THE MANE EVENT.
No one can stop her, she's all the OUAI up.
But for real. Jen Atkin, the celeb hair stylist and founder of Ouai Haircare and Maneaddicts.com is really at the top of her game.
The number of mag covers she's styled is beyond impressive. From Kim K.'s Forbes cover (#notbadforagirlwithnotalent) to Gwen Stefani's Vogue and Nylon covers to Lorde's Rolling Stone cover, there are few places her magic hands haven't touched. From Bella to Chrissy, Kendall to Kaia, Jen's made a name for herself as one of the industry's most sought-after.
Instead of riding the celeb gravy train, she launched a company. Ouai Haircare has minimalist packaging with cheeky messaging. Her frizz sheets come in a white "cigarette box," with the phrase Frizzy Hair Kills, on the side. The #OuaiSquad is strong.
And honestly, she's just cool. And calm. Even though she's straight running shit, we've never seen her lose hers. It makes sense that the hair boss says, "One of the biggest keys to success is try to say YES instead of NO."
More from Jen below.
Name: Jen Atkin
Instagram Handle: @jenatkinhair
Part of your success can be attributed to the fact that you didn't listen to people in the beginning. You had your own ideas, your own vision. Was it ever hard to stick to your guns?
Two major things come to mind that people told me not to do and I stuck to my guns.
1. Once I started working with certain clients I had my peers and agents worried about who I was working with and didn’t think it would be good for my career. I’ve always chosen to work with people who have ambition and are inspiring and lovely to work with. I always trust my gut.
2. When I decided to not call my haircare line “Jen Atkin”. I was adamant about creating a line for real women and it was never about ME or how I do hair. I wanted to create a cool brand that could live on its own and have people like it regardless if they knew I was behind it or not.
Where do your drive and passion come from?
I grew up with a working Mom. She taught me how to juggle and she never skipped a beat. I realize as I grow older that I try to emulate a lot of what she instilled in me about hard work and being a kind person. I also take pride in how many of my girlfriends are entrepreneurs in fashion, beauty, and tech. I get so much inspiration from watching all of them and the way they push boundaries every day.
At what point did you realize, woah, this big! And how did you handle and manage your success?
My a-ha moments in my career for sure have to be when I got the cover of Vogue with Gwen Stefani when I got to work with John Galliano and assist on Guido’s team at PFW when I launched Mane Addicts when I launched OUAI. In my classes, I try to tell my students: Be humble, work hard, and don’t try to compete with anyone else. There’s enough to go around for all of us to be successful. Don't expect success overnight. It takes years of hard work to start to build a long-standing career. And no matter what, remember we are in a service industry and it’s never about us it’s about our clients and them feeling comfortable and pretty.
When did you know it was the right time to launch OUAI?
I struggled to find a haircare brand that I identified with or spoke to me or my clients. A brand that engaged with its consumers, a relatable brand. I was starting to feel like there was a major lack of realistic communication with haircare. It’s always been my dream to have my own hairline. I’ve been listening to my clients and followers for years and they all have the same complaints- they want healthier hair and they have a lack of time. I created OUAI as a real line for real life- it’s for the girl on the go that only has 5 minutes to do her hair. No more unrealistic hair campaigns- just multi-use products that cut styling time and nourish hair health. We are trying to create a brand, but also a culture. We are fighting against conformity, against boringness, against drudgery. More than a product we are selling an idea- a spirit.
What was the learning curve like in the beginning?
I think in the beginning I was so naive about what was needed to create OUAI. Looking back it's insane that nothing went wrong. Production, the messaging, packaging, etc... We are still such a small team and the whole HQ is full of amazing hardworking multitasking people. I’m excited to see whats next for us.
You've said that every client and every girlfriend has been part of the process for OUAI. Why is it important to you to be surrounded by other strong women?
I think that more brands are trying to empower women to learn how to do their own hair and creating tools, products, and content that make that easier to do (without a stylist). From a social standpoint, women are most active on social because we tend to share things more. We are changing the conversation in business and beauty!
What is your biggest pet peeve?
A "no" person. One of the biggest keys to success is try to say YES instead of NO. Or people letting their fear and doubt keep them from fulfilling their goals.
What are your biggest fears about running a business?
Now with social media, there aren’t boundaries when it comes to product. My biggest fear is not getting our product to consumers in a swift enough way. Supply and demand is always the root problem in business. Its hard to come up with, make and market a product, but then the challenge of getting it to the people who want it, when they want it- is one of my biggest concerns.
What's something you'd like people to know about your job that they probably don’t?
Working as a hairstylist isn’t just about doing hair. There is a lot of scheduling and politics involved when you’re working with multiple clients. You also have to be up with current trends, etc.
IYO-- How can we stay original when we are so saturated by other people's work?
I think everyone is inspired by every genre, era, etc. I think there is so much out there with Pinterest, Instagram, Magazines that we are foolish if we don’t get inspired by it all. Also, don’t be scared to try new things it may be the next big trend.
What about your career makes you feel the most complete?
Making women look and feel good about themselves.
If you had to trade jobs with anyone else in the world, who would it be and why?
Honestly, I have always wanted to be Sade. It’s so random. But I dream of being as cool as her and having that voice.
At what point in your career did you find the confidence to really take charge and become the woman you are today?
I listened to my gut and have always been super proactive. I never shy away from hard work and my parents thankfully instilled confidence in me from a young age. I was always taught to write down and accomplish goals.
What's the best advice you've ever been given? Or your favorite piece of #realtalk?
Serge Normant said not to be threatened by your peers, but be inspired by them. I truly believe there is enough work for all of us to go around and we should support and encourage each other. And Tracey Cunningham always says “Rejection is Gods protection”.
When you hit a big bump in the road, how do you find a new road or a detour?
I always try to look at the bigger picture and consider all options available.
What song do you sing in the shower when you’ve had a bad day?
I don’t sing in the shower, I brainstorm.
Photo Credit: @davisfactor