Vidal Sassoon. Chris McMillan. Frédéric Fekkai. Oribe. When we think of the world’s most influential stylists, these are the some of the (mainly male) names that invariably rise to the top of the list. But all that is changing. Thanks in large part to the power of social media, more and more women are influencing the way beauty is perceived and consumed around the world. Here is our look at a few of today’s most influential women.
1. Tracy Cunningham
Why she made our list: Hollywood is famous for hyperbole. But it’s no understatement to say that Tracey Cunningham is "the" colorist to the stars. Counting A-listers like Jennifer Lopez, Gwenyth Paltrow, Kate Beckinsale, Drew Barrymore, Emma Stone and Mariah Carey among her regulars, you can bet that many, if not most, of the celebs in attendance at any given awards show have had their manes colored by Cunningham.
Where you can find her: If you’re not one of the 276K people already following Redken’s Celebrity Colorist on Instagram at @traceycunningham1, shame on you. She shares celeb formulas on the regular—and posts some adorable kitty videos. In real-time, you can catch her at her salon, Mèche, which she co-owns with Neil Weisberg, or at her brand-new atelier, the Tracey Cunningham Salon, in the recently opened Waldorf-Astoria Beverly Hills. (Or, if you’re a world traveler, you can also pop into Dubai’s Belle Femme, which she co-owns with George Papanikolas and Jen Atkin.)
Words of advice: Cunningham tells her clients to bring in photos of what they want, and you should too. Knowing exactly what your client wants—and doesn’t want— she says is key to a great relationship.
2. Kristin Ess
Why she made our list: Kristin Ess has been delivering hairstyling how-tos since 2011, when she partnered with actress Lauren Conrad and makeup artist Amy Nadine to launch the blog thebeautydepartment.com. Suddenly women everywhere were able to create gorgeous updos and braids, and stylists realized how important it was to share their styling knowledge with their clients. Today, Ess counts Lucy Hale and Jenna Tatum among her clients and has an eponymous line at Target.
Where you can find her: In addition to the website, you can join the 401K beauty addicts who follow her on Instagram at @kristin_ess, where she posts numerous video tutorials that even seasoned pros can learn from. Also, Ess and The Beauty Department were early adopters of Pinterest, and you can go to either’s Pinterest page for loads of how-to content.
On Social Media: "Social media has removed any smoke and mirrors that there once were, and removed the reputation of men being better hairstylists than women," says Ess. "Now, whether you're male or female, the proof is in the pudding for all the world to see by hitting one little share button. The playing field has officially been evened."
3. Jen Atkin
Jen Atkin and her husband hang with Chrissy Tiegen and John Legend.
Why she made our list: Jen Atkin is as close to being a household name as any stylist outside Vidal Sassoon has ever been. She’s the brains behind the Kardashian and Jenner styles, and also counts Katy Perry, Jessica Alba, Chrissy Tiegen and Bella Hadid among her regulars. If that weren’t enough, she has her own line of hair extensions, Beauty Works; her line of Chloe + Isabel hair accessories; her own haircare line, OUAI, released in 2016; is the spokesperson for the supercool Supersonic Hair Dryer; and created maneaddicts.com, an online portal for showcasing hairstyling how-tos and trends, which spawned Mane University that brings top stylists to major cities to teach and inspire the next generation of hairdressers.
Where you can find her: Atkin posts daily at @jenatkinhair to keep her 2 million Instagram followers sated, and you can check out a ton of her work at her website, jenatkin.com. She has a huge following in the Middle East, and is co-owner of Belle Femme in Dubai.
Fun Fact: While she was high school in Utah, Atkin was hired to be a PA on a movie set that her boyfriend’s mom was producing. During this time, she met singer Dave Matthews who told her that if she wanted to do hair, she should move to L.A. or New York. “So he basically talked us into leaving Salt Lake and coming to L.A. and pursuing our dreams,” she said. “I owe it all to Dave Matthews.”
4. Kim Kimble
Why she made our list: The 20-plus amazing hair looks that Kim Kimble created for Beyoncé’s 2016 “Lemonade” video are mic-drop-worthy alone. Kimble has been working with Queen Bey since 2001, and has also worked with Rihanna, Shakira, Lady Gaga and Mary J. Blige. In between keeping her celebs perfectly coiffed, Kimble does editorial work and commercial campaigns. She’s also created a styling line and a line of wigs and extensions.
Where you can find her: Kimble Hair Studio in West Hollywood, California, has been a mainstay since 2000, and she shares styling advice with her 377K followers on her Instagram account, @kimblehaircare. This year also marks Kimble’s fifth season of L.A. Hair on WE TV, which chronicles her career in the salon and as a product maven.
Kimble on set with Beyoncé
How it all began: When first starting out, Kimble couldn’t land an assisting gig in L.A., which only fueled her hunger. She got a job at a barbershop, even though she was terrified to cut men’s hair. She met director Robert Townsend, who later asked Kimble to do Halle Berry’s hair in the movie B*A*P*S, for which she created elaborate hairpieces. She worked with him again on a TV movie starring Beyoncé, and the rest is her-story.
5&6. Riawna Capri & Nikki Lee
Riawna Capri and Nikki Lee with Jessica Simpson
Why they made our list: Riawna Capri and Nikki Lee, the brains behind the uber-successful Nine Zero One, say that the salon almost never was. Two days before closing, their investor backed out. The pair pooled their money and opened three new credit cards, and opened up shop. Today, they count stars like Julianne Hough and Jennifer Lawrence as close friends; create truly trendsetting looks, like last year’s Coachella hairstyle hit, glitter roots with space buns; and have launched the Beauty Coach, a website, traveling tour and learning portal that teaches all things hair.
Where you can find them: Having outgrown their original space, which is now the Nine Zero One Academy and is strictly used for educational purposes, the salon is located on Melrose Place in Los Angeles. On Instagram, between the two of them (@riawna, @nikkilee901) and the salon (@ninezeroone), they boast a following of more than 750K. You can also catch them and their team hosting educational videos online at beautycoach.com.
How they met: Capri and Lee began their journey back in 2002 when both assisted at Fred Segal Beauty in Santa Monica, California. Since Lee is a southpaw and Capri is right-handed, the two killed it when tag-teaming as they put in Great Lengths extensions in less than half the time it normally took. They've been a duo ever since.
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