Celebrity hairstylist Ursula Stephen has embraced creativity from a young age, knowing early on that hair was her destiny. Through hard work, dedication and seizing every opportunity that came her way, she has become one of the most sought-out hairstylist in Hollywood, working with some of the industry's top leading ladies, including Rihanna, Iggy Azela and Kerry Washington to name a few. Now, with the opening of her first salon, Ursula Stephen: The Salon (ursulastephen.com/the-salon), we caught up with Stephen to learn her inspirations, what drives her, and, of course, her beauty secrets!
Beauty Launchpad: How did you first get involved with the beauty industry? What attracted you the most about becoming a hairstylist?
Ursula Stephen: "I was attracted to the beauty industry at a young age - right before high school. My mom had two children. One was blessed with amazing academic ability and the other with a creative mind (this would be me). I loved to work with my hands, dance and music, anything creative and hands on. The other thing that attracted me was being a disgruntled client. I was never happy when my mom sent me to the salon - from the service to the products to the style. I would go home and 'do it right.' I would always say to myself, if I was a hairstylist, I would 'do it right,' and that's the stylist I became. At that age I knew that the one thing women wanted when they went to the salon is to look pretty and feel comfortable. So that became my goal in life."
LP: You work with clients such as Rihanna, Rita Ora, Kerry Washington, Iggy Azela, and Mary J. Blige, among others. How did you get involved in the world of celebrity hairstyling?
"Word of mouth. When I worked at the salon many of my clientele were in the business. They either worked at the record label, were friends with artists, or lived in club in scene. My name started to get passed around. And when opportunities came, I jumped at them! I didn't have a clue what I was doing but the word 'NO' never came out of my mouth. I owe a lot of my success to being naive and passionate.
LP: Who are some of your biggest beauty influences? Who most inspires you?
"It hasn't ever been one person. I take page from the books of many people. Of course I look up to the Paul Mitchells and Vidal Sassoons. I admire how they branded themselves and became household names. But, I also admire the hairstylist that's working in the hood until 2AM because they have that passion that I can relate too. There are some people that are not even in the beauty industry that I admire. I take things from their experience and apply it to mine - it's all relevant."
LP: What are some of your foolproof tricks for working with textured hair?
"Applying product to textured hair while it is damp would be my foolproof trick. You must tackle it before it gets dry and unruly!"
LP: What is one hair product that you cannot live without?
"Dry shampoo! It's a life saver. When your hair has product overload, its my go-to product."
LP: What spring/summer hair trends are you currently loving?
"I'm loving the whole funky color trend this spring, like the blue ombre! Kyle Jenner really got it right."
LP: You recently opened your first salon (Ursula Stephen: The Salon) in Brooklyn. Congratulations! What led you to take the plunge into this latest venture?
"Thank you! The timing was right. I was opposed to opening one for such a long time. And, in the last couple years, it seemed like that would/should be my next move. I believe that when things feel right and flow seamless then it's right - and that's how it was for me."
LP: What has been the most exciting aspect of owning your own salon? The most difficult?
"The ability to teach my skills, encourage and guide stylist and creating a comfortable working space has been one of the most rewarding. Not being there as much as I would like to be is kind of difficult."
LP: What advice would you give to other hairstylists who want to open their own salon?
"Having a good team is important - be good to them!"