Growing up in Southern California, Tippi Shorter loved fashion, hair and makeup—but it didn’t occur to her to pursue a career in the beauty industry. “I was involved in singing and dancing groups and I always volunteered to create the looks backstage, yet I still didn’t recognize my calling,” says Shorter. A year into college and unhappy with her life but unsure how to change it, a friend suggested Shorter take her job as an assistant to a popular California stylist. “It was like a light bulb went off,” says Shorter. “Suddenly I realized, I can do this for a living!” The go-getter crammed years of cosmetology school into eight intensive months, studying days, nights and weekends while apprenticing at salons to get gig-ready. Within a year of assisting Jamika Wilson, who recently became the first Black woman to win an Oscar for Best Makeup and Hairstyling, Shorter was collaborating on beauty shoots for music videos and album covers. “I didn’t know that by going into hair, I could still be in the arts,” she says. “Right away, I got to live all my love.”
Coming into Her Calling
This isn’t to say success came easily. There were years of hustling in New York City. Case in point: Shorter’s roommate was an intern at Essence magazine, and the budding stylist transformed her friend into a walking business card. “Every week she had a very different hair look, going from long and red to chopped and blonde,” says Shorter. A stint doing makeovers on women of color for the The Ricki Lake Show show followed, and five years after moving east, Shorter opened her own salon, called Luxe, in Manhattan’s Soho neighborhood. “Then one day I got a call to work with a beautiful singer from Barbados, so I sold my salon and traveled with Rihanna for the next five years,” laughs Shorter. Over the decades, the celebrity stylist has shaped the manes of numerous icons, including Lady Gaga, Serena Williams, Alicia Keys, Angela Bassett and Regina King.
As global artistic director for Mizani, Shorter is now fulfilling her mission to teach the beauty world about textured hair. “One of my biggest struggles was getting people to understand that texture is a fabric—it’s not about black or white,” she reflects. “As more people embrace their natural texture, I want to manipulate that fabric to be its best, rather than change it.” She recently joined L’Oreal Professionnel as a color artist, but the self-described “lifelong learner” is never too busy to continue pursuing her own education. While taking advantage of today’s extensive digital offerings, Shorter also used the COVID-19 lockdown to launch the Mizani AirCut digital class, a curl cutting method she created to systematically cut waves, curls and coils. AirCut certification is now live andin person.
“In addition to normalizing texture, I want to assist in normalizing diversity in the beauty industry,” says Shorter. “I love this industry and everyone in it, so I want to continue to be a value-add.”