Free education is a dream come true for most beauty professionals, especially when you’re just getting your start. Jen Atkin is working to turn that dream into a reality with Mane University, and she’s petitioning professional brands to foot the bill. Her most recent classes in New York City, sponsored by Dyson, were a testament to the demand—the line for her consumer and pro classes wrapped around the block.
Photo by Mike Rosenthal
The cause touches a personal level for Atkin. She moved to Los Angeles with just $300 to her name and turned to an occupational center for her initial education. With hard work, she assisted her way up through the industry, and eventually got the opportunity to do John Galliano’s hair for the Met Gala.
Atkin now travels the world providing education, but she hasn’t lost touch with her beginnings. She recently handed out free Dyson tools and brushes at the occupational center where she was educated. And, her commitment to raising the bar for product performance remains strong. To help Dyson better design its products, she visited its laboratories and wore sensors to show engineers how women do their hair. “My note to them is always, ‘We want to get in and out of the bathroom fast!’” she says.
In theory, free education is an amazing concept, but it begs the question, Is it sustainable? “In the generation of YouTube, people are going to get information from somewhere,” Atkin says. “You’re living in a bubble if you think it’s not happening already.” The concept is already in place in the professional makeup industry, which she said is thriving. “As a stylist, I like to teach my clients how to do their hair on their own,” she says, and references the famous Vidal Sassoon quote, “If you don’t look good, we don’t look good.”
photo by Mike Rosenthal
As for what’s next for Atkin, she’ll be in LA and San Francisco over the next few weeks for two more Mane U x Dyson classes, plus her brand, Ouai, is releasing new fragrances, and she’s working to expand her network globally by tapping brand artists in the Middle East, Australia and Canada. To see more from Atkin and Mane University, follow her on Instagram at @jenatkinhair, @theouai, @maneaddicts and @maneuniversity.