Life Style

How 6 Celebrity Hairstylists Got Their Start

Lately it seems that celebrity hairstylists are becoming well-loved pubic figures in their own right. We follow them on Instagram, we faithfully abide by their tips and tricks, and we only hope to find a local stylist who can work our tresses like they can. But what intrigues us the most is how they’ve established themselves and developed the celebrity camp that’s behind them. It’s impressive, truly, and makes us want to pick their brains for their savvy business secrets. What we learned is that hard work takes you farther than you could ever imagine.

Sarah Potempa

Celebrity clients include: Emily Blunt, Jessica Biel, and Ashley Benson

“As a teenager working in a small salon in Illinois, my boss had me view editorial stories in W and Italian Vogue and watch Vidal Sassoon educational videos. That inspired me to move to NYC and pursue a career in editorial hairstyling. I attended NYU for college, worked in a salon in Soho, and was an RA in my dorm. My boss was a law student who was dating a celebrity photographer’s agent named Tali Magal. She introduced me to Ali Bird, one of the top NYC agents that represented hair and makeup artists. The next day I was assisting the iconic hairstylist Bob Recine on a W magazine photo shoot! I then assisted him on the Donna Karan campaign that weekend and continued to work closely with him for the next couple years. I then worked with the creative genius Danilo on runway shows like Life Ball in Vienna, celebrities like Gwen Stefani, and events for Proctor & Gamble. I learned so much from the two of them, along with other stylists like Ward, Luigi, and Renato, that I started to create a portfolio of my own.

One memory that sticks out is when I showed Recine a cool new braid, a french fishtail, that I was working on (fitting since [I completed] the #365daysofbraids Instagram challenge). He was so supportive and spoke to his agent about my love of hairstyling. I later received a phone call from Ali that the Wall Group wanted to represent me! I was beyond thrilled about the opportunity to be an artist at this incredible agency. That was about 10 years ago. I have since developed an incredible list of celebrity clients, a long-term partnership with Proctor & Gamble, and invented The Beachwaver Professional Rotating Curling Iron ($104), which [has been] the official hair sponsor of the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show! I’m so thankful for the opportunity to pursue my dreams and truly believe ‘Leap and the net will appear!'”

Anthony Cristiano

Celebrity clients include: Gigi Hadid, Adriana Lima, and Hannah Davis

“My career has been quite a journey, spanning over the course of the last thirty years. The most important thing to me was to hone my craft and become the best technician I could, both in cutting and styling. I eventually sought out opportunities in the fashion industry. I had an élan vital, a desire, to be a part of the creative scene in London in the 90s. It was inspiring to me. It was then that I decided to build my portfolio and seek out relationships with various photographers.

Eventually, this led to the development of the fashion, celebrity, editorial, commercial, and advertising aspects of my career, which have so greatly prepared me for where I am today. My brand, Anthony Cristiano Chicago, and my role as global artistic director for Phyto are rooted in my experiences in the industry. Throughout all of my experiences, my greatest motivation has been anticipating what is to come. I am eager to continue my journey and work harder than ever before.”

Johnny Lavoy

Celebrity clients include: Miranda Lambert, Rosie Perez, and Cindy Crawford

“As a child, I always loved playing with hair. I would brush my mother’s hair for hours. I knew it would be my career path at a very young age; in fact, I never had a plan B! I started hairdressing school at the age of 14. While most in my class would be content working at Supercuts, I had already decided this would be a career and not just a job. At 18, I started working for a product company traveling around the U.S. doing shows. While working in a salon, I did my first photo shoot with a model who would then become a photographer—he remembered me from our shoot and asked me if I would be interested in testing. It was shortly after that I opened my salon at age 21 in Connecticut. The salon became our photo studio on Sundays and Mondays when the salon was closed—we shot every local and upcoming model. Then we went to Boston and did the same, which is when we started to get recognition and I got signed with my first agency in Boston!

