When it comes to beautiful, bouncy curls, Ethan King (@slickback_buttahtoast) is a name synonymous with making curls of all patterns healthy and vibrant. Some call him "the curl king," and rightfully so, with his ability to seamlessly shape and weave color into all coils. King is the co-owner of Ron King Salon in Austin, Texas, along with his husband Ron. He is also a global curl educator and national artist for Goldwell. What took him to where he is now? It all started with his love for making the world a more beautiful place! King sat down with Beauty Launchpad to talk about where he gets his inspiration, how he got into curls and how he hopes to shape the future of curl education.
Beauty Launchpad (BLP): How did you get started in the salon industry?
Ethan King (EK): I started in this industry because the idea of “pretty” has always appealed to me. Anything that I ever enjoyed had something to do with taking an object or an idea and making it more beautiful and appealing.
BLP: What is your inspiration process like? How do you get inspiration for your creations?
EK: I honestly get inspired by my canvas. I don’t like fitting square pegs into round holes. I like to empower my client and make them feel and exude “sexy.” Every woman should be able to feel that.
BLP: What do you consider your specialty and why?
EK: People will say I specialize in textured hair. I refer to it as “normalizing texture.” Something that is so normal in the world should not be specialized in. I have always loved giving back power to clients through their beauty.
BLP: How did you get into curly hair?
EK: I started doing curly hair as a tool that I needed to have in my belt. I was being asked for it a lot, and I did not know how to do it. I was like every other stylist and would always say no in fear of messing someone’s hair up. I soon realized after taking many curly clients that most have a story. The stories are all similar — They have been told no by many and that they were unprofessional, unkept, crazy, frizzy, ugly, distracting and prettier with straight hair. We have trained curly haired women to think that taming and controlling their curly hair is what makes them beautiful. This was disgusting to me, to know that professionals in an industry meant to make people feel beautiful we were part of the problem by saying no. We made women feel uncomfortable and unwanted in salons. What once was a “need” quickly became a passion for me. I knew this had to change.
BLP: What advice would you give stylists just entering the industry?
EK: Never say no. Opportunities come once in a lifetime for some. Don’t limit yourself. You will eventually mold a career for yourself through your experiences.
BLP: If you could go back in your journey and do anything over again, would you?
EK: I would not change anything about my journey. I always say that everything I have done has made me who I am today — the good and bad.
BLP: What challenges have you encountered in the salon industry over the years?
EK: My challenges were always myself. Once I learned to get out of my head and allow myself to overcome the fear of failure, I started to thrive in this industry.
BLP: Where do you see the salon industry headed?
EK: I see the salon industry moving towards sustainability, inclusivity and personalized experiences. Embracing natural textures and diverse styles will become more prominent, as clients seek authenticity and individuality in their hair care journey.
BLP: What are your best tips for success in the salon industry?
EK: Be authentically you. Don’t try to be what other people are. Don’t compare yourself to others. Those that can stand out go far. Set yourself apart from the rest.
BLP: What are some cut and colors that you see trending in 2024?
EK: When it comes to color, I love the trends of low maintenance color. I think that will continue on except more ombré colors or tip outs. Cut trends with curls have gone more tapered instead of rounded, but I never influence people to want a trend. Trends might be “trendy,” but they doesn’t mean they’re right for everyone.
Ethan's Top 6 Salon Must-Haves
1. Ecoheads Ping Color Mixer
2. Procare Foil Printer
4. Diffuser stands
5. All 10 of my Dyson Blowdryers
6. My trifecta: KMS Curlup Wave Foam, Stylesign Goldwell Curl Splash Gel and Stylesign Goldwell Twist Around Spray
Midnight Berry How-To
Step 1. Prelighten hair with Silklift Strong.
Step 2. Pre-tone hair with with Colorance 8CA@ PB. This gave us a cool smokiness of midnight.
Step 3. Using Elumen, I melted NA@2 into VV@all and PK@all. I used Elumen for the shine factor to really bring the pack of vibrancy to exude berry.