Mane Master Cassondra Kaeding on Snagging Her First Vogue Cover and Her Sought After ‘Hailey Bieber Blonde’
Dec 28, 2021
Cassondra Kaeding has cool girl hair down. Long before making early morning house calls to Hailey Bieber and Kendall Jenner, the tattooed colorist—who you can usually spot in her signature all-black uniform—nailed the edgy yet approachable persona thanks to her calm and collected aura she’s had since day one.
Kaeding is the girl who’ll listen to your life story after a few beers in the corner of a bar. She’s always down for a lavish vacation—but equally as game for a mellow night in. You can often find her firing up the grill for fiancée [Mane Addicts Editorial Director and MARA Founder] Allison McNamara, while hanging with their pets and pals in the lush Hollywood Hills backyard they’ve owned since 2014. While she boasts a larger-than-life clientele, Kaeding, herself, is extremely low-key and down for whatever.
In a notoriously catty field of work, Kaeding has managed to largely sidestep the day-to-day drama that accompanies sharing a floor with equally successful, hungry hairstylists. Her ability to block out the noise is attributed to staying true to herself. “If you worry about other people, you’re not focused on doing your best,” she says. “I knew if I wanted to succeed in this business, I’d have to put my all into what I’m doing.”
While her quick rise to fame in the hair world has elevated her taste and ability to indulge in the finer things, she’s no doubt still that girl you can feel at ease around lounging in sweats. She leans on McNamara to stay grounded, while also keeping the importance of “appreciation” in the back of her mind at all times. The Santa Clarita, Calif., native grew up extremely close to her family, which also keeps her in check.
Making all the right career moves has led Kaeding to the wildly impressive aforementioned client roster (which also includes Miley Cyrus, Kylie Jenner, Addison Rae and most recently, Ariana Grande). She also proudly represents Redken as their Color Ambassador, while holding a coveted chair at West Hollywood’s chic 454 North boutique salon. Next up? Creating a product “missing in the market” she says.
In the meantime, however, Kaeding took the time to answer a slew of personal questions as our latest Mane Master. Keep reading to get acquainted with the star colorist on a whole other level.
Breakthrough ‘Vogue’ Cover
Mane Addicts: Take us through your career journey. Did you always know you wanted to do hair?
Cassondra Kaeding: I knew at a young age I wanted to do hair. When I was eight-years-old, I experimented with Kool-Aid on a neighbor’s daughter. I applied the mixture to her lovely long blonde locks. The Kool-Aid worked so well that it stained her hair, clothing and skin! Both sets of parents were not amused with my hair-coloring skills. I really had no idea what I was doing, and still to this day have no idea how I came up with this genius idea.
Even though I loved hair, I ended up getting a scholarship for soccer and going to a four-year university in Denver, Colo. There, I received my BA in business. This was not by choice, but rather, my parents really pushed me to take the scholarship. They promised if I still wanted to do hair out of college, they’d support my decision.
Sure, enough right after college, I was ready to start my career in hair. My parents held up their end of the bargain but also made me get a day job to help pay for school. So, for about two years I worked from 8 a.m. – 4 p.m., and then rushed over to night school from 5 p.m. – 10 p.m. Monday thru Friday. It wasn’t always easy, but I was passionate and really wanted to excel in hair!
MA: What would you say was your first breakthrough moment?
CK: My first breakthrough moment was about six months into my career. One of my clients told me she was going to send a very good friend of hers to me because she needed a new colorist. I was very thankful because at the time I only had a handful of clients. I would sit at the salon from 9-5 everyday because I wanted people to see that I was hungry and was there if they needed me. Then, one day I received a text from that client: “Did you see your hair color on the cover of Vogue?” My jaw dropped because I had no idea I was doing this particular client [Rooney Mara] for the cover of Vogue! That was a really special moment for me.
MA: If you weren’t doing hair, what would be your fallback career?
CK: If I wasn’t doing hair, I’d want to be a chef. In a way, hair and cooking are similar. With hair color, I create and mix formulas for clients using a recipe of sorts. Timing and application are key in hair. In cooking, it’s all about mixing ingredients, timing and creating flavors. So, I think I would be a fantastic chef. Even after a long day at the salon, I don’t mind coming home, putting on some music and cooking away. It really helps me unwind from a long day—and if I had a weird day, it keeps my mind off things.
