Each of our Pro features celebrates the inspiring success of influencers from diverse industries, starting from the early career, remembering the big break, looking at the industry today, and opening their little black books to divulge their ultimate product kit.
THE EARLY CAREER…
“I wanted to do hair when I was finishing high school after visiting a beauty school and seeing how much fun everyone training there was having. I was never the girl that always did people’s hair; I was a tomboy, so doing hair wasn’t that for me, but seeing what a great time all the stylists were having and realizing I could do this for a living was what convinced me. At this point, I’d already been accepted to college, and my parents weren’t going to let me not go [laughs], so I went, and I’m so glad I did. I went to UC Santa Cruz, and I had such a good time. Seriously, what’s better than college? It’s so fun, and you just sometimes have to go to class [laughs].
When I graduated, I got a job in corporate doing IT Staffing Solutions for a Fortune 500 Company, which couldn’t be more ‘working for the man’. In Korean culture, you have to take care of your parents when you grow up, so I was trying to figure out how to make the most money without having to continue school, like going to Law School. I did sales for three years in San Francisco, but I just was not happy. I had a quarter life crisis at 25, so I went travelling for a year with my husband, who was then my boyfriend, so we lived in Asia for a year, travelling and backpacking, and when I came back, I went straight to beauty school.
THE BIG BREAK…
Once I finished beauty school, I went straight to Beverly Hills, looking for the best salons to work for. When you train, there’s almost no guarantee you’ll get a job. It’s more about whether or not there’s a space for you, no matter how good you are. Even if they like you, there just might not be space. You can wait and keep assisting for years until something opens up, but often times there’s people ahead of you, so you’re risking a lot. While I was assisting, I was also taking clients downtown at my loft in the Arts District, pretty much working seven days per week and building a portfolio on social. When I finished assisting and there wasn’t a position at the salon I’d assisted at, I was able to get a job with Jonny Ramirez and Ahn Co Tran [of Ramirez Tran Salon] because of the following I had built. At the time, no one was really using Instagram yet, so my 12,000 followers seemed like a lot and was enough for them to give me a chance.
Social media has evolved so much since then, and I’ve been pushing myself to do more videos, but it’s also hard because my hands are physically full while I’m coloring, so I’m trying to Snapchat or Instastory with color on my hands and it’s kind of a shit show [laughs]. And social media can be so consuming if you let it be. When I went to Burning Man the first time a few years ago, they didn’t have cell reception yet, so I basically turned off my phone for a week, and ever since I had that time away from it, I’ve had to push myself to stay active on social and keep posting. My end goal would be to let someone else do it, but that’s hard too, to let go of the control. Once you know how much healthier you feel away from your phone, it’s hard to convince yourself to start back up again, but it’s not going away anytime soon, so you have to find a way to balance.
THE INDUSTRY TODAY…
I love that I have control over my career and my schedule. It’s just such a fun job! Especially now with social media, the landscape of the industry has changed so much compared to when I started. People come in feeling so much more comfortable when they sit down in our chairs because they feel like they know what they’re getting after looking through our profiles. Instead of “I hope she understands what I want” it’s more like “recreate this color you did on someone else”. What’s really fun about social media is how it makes people more adventurous. They’re willing to take risks, which makes my job fun.
I think the fact that I can take someone’s hair from black to blonde successfully shows people that I can probably do almost anything between that [laughs]. Like, if I can do dramatic transformations, I can definitely handle smaller, more subtle changes too.
My general rule with blondes is, if you weren’t blonde as a kid or aren’t naturally blonde and you decide to go blonde, you are going to have to wear more makeup. The color will wash you out because it doesn’t ‘naturally’ compliment you. I tell all of my Asian clients who want to go blonde that I’m happy to do it, but they will not look as good without makeup on as they do with their natural color. Blonde brings out all the pink tones in your skin, so any redness will be heightened, and it will just wash you out. That doesn’t mean it can’t look amazing, though! You just have to be willing to take on the commitment to do more with makeup for the color to look its best.
If you’re struggling with your hair, or you feel like you’re in a rut, but don’t know what you want to do, my advice is always start small. Highlights look good on everyone, and you can always go back and keep adding more, especially once you see how hair reacts the first time. “Usually, right when you get a color, you can tell if it feels good or not. It’s like wearing the wrong hat, you’re like ‘Oh, this looks weird,’ or ‘I look way better!'”
As a hairstylist, I’m here to manage expectations. If I don’t do a good job during the consultation, telling you what’s possible and what’s not, that’s when people leave the chair unhappy. Really, the coolest part of this industry is that it’s constantly evolving. At the end of the day, I do what I do to make people happy. It feels so good to have watched someone come in and then leave with a whole new swagger to themselves.
MY IDEAL KIT…
Tangle Teezer brushes are super, super gentle. Everyone should have one! It’s so brutal to watch people rake at their hair, but with this brush, it’s almost like you can’t do that because of how it’s made.
Leonor Greyl has an amazing texture paste called Baume Bois de Rose that all the magazines always write about that’s so fantastic. It’s pretty much the one product I use on all of my clients. It’s a paste, so you want to emulsify it completely in your hands until it’s clear before you put it on dry hair. That goes for all products, actually. You don’t ever want to be able to see product on your hands, you want it to be evenly distributed over, otherwise it ends up clumpy in different places. I usually scrunch it into my hair since mine is naturally wavy, but if your hair is naturally straight, it won’t work as well. You’ll probably want to put a curl in it first, then apply at the end.
Oribe’s Côte d’Azur Hair Refresher is almost like a Febreeze for hair. If your hair smells, you really should wash it, but sometimes, if you just want your hair to feel fresher, like after the gym or after BBQing, it neutralizes any bad smells.
Everyone should have a really good hair oil. If you color or heat style at all, you have to use an oil. One of the biggest mistakes people make is styling without something to nourish their hair, and then they wonder why it’s fried. Oribe Gold Lust is really good, and so is Davines Oi. Davines is more natural, if that’s what you’re into.
I personally try to be minimal with products because most hair brands don’t have great ingredients in them. Straight coconut oil is, to be honest, my favorite product to use personally. You don’t want to use it on your roots because it will for sure make you oily, but on the ends or all over as a treatment before you shampoo and condition is so good. There’s an app called Think Dirty that you can use to see all of the bad ingredients in your products; I threw almost everything of mine away after I used it. Coconut oil was one of the ones left standing!”