I’d love to say that this interview really was five minutes, but it wasn’t. Hairstylist to the stars, Sofia Vergara, Jessica Alba, and the Kardashians are just a few… Jen Atkin recently dropped down to Dubai for VIP client bookings at Belle Femme Salon alongside Colorist to the stars, Tracey Cunningham. Not only am I a major fan of Jen’s work, I couldn’t help but fall in love with her personality. So down to earth, and such an inspiring young woman. We spoke about her trip to the Middle East, her journey and working with John Galliano.
How does it feel to be in Dubai? First time?
It’s my first time! I feel like I’m already in love with it… A lot of my clients have come down to the Middle East. Sofia Vergara has been to Dubai a few times, and she knew I’d love it. The Kardashians have… They all said I’d really love it.
Well, you do look Middle Eastern…
It’s funny, I kind of feel like I want to blend in. I just need to learn a few key words but I feel this is like South beach meets Shanghai with Hawaii weather…
It does get really hot here.
I’m sure it gets quite difficult for hair over here, can’t believe you’re wearing a sweater by the way.
What are you hoping to do whilst you’re in town, other than working at Belle Femme?
My good friend, Charlotte Ronson comes here a lot and she gave me a huge list. Of course the huge mall, La Petite Maison, Zuma, 360 at Sunset – I love night life. I must check out the jewelry district, I am a jewelry addict.
How did you start in the beauty industry?
That is such an amazing question, a long story but I’ll try and sum it up. I knew that was really want I wanted to do early on. I grew up within a religious family in Utah. Women there aren’t really raised to have careers, get married at 19, I knew I wanted to do more than just get married and have babies. I was once watching Natalie Imbrugulia’s Torn video, and she had a chopped bob that I loved, so I decided to do it on myself. I did a pretty good job, then friends, their parents, and their siblings wanted me to do their hair. I then moved to LA, my parents cut me off, they wanted to scare me – I left my boyfriend that I was supposed to get married to. I started as a receptionist at a Salon, I started managing to learn the business side of things. I worked for Andy LeCompte, who does Madonna’s hair. From then, it was whirlwind… Andy asked me to come on tour with Madonna to do the dancers hairs. In 2006, I went all around the world – the best experience of my life and I’d never do it again *laughs* but it was so much fun. From after that, one thing led to the other. I worked with Andy’s clients when he wasn’t available. I learnt so much from Andy, and wanted to do more.
In what way?
I always used to look at Fashion magazines growing up as a kid.
I love those Hair talk round ups you do on Instagram…
I love it, I went on to Paris, worked at shows – Loewe, Alexander McQueen… That’s when I fell in love with doing model’s hairs. It was like hair university for me. My dream was to also sign on with The Wall Group in LA, as they’re the best. I learnt my craft, had a good menu, and it was then time to build my contacts with publicists. It’s been a journey…but a great one.
What has been your career highlight?
Getting to work with John Galliano and Gwen Stefani!
Would you ever go back to Utah and start something?
No. I know too much now… The place I’m from would be like a small town outside Dubai. Once you go to a city, how can you go back? But, I love coming back and speaking to people back home as some people think it could never be them (that can pursue a dream). I feel so strongly about being an example to women.
How do you work with a new client?
We just did the MET ball, and it was my client, Minka Kelly’s first time at the ball. It was my duty to make sure she was seen. It’s all about pushing boundaries, and getting them out of their comfort zone but still being tasteful. I always do my research before working with someone. See what they’ve done, and stuck to and doing a variation. It’s fun for me doing something different, even if it’s just a tweak.
How do you keep up with trends?
I’m always on Style.com and Fashiongonerogue.com. I then collate everything and have an organized menu on my ipad.
What hair trends should we be doing for Spring/Summer?
For color, Harsh Ombre is out… something close to your natural hair color. For cut, that in between length… Christine Centenera from Vogue Australia is a great example.
What hair product can you not live without?
Moroccan oil cream.
It’s banned here by the way.
Oh no, I have a bottle with me… L’oreal Elnet was banned for a few years in the US before they made a safer version. We had to smuggle it from London… Oh, I also love Oribe’s texturizing spray, my biosilk salt spray, and roosevelt oil.
Any Niche brands we should look out for?
Oribe have done such an amazing job…
Best hair tip?
Wake up 15 minutes early, and do your hair. Take the time to do it, it doesn’t have to be done up. Also never make hair decisions when you’re hormonal! No Brit moments… Oh, and if you’re single, think twice about cutting your hair. Gays and your girlfriends will love the short hair, but your guy won’t.
Especially when you have high profile clients…
Of course, we need to keep that in mind when we work with celebrity clients. Their hair is part of their job.