Celebrity hairstylist Alex Brown has come a long way over the last 10 years – from her tiny hometown of 116 people in Minnesota to jet-setting all across the world from London and Paris to Dubai and Sydney. In between clients, she took a minute to talk to us about how she became a celebrity hairstylist.
“I’ve always wanted to move to a bigger city and become a hairstylist. In tenth grade, I started Googling ‘best, coolest hair schools in Chicago’ because my sister and I were like, ‘let’s just go to Chicago,’ Alex explains. “L.A. seemed too far away and New York seemed too scary, so we figured Chicago is still close to home, but it’s still far away. I remember looking at the Tricoci University and thinking ‘this is the coolest school, I have to go there!’ I just wanted the newest, coolest beauty school and after looking, it seemed like the nicest, most current one.”
Alex graduated from Tricoci University’s Cosmetology Program in 2009 from the Chicago NW campus and immediately went to work. “One of my teachers at Tricoci University approached me a few months before graduation about an upscale salon in the city called Salon Buzz that had a training program where I could assist. I went in and gave them my resume, ended up interviewing and getting hired. That recommendation changed my whole career.”
Train with the Best
Salon Buzz’s training program is notoriously strict and brutal on new stylists. Alex not only survived but thrived in the training program for the first 2 years and 9 months of her career. During that time, she assisted two of their top stylists in the salon learning as much as she could and gaining more and more clients of her own. She not only became a stylist for Salon Buzz, but was also asked to become a trainer during her last 3 years with the company as well. The busy salon taught her structure. And at the age of 22 she was doing over 15 clients a day. That’s when Alex told us something we never thought we’d ever hear anyone in the beauty industry, let alone of our graduates say. She said, “I couldn’t just sit behind this chair and get ‘fed’ clients every day, all day.”
If you do a quick calculation of how many clients she was averaging, and how much a top stylist and a high-end salon in downtown Chicago would charge, well let’s just say the money had to have been great.
But what you quickly learn from talking to Alex about the journey throughout her career is that she’s not in this job for the money. At the height of her career at Salon Buzz, and booked solid with clients, Alex had started thinking about making her lifelong dream a reality – by moving to L.A. and becoming a celebrity hairstylist.
Invest in your Future
Right about then is when Instagram had started to become popular and stylists were getting more and more recognition and celebrity-status of their own. And while Alex wasn’t quick on the IG train, her friends convinced her to join them in Toronto to take a class with THE Jen Atkin. And if you don’t know who Jen Atkin is, shame on you. She’s what the New York Times calls “The Most Influential Hairstylist in the World,” counting top models Chrissy Teigen, Kendall and Kylie Jenner, and Gigi and Bella Hadid as some of her most loyal clientele.
“The class was expensive. I literally thought to myself, okay, if I go to this class I’m going to try to find a way to work for her after.”
With a plan, she went to Toronto. During one of the lunch breaks in the middle of class, Alex walked straight up to Jen’s assistant and asked her how to get a job working for her. Because that’s what it takes!
The assistant explained, “You just have to be living in L.A. Take down my email, and if we need someone, we’ll contact you.” And like that they exchanged emails. 4 months went by before Alex moved to L.A., and then she emailed her.
Alex said, “I emailed her assistant just so she would remember me, like ‘hey, I’m moving to L.A., what are some good areas to move to?’ I mean, I didn’t know anyone in L.A., and she kinda told me some places, but that was it. And about 2 weeks later, just after moving to L.A. I was in a FedEx printing off my resume – like I was just going to print off 50 and just go get a job – and while the resumes were printing I’m scrolling through Instagram and see that her assistant commented on one of my posts that they needed an assistant THE NEXT DAY. Literally, I started balling. I was like ‘I got this.’”
Alex assisted Jen Atkin at a salon the next day and immediately became one of her three assistants.
“Everything that I kept wanting to happen, kept happening. They’d be going to Kim and Kanye’s house and I’d think ‘when do I get to go there’ and the next week I’d be there. They’d be going to Fashion Week and I’d think ‘how do I become THAT assistant?’ and 2 weeks later we’d be in Paris at Paris Fashion week.”
“I knew moving to L.A. what my goal was and that I was only there for my career. I would be at a Lakers game and I would have to leave in the middle to go to work. There was nothing that she asked me to do that I wouldn’t do.” And because of that, she worked alongside Jen on celebrities like Kendall Jenner, Hailey Baldwin, Bella Hadid, Chrissy Tiegen, Olivia Culpo, Khloe Kardashian, and Kylie Jenner styling hair all across the world from London and Paris to Dubai and Sydney.
“I think everyone thinks everyone else is doing it, but they aren’t. It’s so hard to find good assistants, with common sense and a normal personality.”
Follow Your Heart
4 months before Alex stopped working for Jen they were jet-lagged at 4 in the morning working on their laptops in Qatar when Jen turned to her and said, “Alex, if you stopped working for me do you think you’d have enough work to do?” And the answer was ABSOLUTELY. For 3 years they had spent every waking hour together, traveling, working out of hotels and airports, and Alex knew everything about her, but it was becoming time to move on.
“I had always wanted to experience what the L.A. celebrity world was, and it was just so not me. I’m such a homebody and I like to have structure, and I just wanted my life back.”
Alex moved back to Chicago and opened up her own, private Parisian apartment-style salon in the West Loop and now has the best of both worlds. She still works with Jen, dividing her time between Chicago, New York, and L.A., but now she does it on her own schedule. Time will tell what Alex will tackle next – we guarantee it will be something bigger – but for a celebrity stylist who travels the world with the top celebrities and owns a private salon in Chicago, call us impressed and proud to have you as a Tricoci University alum.
Alex’s Advice for Future Stylists
- Show up and be on time.
- Don’t assume it’s too big or too far.
- Build your own luck.
- Don’t assume everyone else has the same dream.
- Put yourself out there and go for it.