It’s said that opportunity comes knocking when you least expect it. Johnny Wright (@johnnywright220) certainly knows a thing or two about that. In 2007, Wright, a native Chicagoan, was enjoying a day off from the local salon he worked at when his agent, Ken Barboza, phoned him with some major news. “Obama had announced his presidential candidacy two weeks earlier, and he was calling to tell me about an opportunity to style Michelle Obama’s hair at a photo shoot for Essence,” recalls Wright. “It was the chance of a lifetime.”
The two had instant rapport. That same year, Wright headed to Southern California, working at the tony Frédéric Fekkai salon in Beverly Hills, CA while pursuing a hairstyling career in television and film. “Whenever the First Lady traveled to Los Angeles for TV appearances, I continued to style her hair,” says Wright. After crafting her look for the Democratic National Convention in 2008 and a Vogue cover shoot in 2009, Wright was asked by the First Lady to move to Washington, D.C. to serve as her personal stylist. “I was honored, excited and nervous about the unknown all at the same time,” says Wright of his new role, explaining that he had worked with celebrities before but had some trepidation about the political world. “It was definitely unfamiliar territory.”
Throughout Wright’s eight years at the White House, he had the opportunity to travel the world, meet amazing people and create hair history, fashioning looks for the First Lady that ranged from lobs, bobs and bangs, to loose curls and effortless updos. “There are so many amazing memories,” says the style icon, who first became fascinated with beauty thanks to his grandmother, a working stylist and colorist until age 91.
With Washington, D.C. behind him, the celebrity stylist has big plans for the future. “I want to develop a product line and an academy,” says Wright. “I’m very passionate about education. My philosophy has long been, ‘the more you know, the more you grow.’”
Photography: Courtesy of Johnny Wright