How did you get your start in the industry?
"I used to say that I got really lucky. Someone said, 'You should really stop saying that, because it makes it sound like you have no talent at all.' It was a unique situation. I had no idea this was an industry, no clue whatsoever. I had always done my friends' hair and makeup, and my mom saw that was something I was interested in, but neither one of us knew that was a career. I knew about salons but further than that, I had no idea. She started taking me around to salons and she asked them 'How young is too young?' and 'Am I crazy to let my daughter go to beauty school?' They all told her that no, the younger the better. At 16, I got my GED and went to beauty school at Marinello Beauty School. I met a couple of people in beauty school and simultaneously learned about Chris McMillan's salon. I had seen him on a shoot before I had enrolled in beauty school — at the time, my cousin was dating a really big publicist, and one day, she invited me to a shoot. Chris was the stylist on set with Sarah Michelle Gellar, and I just watched him. Cut to a couple years later: While in beauty school, I met a guy who was friends with Chris, and he told me someone there was looking for an assistant, so I interviewed and got the job.
Anyone who made you starstruck?
"I just got to work with Michelle Dockery. I am obsessed with Downton Abbey. She couldn't have been lovelier. It's funny about TV, because you watch the characters every week and get invested in them. You feel like you know them, and then you get booked to work on the actor, and there's that slight bit of fear of 'If I meet you, is it going to ruin my obsession?' So, I would say Lady Mary. I was a little startstruck. She was wonderful."
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Photographed by Jake Rosenberg
We got some major love for you when we did an interview with Emma Stone — she credits you with why her hair always looks so fabulous. Our readers wanted to know what products you use in her hair and how you make it look so amazing all the time?
"Emma has really great hair — she has a natural wave in her hair that can be either easily smoothed out because it's not super-frizzy, or easily enhanced. It's kind of the perfect hair. She has a lot of hair but it's on the finer side. She just has that hair that holds a curl or a style, which is really helpful for the red carpet because you never know what it's going to look like when you get there.
What's one of the biggest challenges of being a celebrity hair stylist?
"As an artist, I'm probably the hardest on myself. It's really important to me to do work that I'm proud of and that whoever I am working with feels good. The pressure that I put on myself is a challenge, but in a good way. People are going to see my work, so you want it to be something you can look at and feel good about. Maybe 50 percent of the time I'm like, 'Oh, all right, I did a good job.' I really like a look to tell a story, rather than have the hair tell one story and the makeup be something else and the dress something else. I love being able to create these looks that tell a story and the collaboration process with other amazing artists."
How do you handle all the snarky critiques of someone's hair that seem to be prevalent online right now?
"I try to ignore it, to be honest. I looked one time and there were some negative things and I thought, 'Oh my god, I'm never doing this again.' I have such sympathy for the people we work on, because that's constant and way more than what we get. It's better to avoid those things altogether and trust the taste of people you're close to and respect."
What's your advice for girls who have trouble doing their hair on their own?
"It's more of a challenge doing your own hair as there are angles you can't get to. Rather than tell yourself you can't do it, try to change that mindset. Videos and how-to's are super-helpful. You can also ask your stylist at the salon and then have them show you some styles.A lot of it is visual, so seeing it and having someone show it can be helpful."
What stylist's work do you really admire and why?
"I'm really into a hairdresser named Paul Hanlon — he is doing amazing things and I love his aesthetic. He does a lot runway shows and I always love the hair he creates. He's really, really awesome. I love Oribe — there is just something about his hair that strikes something in me. And I will always thinks Chris McMillan does a beautiful job. Always really pretty, really clean hair; he's super-talented and has great taste."
What kind of hair are you excited to see in 2013?
"People are getting a little more bold with their hairstyles. I've had a lot of people come in and say, 'I'm not attached to this long crazy hair. Let's cut it off.' I love Rooney Mara's look. She always does that really clean hair, and it looks so great. I'm also loving super-simple hair right now — Not overstyled, more natural and stripped-down. I love low ponytails, really simple and clean, or natural, undone-but-smooth hair — like at Celine 2013 pre-fall or Chloé. I would call it healthy, lived-in hair."
What's the most sage hair advice anyone has ever given you and who gave it to you?
"Don't overthink it, from my husband Alex Polillo."
Photo via W