How to be a Hair Artist and Educator with Jodie Austen

I must admit whilst taking a look at her resume I held a breath. Meet Jodie Austen, Hair Artist and Educator, she has worked on campaigns for Vogue, I-D Magazine, Wonderland, Zara Man…

Incredibly, Jodie has booked shows like Victoria Secret Show, Saint Laurent, Dior, Kenzo, Valentino, Alexander McQueen to name a few. I first met Jodie at the 2018 Elle Weekender when she came to my hair rescue and I asked if I could interview her for my blog. Delighted that she said yes, I sat there with my recently volumised and perfectly curled hair beaming as she whizzed off to do Maisie Williams and Lena Headey’s hair for their interview that I was going to as well.

In our own interview, I speak to Jodie on how it felt being booked for shows like Victoria Secret, working on campaigns for Vogue, and speaking at Creative Head Magazine’s The Coterie as an educator…

1. Can you tell me what made you want to get into the industry? 

I was not the most fashionable youngster. My ‘style’ was basic – super long straight hair, a bit of eyeliner and mascara, a pair of oversized baggy boyfriend cut jeans, pink converse, and a big hoody. I knew nothing about fashion or hair. 

It was in my last few months of studying Sound Engineering that I discovered fashion magazines in the college library and fell in love with the fantasy-like world where beauty ideals were challenged and celebrated in unique creative ways. I’d always struggled to find my own identity growing up and I was estranged from the females of my family, so these magazines were incredibly inspiring, for the models showcased strength and beauty in a way I’d never seen before. 

I finished my Sound Engineering course but didn’t want to work in the Music Industry so pursued going back to college to learn hairdressing with a very loose idea to play my saxophone on a cruise ship by night and do hair in the day. 

It wasn’t until I was sat in a salon waiting for the boss to come and interview me for an assistant position that I had my lightbulb moment. This particular salon had done a lot of hair collections for industry awards. The imagery was all over the walls and in a portfolio on the coffee table which I marvelled at. It was in that very moment I realised the fashion magazines must need someone to do the hair! I got the assistant position but left the salon hyper curious about working in the fashion industry. I was so inspired to get creating for the camera that I was straight onto Google the minute I got home searching for photographers and other artists to work with. 

2. What’s been your scariest career move and how did it pay off? 

Stepping 100% out of the salon has to be the scariest thing I ever did. After years of balancing my career in salon hairdressing with fashion shoots and shows, I had finally begun to build a network of contacts and was getting more promising opportunities than ever before. It was absolutely the right time to dive into a freelance lifestyle but I cannot deny the fear I felt removing the safety net of a steady income and real position within a salon business. Imposter syndrome was very real for me bundled up with a tonne of self-doubt – after all, what if clients didn’t want their hair done at home, and what if I didn’t get anywhere within the fashion industry, what if I wasn’t good enough, am I delusional? Only one thing was certain. I knew that when I was stood backstage at a show or on set, I felt the most at home ever and it was like my heart was exploding with happiness creating there. I needed it in my life, I had to at least try… and it paid off! I am so grateful. Taking full control of my time I was able to accept more opportunities. Those experiences taught me a lot and then lead me to other opportunities and work. I still have a column of private clients that I look after, but 5 years down the line I am stood on set the most I’ve ever been and am styling hair for client’s I was dreaming of! I am so grateful. 

3. How do you balance your life between London and your home? 

It’s a tricky balance to keep, the hardest part is getting enough rest. When you love your work the travel isn’t a problem – but the exhaustion it inflicts is something I have naively disregarded constantly and wound up in bed for two weeks super ill when it all caught up on me. So I’m still finding the right way to balance it! I now try to spend my commuting time listening to audio books, music, and meditating – but as I write this I am actually on a train homebound! 

I’ve learnt to be a lot more mindful of what I spend my time doing. I’m a natural work-a-holic and with work being my happy place I’m now checking in and being sure to spend the time after work more leisurely, like practicing yoga or music. 

