HIGH MAINTENANCE Celebrity hairstylist Jen Atkin’s world.
Celebrity hairstylist Jen Atkin’s client list is like the rolling credits to Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. She’s keeping up appearances — in more ways than one.
ASLIM BRUNETTE wearing a full Céline look shimmies out of a chauffeur-driven Mercedes, windows blackened, with a team of assistants and paparazzi nipping at her heels.the doors to Bahrain’s most exclusive salon are being held open by a bevy of giddy hairdressers. Jen Atkin has arrived. With 1.9 million followers on Instagram, a roster of legitimately famous clientele (including the Kardashians) and a backlog of new clients vying for one of her $1100 cut-and-blow-dry appointments, she has a celebrity profile rivalling those of her A-list clients. And beyond the fame, there’s also the fortune. Private planes, lavish gifts and exclusive hotels are all part of the package. This former salon receptionist doesn’t just tend the hair of billionaires — she lives the life of one, too.
Don’t be fooled into thinking this is just a Kardashian-celebritycircus spin-off.atkin was working on super-stylist Guido Palau’s team at the Paris shows when Kim was still vying for Reggie’s affect ions. toiling in the backstage trenches of John G all ian of or Dior long before Instagram was a thing.“at that time, it was a very different playing field — it was definitely word of mouth and stylists relying on their clients’ referral a lot more than they do now,” says the 37-year-old. She paid her dues, building solid relationships with her first big clients (“I was managing a salon in LA when I met Jessica Alba about 15 years ago, and we’re still good friends today”).
The difference between Atkin and her peers is she adjusted faster and better when social media changed the beauty game.“i was an early adopter of Instagram and that really helped catapult my career,” she says.“i’ve seen it completely grow into a huge marketing business for hairstylists, so now I think it’s much easier to get your work out there.”atkin has done more than just get her work out there. She now has a haircare line (Ouai, pronounced the way cool French kids say ‘yes’; available exclusively at Sephora); a tidy pile of product collaborations including the new Dyson hairdryer; and an agency, Styled, used by Middle Eastern royals to book her for weddings. She is more than just a hairstylist. Atkin is a modern businesswoman.
Don’t believe us?this is what her February looked like:“i started in Dubai, then I came to Australia to launch Ouai, then I went to meet the girls [the Kardashians] in Costa Rica for their family trip and then I went to New York fashion week, then to Doha to do
“I don’t want to get into too much detail, but I definitely get spoilt.”
a wedding in Qatar, and Paris fashion week, then back to Bahrain and Dubai to work in the salon [she works two days a month tending loyal customers at Sash in Bahrain, and Belle Femme in Dubai] and then I met Chrissyteigen in Morocco and capped off the month in New york to launch our new supplements .” while this may sound excessive, it hasn’t gone to her head.
Atkin grew up in a Mormon community on Oahu, Hawaii, worshipping pop idols on her modest TV set: Paula Abdul, George Michael, Madonna. While her parents expected Atkin to marry her high-school boyfriend and settle down, she had other plans.“i felt this need to pursue what I wanted. A friend and I packed up our Honda Civic hatchback and moved to LA in 2000. It was very Romy and Michele,” she recounts.this humble upbringing can account for a lot of her ambition, but it’s also what keeps her down to earth.
Through sharing mediums such as Snapchat and Instagram Stories,atkin has shown how the life of a hairstylist can parallel the extravagance of her richest clients.“my schedule is so crazy that I, for everything, am a fly-in, fly-out,” she admits.while most of us will never have the good fortune to fly in a private jet, it’s an occupational perk for Atkin. Likewise, superyachts are nothing to write home about for her.“during the Cannes Film Festival it can get a little hectic, and there are times when a client has gotten a boat or a tender to get me to where their yacht is — that’s happened before.”as for hotels,atkin frequents the best of the best, hopping between Eden Rock in St Barths, Hotel du Cap Eden-roc on the French Riviera, the Viceroy in the Maldives and her personal favourite, the Four Seasons Georgev in Paris.
Her royal following in the Middle East may have started thanks to the credibility she earned styling the Armenian hair of the Kardashians, but she’s kept their loyalty through her humility:“i mean, I live a very blessed life ... But I work hard.”
Despite the exorbitant wealthatkin is surrounded by, the level to which her clients spoil her sits uneasily with her.when pushed for details on the gifts she receives from her billionaire clients, she plays it down:“i don’t want to get into too much detail, but I definitely get spoilt.the women in the Middle East are so, so generous. I recently spent my birthday working in the salon in Bahrain, and, I kid you not, I’ve never been more spoilt in my life.”
While Atkin’s moved on from working backstage at the shows, she still gets flown to Paris each season to attend parties in her own right. Oh, and she manages to squeeze a few clients between appearances. “I did Karlie Kloss for a Swarovski event and then Kendall Jenner’s hair for a CFDA [Council of Fashion Designers of America] event she was hosting … and the next day I was with Bella Hadid for a Sunday Times shoot.then I kind of rushed over to touch up Gigi [Hadid] for something she was hosting that night for CFDA, went back to Bella to change her for something else that she was going to, then I myself went to the Dior Beauty party to support Bella ... ” She goes on.
You know, just another day.
From top: in Cannes; with Chrissy Teigen; with Rachel Zoe (far left) and Kim Kardashian (far right); on set with Khloé Kardashian; with Kendall Jenner; in Palm Springs; working in Dubai.
Louis Vuitton bag, $6400; Mason Pearson Large Extra Pure Bristle Brush, $395; Ouai Wave Spray, $40; Philé blanket, $330, phile.com.au.
Ouai Dry Shampoo, $37.