Entrepreneur and Celebrity Hairstylist of Zendaya Offers Career Advice

Chances are if you’ve ever swooned over Zendaya’s edgy and wavy chopped cut, Laverne Cox’s chic wavy tresses, or Rihanna’s iconic bob, Ursula Stephen was the visionary celebrity hairstylist behind the look. Beyond her celebrated hair work on red carpets, fashion editorial shoots, and concert stages, she’s a Unilever global haircare brand ambassador, and the owner of “Ursula Stephen The Salon” in Brooklyn, New York. And believe it or not, Stephen had her cosmetology license before she had a high school diploma. We caught up with her to get some career advice on leveling up in the industry.

Very early on you knew what you wanted to do in your career. However, did you envision this level of success? And what decisions have enabled you to succeed as a business owner and go-to hair expert?

I never thought that far ahead. Career was a really big word for me. It wasn’t until I got into cosmetology school and started working in salons that I started to see the possibilities. My teachers were very instrumental in this. They opened my eyes to stylists like John Atchinson, who reached levels I didn’t know existed. Saying “yes” is one of the top three ingredients. I always said yes, even when I was unsure of what was to come.

Can you share any traditional career advice you heard as a young adult, but are glad you didn’t follow?

I’ve never really listened to the “you’re young, you have time” advice. I believe the younger, the better. Take opportunities when they are presented to you—it shouldn’t be based on age or statistics. Once seeds are planted, they take time to grow. Find your calling early on and go hard so you can enjoy life.

You work with a lot of celebrities and major brands. What if a client is adamant about a new look but you think it’s a bad idea. How do you say no to a client?

We never say no. The client is always right. There is always a way to marry what they want with what will work, and that’s what makes me #UrsieOnHair.


celebrity hairstylist

(Image: Ursula Stephen)

You have an amazing portfolio, which includes your work with diverse hair textures and styles. What are some of the things you’ve done in your career to help you understand the needs of different textured hair types?

I owe that to my teachers. While in school, I was fortunate enough to learn from a diverse group of teachers and that taught me that at the core, it was all about hair. I learned to cut fine hair textures and took those skills and techniques and practiced with friends with textured hair in my mom’s basement. The rest is history.

celebrity hairstylist

Zendaya Met Gala (Image: Ursula Stephen)

What are some of your favorite celebrity hairstyling moments that you’ve recently experienced? I’m still on a high from the Met Gala. I love working with clients that I can push the bar with and that is Zendaya! Her Met Gala look was inspired by the power of Joan of Arc and opulence of Versace, who dressed her that evening. The gown looked like armor and chainmail, so we knew we needed a strong beauty look as well.

When it comes to growing your career, what do you think is the most overlooked skill you need to succeed?

People skills. You should make your clients feel comfortable and want to be around you. You can be one of the best artists, but if you don’t give off positive energy, it’ll be hard to keep the momentum going.


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Hairstylist Shares Rare Behind-The-Scenes Photos Of Celebrities In The ‘90s And ‘00s

With apps like Snapchat and Instagram, we basically get 24/7 access to all of our favorite celebrities. But long before stars were sharing daily selfies, people were actually taking their photos with real film.

One of those people was Jason Rail, a former celebrity hairstylist who recently unearthed his collection of polaroids from the 1990s and early 2000s. Rail spoke to Vice about his impressive picture collection, telling the outlet that he felt like a “babysitter” to the stars. 

“The thing that [people] don’t realize is that you’re almost like a psychiatrist or an emotional babysitter, because you are the last person the actor or actress sees before they go onto set,” Rail told Vice. “So if you’re complaining about rent and your boyfriends and your sick cat, you can bum people out and they can get annoyed.”

Can't we just be friends? @_mattleblanc At the playboy mansion for a little party @bartschland #pixbyjasonrail

A photo posted by Jason T Rail (@nosajliar) on

The hairdresser added, “People don’t realize that you’re kind of in charge of feeling people out. If it’s a comedy, everyone’s generally in a pretty good mood. But if it’s an independent film there’s always someone getting killed or fucked up.” 

Rail said he hopes to one day make his incredible collection of photos into a coffee table book. Considering his penchant for befriending actors and actresses, we bet he’d have some amazing stories to tell, as well. 

#clockwatchers @lisakudrow On set in Old Town Pasedena #pixbyjasonrail 1996

A photo posted by Jason T Rail (@nosajliar) on

#littlecity @jonbonjoviofficial

A photo posted by Jason T Rail (@nosajliar) on

@jessicaalba Never Been Kissed premiere '99. Who knew she would become a billionaire. #pixbyjasonrail

A photo posted by Jason T Rail (@nosajliar) on

#doomgeneration @rosemcgowan first day of filming #pixbyjasonrail

A photo posted by Jason T Rail (@nosajliar) on

#hoppening #christinaapplegate @bartschland Playboy Mansion PARTY #pixbyjasonrail

A photo posted by Jason T Rail (@nosajliar) on

David and Courtney at the Never Been Kissed premiere. #pixbyjasonrail

A photo posted by Jason T Rail (@nosajliar) on

To read the rest of Rail’s interview with Vice head here

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