4. For anyone wanting to get into editorial and campaign hair, what advice would you give? 

Be open to and manifest your own opportunities. Go out there and meet people, and be really open to learning a lot. It’s a tricky industry to navigate as it is an artist industry so not as clear cut. Everybody has their own journey and there is no certain way of paid jobs – no matter how talented or long you’ve been working for, there’s no certification. It’s really what you make of it.

5. I was blown away by your experience but let’s talk fashion shows. I saw you were at Victoria Secret 2017, talk me through what a typical day for you would be at a fashion show?

Ahh Thank You! Okay, so the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show is a super special day that runs quite differently to what it would be like at fashion week (which is jam packed with super early call times, several shows a day and a rollercoaster of fabulous fashion frenzy to experience). 

The day of the VSFS starts with a lovely 9:30am call time. We arrive and set up our kit of tools and products, and the key artist Anthony Turner, demonstrates and explains the look he wants us to create. The models arrive around 10am, and the room begins to fill with management, production, and press. The rest is quite honestly a blur! It’s a day filled with so many moments, the models are constantly being interviewed and filmed or photographed that the whole day is just one big experience! As an environment to work in, I find it super joyful – everyone is so pleased to see what they’ve worked so hard on come together and it’s one big mutual celebration. The show happens twice and then its after-party time! Having spent months of preparing, it’s a party where everyone well and truly lets their hair down with lots of food, music and dancing into the early hours. 

6. As creepy as it sounds, it’s not meant to be, I promise, ha! But…I’d honestly love to follow you around for a day! I bet you’ve had some amazing conversations with people. Who have you met that has inspired you and what did they say? 

Oooo! Good question. Honestly, I am inspired by many of people that I’ve had the pleasure of crossing paths with, from models to the creatives. Right now Rudi Lewis is a great inspiration to me. He has had an incredible career and to assist him teaches me so much in a variety of aspects of hairstyling and the fashion industry. I really admire the way he works and to have a career with an ounce of the things he has achieved would make me very proud. 

7. As an educator, where have you recently spoken at and how do you prepare yourself to speak at these events? 

I most recently spoke at Creative Head Magazine’s The Coterie. I was on a panel for their talk titled “Session’s Next Gen”. I was honoured to be asked – I’ve been attending The Coterie for many years now and hoped to one day have something to talk about! The preparation leading up to this specific event really has been a process of development since becoming an educator.

Before I was a hairdresser I didn’t speak a lot and would literally have to be pushed out on stage when it came to performing music; when I started educating I got all the same nerves but wanted to share my passion so much that I pushed myself through the shaky hands, tongue-tied sentences and sweaty palms. I soon realised that as long as I had hair in my hands, I could talk. Over the last year I’ve been educating at events with larger audiences and my confidence has definitely grown but when those nerves kick in, and they do every time, I remind myself that the audience is attending to hear what I have to say and get inspired so to not deliver just means I’m letting them down; which is the opposite of what I’m personally trying to achieve when I talk. (Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Big Magic “how to live creatively without fear” really shone a lot of light on this for me and I cannot recommend it enough!) 

The Coterie event was not me educating but sharing my experiences to a room of hair industry people. I am so grateful I finally figured out the nerves so I could share my story at that event. It meant a lot to me personally and I am very grateful to have received such positive and kind feedback. 

8. I saw you were recently at the Men’s Fashion Week Shows, have you any exciting plans for us to look out for? 

One show had a tonne of fur and knits, the other was a designers unique vision and world so there were many interesting ideas. As far as exciting trends coming through, I think hair is starting to get more styled again. Its been “I woke up like this hair” for the last few years and women are interested in polishing that look up but with minimal effort in the morning still. I feel blow drying hair is coming back strong and fresh – I like to call it “the undone blowdry” as it’s a style that still has an easiness to the shape and texture but with a healthier, more luxury finish. Think not of the classic ‘news reader’ perfect set blowdry and more a relaxed ready-to-wear version.

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