Not just anyone is trusted with the upmost task of ensuring the hairstyles of the Kardashian clan are always looking chic, trendy and #Instagramworthy. For Jen Atkin, though, hair stylist to celebrity clients including Jessica Alba, Katy Perry, Sofia Vergara and, of course, the Kardashians, it’s just another day.
Whether she’s turning them platinum blonde or creating their signature tousled waves, which she says she's gotten down to a science, she's got what it takes to make her worthy enough to be part of the Kardashian's Glam Squad. Here, take a read of 14 facts about the woman responsible for all of the gorgeous and sometimes shocking hairstyles of the Kardashians.
Ten years is a long time in the hairstyling biz, considering that Jen is young and has such an impressive portfolio that even caused the New York Times to publish an article recently that begs the question whether she’s the most “influential hairstylist of all time.”
She started at Chris McMillian’s salon, Jennifer Aniston’s hairstylist, celebrity hairstylist at Living Proof, and the man behind “The Rachel” haircut. She said that she learned so much from him while working there, especially since the salon was so in-demand from Chris's success.
Jen’s passion for hairstyling began when she was young and became obsessed with makeovers. While speaking with Yahoo, she revealed, “I always make a joke that I won’t watch a movie unless there’s a shopping montage or a makeover scene.” When she was 20, her and a friend, feeling like Romy and Michelle from Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion, decided to take the plunge and move out to LA where she worked first as a receptionist, then as a manager of a salon.
While living in LA, the land of “make or breaks,” Jen was lucky to have her big break in the form of being hired to assist hairstylist Andy Lecompte on Madonna’s 2006 Confessions tour. Her main responsibilities included doing the hair for all the dancers, a task she thoroughly enjoyed despite the hard work. “It was amazing! [Madonna’s] really inspiring. Being on the road is tiring—it was a little bit of Groundhog Day. We were all jetlagged. I was behind the scenes falling asleep, but they were all dancing onstage.”
After the tour, having fallen in love with being an editorial stylist, she worked with John Galliana from House of Dior and would work with him and his team, gaining more experience in hair detailing and time management.
When Jen was scouted to do hair for the Kardashian’s, people close to her had been vocal in warning her against it, as, according to them, doing so would be a “resume killer.” Luckily, the stylist ignored their advice and today she’s an integral part of their glam squad, providing serious hair goals on a daily basis. “I’ve always wanted to be around fun, hard-working, pretty women. I made them a priority because they are delightful to work with.” She says, adding that they really were the ones to help make her known.
And the Kardashian sisters are just as fond of Jen as she is of them. Khloe said, “Jen is someone who wants everyone around her to be successful, and she’ll do whatever is in her power to help them [achieve that]. I’ve never met a harder-working woman than Jen.”
As most people with creative and passionate ambitions do, Jen rebelled against her parent’s wishes. In an interview with Into the Gloss, she said, “When I told my parents I wanted to do hair, they said ‘No, you have to go to business school…you’re going to get married.’ But that’s not what I wanted, obviously.” Luckily she didn’t, as she followed her dreams, using her superior networking and marketing skills to continue to thrust herself into hair styling stardom where she sits comfortably today.
Pop-culture played a major role in inspiring Jen to want to pursue hairstyling as a career. It served as an escape for her while she grew up on an island in Hawaii. “I started doing hair when I was in high school and I felt inspired by fashion since I was really young,” she says, referencing to ‘90s music videos and supermodels during that time. “I was obsessed with MTV and I just loved everything about transforming women.”
Jen really hard to work from the ground up and find ways to get by at times as she couldn’t afford to go to any of the fancy schools in L.A. Instead, she researched and found a apprenticeship program that allowed her the time to do her schooling plus work at a restaurant at night in order to pay her bills.
She attained her license after as part of her apprenticeship by clocking in many hours in a salon. “It was much more affordable and everybody had told me when I was working at the salon as a receptionist that you don’t really use anything you learn in the classes, you learn from being next to people that are working.”
Hairstyling is undeniably a field that is dominated with both men and women. Because of this, Jen found that some of her biggest challenges was competing with gay men. In an interview, she revealed, “women like to have the attention of a beautiful gay man and in the beginning it was hard for me to be accepted and to be respected as a woman.”
While she believes things have changed a lot in the past ten years, she is happy that women are becoming more respected and in demand. “If I spend time with a client it’s very intimate and you’re traveling with them and it was hard for me because I didn’t have many female role models for me in my field there was Sally Herschberger and Odile Gilbert who did editorial but beyond that there weren’t that many role models that I could really relate to so that was quite a challenge to be taken seriously.”
Jen has an extensive background in knowing what products are worth the splurge or not. For her own hair, she uses Biosil every day, a vitamin for hair, skin and nails and when she washes her hair, she likes to use Clear Intense Hydration Shampoo and Leonor Greyl’s Masque Quintessence, a mask she says will last even through tough, sweaty workouts. In terms of the tools she uses the brand T3 on clients and GHD tools on herself.
While she’s practically BFF’s with the Kardashians, some of her fondest memories as a hairstylist have been working with supermodel Cindy Crawford. “Every time I work with her I feel like it’s an out of body experience. You know her as a person but then when you watch her behind the camera you’re like; oh my God that’s Cindy Crawford!” Out of all her clients, though, Atkin can’t pick a favourite, saying that she loves all her girls.
While her hairstyling kit is filled with the most expensive, high-quality products, suitable enough to use on her celebrity clients, she still has a favourite drugstore buy. It’s Clear Intense Hydration Shampoo and Conditioner, which she says works wonders. As for high-end products, a splurge for her is Rodin hair oil and Rodin body oil. “It smells great and is so lux! It’s a definite must-have.”
As is the case with any client-based job, sometimes the requests are straight-up weird. While speaking with E!, Jen explained some of the weirdest things she’s done while on the job. “I once had to style the hair for Sofia Vergara’s wax figure! And then another time a client asked that I not throw away her hair after a cut. She wanted to put it outside in the yard so birds would pick it up and use it for their nest.”
Taking her love of hair to an even greater level, Jen owns her own hair-content site called Mane Addicts. Fans can learn more about hair through the how-to hair tutorials, articles and become inspired by Mane University, a master class program where people can come out and learn in person from hairstylists.
Atkin has a huge following on social media, and for good reason. She says she’s very good at marketing herself and often posts photographs of the hair she does on her clients, with lots of pictures of the Kardashian sisters. Not only that but her glamorous life of travelling, attending events and parties and her downtime with the Kardashian clan, are often documented. Follow her on Instagram at @Jenatkinhair.