MA: Having risen in the hair world so quickly, do you ever have to take a step back and reground yourself? What or who generally does keep you grounded?
CK: I get more excited than anything. I’m always appreciative for the people who refer clients, and for trusting me to make sure their hair looks amazing and stays healthy. If I ever get a little carried away, I know I can count on Allison to keep me grounded.
MA: Your IG showcases so much enviable travel for both work and play. What’s been your favorite escape in the last five years, and why?
CK: Hands down, my favorite trip in the last five years has been to Italy. I’m also biased because that’s where I got engaged. Italy will always hold a special place in my heart. Italy is so beautiful, and it’s the only place where I allow myself to eat pasta every day.
MA: It’s no secret the hair world can be quite the catty one, but you’ve consistently maintained a reputation for staying calm and collected. How does one avoid most drama in what can be a chaotic, competitive space?
CK: I believe it’s always best to focus on yourself. If you worry about other people, you’re not focused on doing your best. This is how I look at things. Jealousy can be blinding. I knew if I wanted to succeed in this business, I’d have to put my all into what I’m doing and focus on becoming the best artist that I could be. There are so many clients out there and plenty to go around. If one is meant for me, it’s meant for me. If it’s meant for someone else, I have to be ok with that, too.
Most Requested Color
MA: When was the moment you thought, wow, there’s no way this is really happening to me.
CK: I was asked to fly to Atlanta to do hair color for some of the Hunger Games cast. This was really my first big gig! I would fly out every two months to touch-up the cast as well as their stunt doubles. I was also lucky enough to help color wigs. It was a really amazing experience for me, and I learned so much. It really helped create the artist I am today.
MA: Who’s been your biggest professional mentor or inspiration?
CK: I have two mentors I look up to. One is Sally Hershberger. Sally really paved the way for all the women stylists in a male-dominated industry. I was also lucky enough to work side-by-side with Sally at both her L.A. and N.Y.C. salons. She gave me a chance when I was starting my career, and I’ll never forget this.
Second is Jen Atkin. I’ve admired her work for years. I’ve seen Jen work with top celebrities, as well as start a product line, create a hair publication and so much more. Sally and Jen have trusted me to color their own hair, as well as some of their top clients. I’m truly honored to have worked with both, and lucky enough to call them my friends.
MA: What would you say is a color trend you’ve helped popularize, or one that people commonly associate you with?
CK: I think it would be my balayage on brunettes. I’ve found that being a brunette, clients trust me. Brunette can be a tough color to perfect. It can often go too dark or too red. So, it’s all about finding the right balance and the perfect tones and shades. I can also say I’ve been known for my big color transformations. They’re not for the faint of heart. Color corrections are time-consuming and meticulous and can be scary at times. I enjoy a challenge, so when one is presented my way, I’m quick to jump on it.
MA: What’s something about being an L.A. colorist that people wouldn’t expect?
CK: People seem to think that just because I have a few celebrity clients, I don’t take non-celebrity clients. This is very untrue. My everyday clients are, in fact, my bread and butter. They’ve been loyal clients for years.
MA: What’s the next dream step for you?
CK: My next step would be creating an amazing product. I want to develop something that’s missing in the market, or a product that someone hasn’t created or perfected yet. There are of course a few clients I’d love to work with, but stay tuned because I don’t want to jinx it!
MA: Break down your most requested hair color and what you use to create it.
CK: My most requested hair color now is without question, Hailey Bieber’s blonde. It’s different than the years of her super heavy highlighted blonde. Hailey wanted to change up her hair color, as well as give it a break. So, we created a more natural, lower-maintenance blonde with dimension and movement.
MA: At this established place in your career, do you still deal with occasionally crappy or complaining clients, or do you feel there’s always a mutual level of respect?
CK: No matter where you are in your career, I feel like you’re going to always have a client that’s a bit challenging. I’d say I still get one to two of these clients a year. With more experience, you learn how to deal and set boundaries.
