When you see Cardi B hit the stage with 40 inches of blue hair or walk the red carpet in a topknot piled high with craft-store pearls, there is one name behind the look. It's the same hairstylist responsible for the amazing wigs on Kylie Jenner — the ones where you have no idea if she dyed her hair or if its a piece (the wiggery is that flawless). These two women trust in the same hair guru to get the job done: Tokyo Stylez.
Stylez is responsible for some of the best – and boldest – wig looks in Hollywood, and, with over one million followers on Instagram, the hairstylist has a strong fan club. Stars like Teyana Taylor, Naomi Campbell, and Karrueche Tran turn to Stylez for looks that are outside of the box. From the Rapunzel hair on the cover of Harper's Bazaar to rainbow pieces that come in a variety of lengths, the pro is serving lewks each and every time. But how the 29-year-old came to work with hair wasn't about the glitz and glam.
We had the chance to sit down with the hairstylist at Beautycon x SheaMoisture's first-ever honors celebration, The Beauties, where Stylez was honored as an innovator in the digital space. There, Tokyo spoke to Refinery29 on how it all started, the one iconic look from Cardi B that was a total mistake, and the blueprints for a budding hair empire.
Let's start from the beginning, when did you fall in love with doing hair?
"It all started when my mother was incarcerated. My sister and I were young, she was around 8 or 9 years old. We lived with my father, so I had to step up to the plate and help him out. Before my mother went away, she always told me to take care of my little sister, and I just remembered her doing her hair all the time. And I just did what I saw my mom do."
In the past, you've spoken out about how you worked with cancer patients, how did that come about at the start of your career?
"When I moved to D.C., my friend had an organization with cancer patients, but she didn't know how to make wigs, so she asked me to make a few. I didn't really know how to make wigs either, but I went for it. Next thing you know, what I was creating looked so realistic and people couldn't believe it. Then, my regular clients started wanting these wigs. It went from me just trying to help somebody to helping everybody."
Speaking of regular clients, you're responsible for some of the most talked about celebrity transformations...
"I get to give my clients new characters or identities in a way. They put a different wig on, and they're like a whole new person. It's an entirely new attitude, and it just changes the whole aura. It's amazing."
You've worked closely with Cardi B in the last few years, what has been your favorite look on her?
"The album cover for Invasion of Privacy with the yellow wig. That was actually an accident. I had a lot of options. We tried everything and nothing was working with the wardrobe. I had that yellow wig, and she said, 'Hell no, Tokyo,' but we still put it on and it was a hit. She started feeling it, and it became an iconic look."
So, what's the biggest lesson you've learned in your career this far?
"Never get too comfortable. You always have to stay on top of your Ps and Qs and on top of new trends. There's always someone in line waiting to take your spot."
... And the biggest lesson you could give us on wigs?
"The number-one tip for applying wigs is to make sure that hairline is flawless. Pluck that hairline, blend that lace, put makeup on it, tint it — do what you have to do. The hairline is the most important part to making a natural wig."
What's the ultimate dream for you?
"I'm only getting older, and I don't want to be working hard, doing everyone's hair when I'm 50 years old [laughs]. So, I'm looking more into opening my own business, which would be hair boutiques internationally."