The cliche of the Hollywood hairstylist whose ego is as big as his clients is the stuff movies are made of. But for Jen Atkin, who was raised Mormon in Utah and Hawaii, it’s humility and hard work that have catapulted her to the top.
“When I started, it was a very male-dominated business,” she says. “There was this diva attitude that stylists didn’t listen to their customers. Instead, they wanted to put their stamps on you. I came from the perspective of woman to woman. I understand what it’s like to get a bad haircut, and I really listen.”
This story first appeared in the November 18, 2015 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Atkin’s openness and responsiveness have served her well. Today, her client list reads like a roster of red carpet and magazine cover staples: Jennifer Lopez, Reese Witherspoon, Katy Perry, Sofia Vergara, Cara Delevingne and the five sisters of the Kardashian-Jenner clan, to name a few. Vergara, for whom Atkin created sexy, voluminous waves (a look copied in salons across the country), was one of Atkin’s first celeb clients. With Kendall Jenner a devotee as well, Atkin is fashioning a model-perfect, effortless effect. “I spend the most time making hair look like nothing was done to it,” she says. “That’s what everyone is requesting.”
When the Kardashians first tapped Atkin, people warned her they’d be resume killers. The stylist ignored the advice. “I’ve always wanted to be around fun, hard-working, pretty women. I made them a priority because they are delightful to work with,” says Atkin, who readily credits the Kardashians for hurtling her into the public consciousness. “They were really the first to shout out their glam squad and turn us into pseudo-celebrities,” she says.
Khloé Kardashian has nothing but praise for Atkin: “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],” says Kardashian. “I’ve never met a harder-working woman than Jen.”
Social media is a big reason why Atkin works so hard. An early adopter of Instagram, the hairstylist posts morning, noon and night. “There’s no such thing as over-sharing,” says Atkin, who has over 885,000 Instagram followers.
Yet her social-media strategy has evolved since the early days of Instagram, a platform she laments has become stilted by sponsorships. “Snapchat has become what Instagram was in the beginning. It’s uninhibited,” she says.
Atkin founded the website Mane Addicts, with WhoWhatWear’s Clique Media, and Mane University, its education arm. She’s also launching her own hair-care brand next spring based on her unfussy approach to styling, and is negotiating deals involving hair extensions, vitamins and accessories.
With so much on her plate, including regular business trips to Dubai, Atkin is carefully grooming her assistants. But she remains driven to do more. “It’s not a financial thing for me,” she says. “I do it because I have success doing what I love, and I don’t feel like I go to work every day.”