Miami started to take off as the place to be to shoot, so my photographer friend Ray Lata and I would go down there and follow the formula that had successfully worked for me in the northeast. At that point, I got an agent in Miami and started working regularly there. After I found a NYC agent, it was around the time that celebrities were replacing models on the magazine covers, so it was a natural transition for artists in the industry. In addition to working with models and celebrities, I still work with everyday women—in fact one of my most loyal clients is my high school nurse whose hair I started doing in the 10th grade. She is still as fabulous as any model or celebrity. I’ve also been lucky enough to work with PRO Beauty Tools, which is a dream come true because I love their products. I just love making anyone feel beautiful!”

Jen Atkin

Celebrity clients include: The Kardashian/Jenners, Chrissy Teigen, and Jenna Dewan Tatum

“I moved to L.A. from Utah pretty soon after high school and started working as a receptionist at Estilo Salon in Beverly Hills. This was pre-Internet the way it is today, so before I finally found a salon that would hire me, I literally would call all the salons from the yellow pages and Allure’s beauty directory. After I finally got hired, I was literally feeding meters and grabbing people’s coffees trying to save up money for hair school, until I finally met Andy Lecompte and started assisting him and doing an apprentice program. I learned so much from Andy, like how to work with celebrities, on-set styling, precision cutting, and business skills that I still use today.

Pretty soon after that, Andy and I went on tour with Madonna around the world. I would do the dancers’ hair while he did hers. When we came back, I worked hard on building a clientele at Chris McMillan salon and would go to the shows in Paris and New York during fashion week every year, working backstage as part of Guido Palau’s team. It was amazing and literally like hair boot camp! I really wanted to get signed with the Wall Group and bugged them for seven months until I finally was able to get someone to call me back! I finally got signed and just kept working hard, never saying no to anything that came my way.”

Enzo Angileri

Celebrity clients include: Charlize Theron and Katie Holmes

“It was being at the right place at the right time! I was working at a salon in Milan that was the hottest salon, and Anna Piaggi (editor of Italian Vogue) came in and after I did her hair, she asked me to do a fashion shoot. From there, I met more photographers, editors, and designers. When I came to the U.S., my first celebrity break was working with Demi Moore for the Ghost movie poster and then she requested me for other projects. The rest is history! Now, I get to travel all over the world with my clients and work with brands that I truly love, such as Infusium 23, and I couldn’t be happier!”

Kristan Serafino

Celebrity clients include: Sophia Bush and Abby Elliot

“I proclaimed to my mother at an early age that I was going to follow in her footsteps and be a hairdresser, to which mom replied, ‘Not until you first have a college degree!’ So from my hometown of Ft. Lauderdale, I was off to Boston College where I earned a Bachelor of Arts degree. Immediately upon graduating, I moved to New York City and started a successful career in fashion. But the passion to pursue the creative art of hairstyling persisted so after 10 years in a corporate environment, I walked away from a cushy six figure salary to $6.50 per/hour behind a shampoo bowl.

After graduating beauty school, I was fortunate to train at the esteemed Toni & Guy Academy studying under the tutelage of beauty industry legend Guy Mascolo. As an apprentice, I was the first to be named a finalist for the prestigious International Photographic Awards that spotlights the most beautiful and artistic hairstyles of the times.

It was at this time I realized an attraction to editorial hairstyling. Without much of a portfolio and no agent to open doors, I channeled my enthusiasm and business savvy to finagle increasing opportunities with photographers, makeup artists, and stylists at fashion magazines such as VogueHarper’s, and Cosmopolitan, to name a few. I then leveraged my modest portfolio into a meeting with leading publicists Leslie Sloane and Jeffrey Chassen. They not only gave me my first shot at styling celebrities, but truly changed the direction of my career. It was not long afterward that I was styling a substantial range of celebrities for the covers of magazines and traveling the world on press junkets.

Today you will still find me styling A-list celebrities, but also providing hairstyling tips in leading magazines, as well as guest hosting beauty segments QVC and lifestyle shows.”

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