam squad.
From a business perspective, Jen had been consciously observing and learning from her clients over the years in terms of what works when marketing products. In particular she wanted to tap into the millennial mindest with her language and messaging and she wasn’t afraid to ask for advice from her successful friends like Katherine Power of WhoWHatWear.
And if all of that doesn’t make you drop to your knees and bow down to this absolute #GIRLBOSS, then consider this: she still spends most of her days running between her client’s houses prepping them for events and shoots, and finds time to work at three international hair salons in New York, Dubai and L.A. She is so loyal to the clients she has had over the past decade and they are equally loyal to her, some waiting over six months just to get the Jen Atkin “look” – minus the razor blades…
No way? Yes, Ouai.