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Gregory Russell on Becoming Hollywood It Girls’ Right Hand Man

When looking for inspiration that fuses old Hollywood’s vintage glamour with today’s unbuttoned beach wave-obsessed culture, we turn time and again to celebrity hairstylist Gregory Russell. Formerly Jen Atkin’s assistant at Andy LeCompte Salon, the long, flaxen-haired stylist now boasts a roster replete with starlets like Lily Collins, Chloe Moretz, Hailee Steinfeld (to name a few). Ahead, find out how Gregory got his start glamming Hollywood’s It girls, his favorite underrated hair hack, spring hair trends, and more.


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What is your very first memory of hair as a kid?

As a young kid I used to watch my older sister get ready for school. I got the urge to start wanting to take over her look, hair, makeup and what she wore. I had a vision. And we were and still are very close, and she let me! She was my first muse.

Recall your earliest days of doing hair—what did that period of your life look like?

I used to do hair, makeup, and make dresses for my closest girlfriends in high school for prom or whatever. I really liked the idea that anyone could become any character they wanted to by using these tools. I think it was a way for me to escape as a young gay kid in a conservative town. I always enjoyed the fantasies of looking fierce and powerful. 


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How did you get your start in the industry?

Talk about being in the right place at the right time. I was very fortunate. A friend of mine was a wardrobe stylist and I told her I wanted to go into hair and she said, “Cool, let me talk to my agent and see if anyone needs a hair assistant.” I met with a stylist from her agency and he offered me a position to assist him once I got my license. I moved back with my parents to go to hair school (they wanted to make sure I was actually going). I kept in contact with that hair stylist along the way and the day I completed school I drove back across the country and started assisting him two weeks later. It happened to be at one of the hottest salons in Los Angeles, and from there I hopped around assisting people until I ended up at Andy LeCompte Salon assisting the incomparable Jen Atkin. I went on the floor about six months later and worked as much as I could, or sat there all day long waiting for clients. Jen, being the generous angel she is, connected me to her agent and they would send me on some jobs and I did everything I could. Eventually I got a client at the salon who was a hilarious 11-year-old actress named Chloe Moretz. She would come in and get blow dries for her premieres or press days and would blow me away with her razor sharp wit. She was amazing. Her career started taking off and I was fortunate enough to start my career working with that powerhouse. 

What was one of your biggest career challenges and how did you overcome it?

I think one of the biggest challenges in our career is having stamina and the stomach for this career. It looks very glamorous and often times there are some incredible perks to it, but it is a lot of pressure and long hours. You can be on hold for someone you’ve been dying to work with for years and then byyyyye, “They released.” It can be really hard on the ol’ ego BUT it has been so validating and exciting for me, and I’m so grateful to every client that I’ve had the opportunity to work with and grow with.


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What do you think is the most underrated hair product?

I love a mousse. I use it almost all the time. A lot of people think it’s so retro but I love it. I hear from a lot of my clients that their styles last them a long time and I think prepping their hair with mousse is a big reason why.

What do you think is the most underrated hair hack?

Proper shampoo and conditioner for your hair texture is so important and often underrated. I have heard so many times from clients, “Shampoo and conditioner don’t really matter though, right?” Oh yes it does, honey! It is so important to prep your hair with the appropriate products if you want the best results.

What are some hair trends that will be major this spring?

I think natural hair texture is such a big trend. We’ve been blowing out hair and doing a beach wave for a long time. I think they people will start getting more individualized hair cuts that work with their natural texture to look more effortless and chic.


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Would you ever consider opening up your salon? Or starting a product line?

I would love to have my own salon given the right opportunity. Freelancing is so much work and time so the idea of that stresses me out a little, but I think anything is possible! I would also LOVE to have a product line. I talk about it a lot with my sister and bounce ideas back and forth. She is really brilliant and methodical while I’m on the other end of the spectrum, more into fantasy! We are a great balance.

You travel often What are your personal favorite hair products/tools to take while you’re away?

I take everything. You can ask my clients and colleagues. I obviously have tools for different countries as that’s a must, but I never know what I’m going to need or be inspired by. I like to be prepared. 

You have nicer hair than most humans! What does your personal haircare routine consist of?

I’m pretty lazy with my hair. I think that’s why I can keep it so long. I never color it, I hardly put heat on it, and I wash it 1-2 times a week. I’m good about using very hydrating products as in oils, creams, serums, etc. I’m obsessed with scent, so it HAS to smell good. I’m currently using Shiro Oriental Hair Cream and their Shiro Savon Hair Oil, which I discovered in Tokyo. They both smell INCREDIBLE and are very lightweight and provide some slip to the hair.  I also layer in Windle and Moodie Invisible Day & Night Cream which also smells like heaven, and really nourishes the hair. I use that once my hair is dry or almost dry through the ends and for some more definition. 

What does it take to become one of your assistants? 

I’m so fortunate to have an amazing assistant now, Brian Cowell. Our work can be so demanding and it’s important to have someone who is driven and extremely organized with you to help when your jet lagged or just plain exhausted. I need someone who also understands my aesthetic and has an opinion of their own so I can bounce ideas back and forth about looks as well as construction. It’s so important to me to have someone that can be one step ahead of me. Rhythm is so important to me when I’m creating. The smoother things run, the better for me. 


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What’s one thing you learned while working with Jen Atkin that you apply to your styling skills or business today?

I’m so grateful to Jen. She is such a superstar. She taught me many things, hair tricks and how to be business savvy, but I think the biggest thing she bestowed on me is drive. I was absolutely wowed and still am, by her passion, dedication, and charisma that she has for her business and her art. She amazes me every time I’m lucky to sit with her and still to this day is so encouraging and full of advice. She really deserves all of her massive success. She works harder than anyone I know and inspires so many. 

Is there anything you wish you would’ve done sooner while building a name for yourself in the beauty world that you think could benefit stylists who are just starting out?

I believe that everything happens as it should. Of course, if my ego is getting to me or I’m feeling insecure, as I think everyone deals with especially in this industry, I think oh I should have assisted this person or I should have done this first to the hair, etc. But the truth is, I’m always learning and growing as an artist and business person and will continue to as long as I’m doing this! There are days I feel really proud of myself and there are days I’m bummed out. But we can all be hard on ourselves as artists and I just have to keep the perspective that I’m in charge of my destiny and my success and that helps me to feel empowered and keep pushing forward. You live and you learn, ya’ know?

If you weren’t a hairstylist and salon owner, what would you be?

I would run a glamorous dog shelter, probably like Lisa Vanderpump.


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