From today’s It girls, Gigi, Bella and Karlie to Hollywood veteran queens J-Lo, Gwen and Jessica Alba, hair maestro Jen Atkin has been behind their most famous hair iterations. But despite a clientele black book that reads like a red carpet runsheet, her roots are far from her LA postcode. Growing up in the religious western US state of Utah, Jen found solace in pop culture – idolising Madonna, Paula Abdul and George Michael. It was this love and penchant for cutting her own hair that found her, at just 19, sweeping a salon floor in the city of angels. Starting from the bottom and working her way to the top of the top, Jen has since opened three salons, launched online hair hub Mane Addicts and her own haircare brand Ouai Haircare, available at Sephora. With a lifetime of knowledge under her stylist tool belt we couldn’t wait to chat with her about her go-to products, morning beauty rituals and how she manages life balance while casually taking over the world one cut at a time…
“I’ve always loved doing hair. No one could give me the cut I wanted, so I started by cutting my own hair.
I went to the store, bought a pack of shaving razors and started cutting. I was obsessed with Natalie Imbruglia’s hair in her ‘Torn’ music video when I was a teenager, so I did that. Soon I was cutting all my friends’ hair in my parents’ garage. After high school, I drove to California with literally only $300 and my Honda Civic hatchback. I called all the salons in Allure’s beauty directory until finally someone returned my call and I started working as a receptionist at Estilo Salon in Beverly Hills.
My first salon job had me running out to feed [parking] meters for Bette Midler…
…and I was so excited. After a while I met [renowned hairstylist] Andy LeCompte and started assisting him right before he went on tour with Madonna. So, I ended up styling all the dancers’ hair and travelled the world.
The best piece of advice I ever received was to not be threatened by your peers, but be inspired by them.
[Hairstylist and salon owner] Serge Normant told me that. I truly believe there is enough work for all of us to go around and we should support and encourage each other. Be humble, work hard, and don’t try to compete with anyone else. My beauty philosophy is that no one has the time or money for a glam squad, but real women should be able to get the look in real life. That’s why I created OUAI multi-use products, for the girl on the go.
My morning beauty ritual is carried out in the car on the way to work…
I start with Epione Firm and Lift by Dr Simon Ourian, then use Brow Wiz by Anastasia and Boy Brow by Glossier. I love Charlotte Tilbury Coachella Coral Lipstick. I use Ouai Treatment Mask because it’s so necessary for hair to be its healthiest and Ouai Dry Shampoo Foam so I can extend longer between washes. It’s all about time saving. My favourite hair tools are Chloe and Isabel hair accessories, Dyson Supersonic blow dryer and Kardashian Beauty 3 in 1 Styler.
I try really hard to look after my health and wellbeing, but it’s not always easy.
I spend time with my husband and get massages, but honestly work life balance is something I am trying to improve every day. I love doing Model Fit, Barry’s Bootcamp and Pressed Juices always, but also Jon and Vinny’s for dinner (I’ve got to have balance). I eat almost all of my meals from Postmates. Sugarfish sushi is my go-to and as I’m always on set or on the go, I’m usually grazing on whatever food is around.”
Story by Rikki Hodge-Smith