I don't know about you, but I'm currently covered in Jen Atkin. Or, at least, Jen Atkin's essence. It just so happens my most recent archived post on Instagram was of Hailey Bieber's wedding hair (Jen Atkin), my hair is three days deep in the best oil-absorbing dry shampoo on earth (Ouai Super Dry Shampooby Jen Atkin), and, last but not least, another delicious new drop from the brand, the Body Crème, is slathered all over my legs and arms. Apart, perhaps, from iconic hairstylist Sally Hershberger, Jen Atkin is the first female hairstylist to hold household name recognition, and without question, she's one of (if not the) most influential hairstylists in the world. And really, she's just getting started.
Between cultivating one of the most sought-after hair résumés in the industry (featuring some of the buzziest names like the Jenners, Kardashians, and Hadids no less), in her spare time, Atkin has been busy and never without multiple projects up her sleeve. In 2014, she founded Mane Addicts, the top digital content platform for all things hair inspiration and hair education, and two years later she launched her own haircare line, Ouai, which immediately amassed a cult consumer following. Another professional side hustle? Using Instagram to stalk the latest and greatest artists in the hair industry, a practice that inspired her most recent Mane Addicts venture, Creator Collective.
Here's the gist: Atkin personally scouted and selected six world-class celebrity hairstylists to cater to Mane Addicts' overwhelming number of clients, brands, and creative partnerships. Brittany Sullivan, Cash Lawless, Ruslan Nureev, Kathleen Riley, Amanda Capomaccio, and Irinel de León represent a new generation of stylists and content creators who partner with top celebrity talent and will be continuing the legacy, influence, and partnerships Atkin's spent years paving within the hair industry. We spoke one-on-one with Atkin to get the exclusive scoop on the inspiration behind Creator Collective and to find out what each of the six artists brings to the table. Keep reading for everything you need to know in Atkin's own words.
"Basically, it all started with a finsta account I created about three years ago," Atkin laughs.
"I started following close to 100 hairstylists located all over the world—artists I'd heard about via word of mouth or people who were just creating work I really admired. That said, I closely followed the six people who have ultimately made up our collective, and prior to bringing them on I was not only looking at their work, but also taking note of their work ethic, how they maneuvered themselves professionally, how they worked on camera. Basically, I've been creeping on all of them for a while now. I approached them by expressing all of the exciting things going on at Mane Addicts and explaining that, due to my own busy schedule, I've reached a point where I have to pass on so many amazing opportunities.
"I feel like I spend so much of my time nurturing talent and making sure my assistants go on to do amazing things. The idea of the Creator Collective presented the perfect environment to connect the dots and to put my contacts together. It's been such an amazing journey and truly inspiring to see everyone rise to the challenge and create so many incredible looks."
"What I really look for is not only a stylist's talent and engagement but also how they connect with their audience," expresses Atkin.
"It's really hard to teach someone how to be comfortable on camera. You know, I was really a part of the first generation that had to navigate a little bit of everything: cultivatingtalent, creating contacts, and really pounding the pavement, but also having the ability to showcase my work, to not be afraid to talk to a camera or audience, and to not be too shy to share my work. So that's really what I'm looking for.
"Social media really helped my career, and so for me, it was really all about watching these artists and not only admiring their craft but getting a feel for their personalities and their authenticity. It took a few times of meeting with each person face-to-face and working with them to ensure they were the real deal. And, I mean, I'm not trying to be dramatic, but not everyone made the cut."
"These are six people that I think are going to be big, really incredible influences within the hair industry," Atkin shares. "I never really had a specific number, and I also don't want to say we're going to stop at six. I'm following a few others, and it's really important to me that we find someone who is really, truly amazing with ethnic hair. And, you know, I'm still on the hunt. I'm looking at people in London, in Australia, in Dubai. I have my eyes on quite a few people. I obviously want to scale the business in a healthy way and don't want to overload our team, but I also have to say I never expected that we would be so busy. We launched in April and the collective has already taken on over 200 clients—it's really hit the ground running and we've been really busy with just the six! But yes, the eventual goal is to add even more artists."
"What's most exciting for me is how much the industry has changed since I first came to L.A. back in 2002. Back then, I didn't have any female hairstylists to look up to. The only person for decades was Sally Hershberger, and I'd never heard of another female hairstylist who was a household name like that. But now, even in just the past four or five years, there's been such a switch—Lacy Redway, Laura Polko, Justine Marjan, Ursula Stephen, and Jennifer Yepez—it's so awesome to watch all of these amazing women. We've worked with them on a lot of content for Mane Addicts because it's my hope that we're all inspiring other girls in this industry to realize you can have it all. Both Lacy and Laura have children, and it's inspiring to see how that old stigma of just male hairstylists being successful has really shifted."