MA: What’s your advice for handling the pressure of working with celebrities and other high-level clientele on a regular basis?
CK: My advice is to go in confident with your skills. You’re there because you’ve created a name for yourself through your work and your reputation. Celebrities are people, too, so don’t psyche yourself out. Always conduct yourself with professionalism, have fun and kick some ass. I’d also say don’t forget to enjoy every victory! Be proud of yourself for all your accomplishments.
MA: How have you changed personally and professionally from the time you began your career to now?
CK: I’ve definitely changed in both my personal life and professional career. In my professional life, I’ve learned that it’s ok to take some time off. Always saying yes and working long hours can burn you out. I’ve learned to listen to my body. If I’m not well-rested, I know I can’t perform at my best. In my personal life, I’ve realized it’s important to spend time with your family and loved ones. You never know what each day holds.
Work Life Balance
MA: Are there any color trends or styles you absolutely refuse to do on people?
CK: I enjoy creating so many different looks. From platinum, brunette and red, to crazy fun creative colors, I’m typically down for anything. I will say, however, I’ll always turn down color on someone who has really compromised, over-processed hair. If the hair is already in bad condition, there’s only so much I can achieve.
MA: If you could dole out a piece of advice to anyone pursuing a colorist career, what would you tell them?
CK: My best advice would be to always go with your gut! It’s easy for clients to be persuasive and push you in a direction you know isn’t the best decision. Even if a client tells you they’re ok with their hair feeling a little dry as long as they’re blonde, don’t do it if the outcome will do more harm than good! In the end, you’re the one to make the call. Putting in the time will always pay off. Things don’t happen overnight, so be patient and trust the process.
MA: What’s the biggest hair concern your clients have, and what products do you recommend?
CK: There are two concerns my clients have regarding their hair. First is the integrity of their hair after a highlighting or bleaching service. I always recommend a shampoo and conditioner that’s sulfate-free and hydrating. I also recommend doing a hair mask twice a month. When you bleach, you take out your hair’s natural oils and hydration, so you need to make sure you use a product that isn’t loaded with lots of harsh chemicals.
The second concern in fading color. There’s nothing you can do to stop color from fading and oxidizing, but it’s very important to use color-safe products designed for color-treated hair. This will help extend the time until your next color appointment. I tell all my clients hair color is an investment, and you must use all the right products to help protect that investment!
MA: On top of everything else you’ve got your hands on, you’re also planning a wedding for early 2022. How did you decide on the destination, and how has the planning process been?
CK: My fiancée and I decided we wanted to do a destination wedding in Tulum. It’s one of our favorite travel destinations. I love the mix of beach and jungle, and the food and music is such a vibe. When you’re in Tulum, you can hang out and enjoy a relaxing day at the beach… the next day you can take a trip to the cenotes, which are freshwater swimming holes. I can go on and on about how much I love it there. I’m pretty laidback, so I let Allison spearhead the wedding planning. It’s been smooth!
MA: You and your fiancée both work in fields that involve making people look better, and you both work among high-profile individuals. Do you find yourselves getting too caught up in that stuff at home? Or do you detach yourselves from the sometimes superficial facets of your careers?
CK: I think Allison and I do an excellent job at leaving that stuff at the door. That said, we’re human, and we can have a few bad days. It’s something we can’t always control. I’m lucky to have such a supportive partner. If I need some advice or help handling a situation, she’s there for me.
MA: Tell us about your tattoos—you have a lot of them! Which one was your first and which one has the most meaning?
CK: Yes, as you can see, I have a few tattoos! At five-years-old, I told my dad I was going to get a tattoo. He blames his best friend, Kurt. Kurt had two full sleeves, and once I saw his work I said, “Dad when I get older, I’m going to have tattoos just like Kurt!” As you can see, I stayed true to that plan.
My first tattoo, which is now covered-up, was an outline of a sun on my lower back. It was a last-minute decision. I just moved away from home for college, and went with my teammates to the tattoo parlor. Everyone was getting a tattoo and I didn’t want to be the only one left out. So, I picked a sun out of one of the inspo books. My most meaningful tattoo is on my forearm. It’s of my two sisters as mermaids. I’m really close to my sisters, who I consider my best friends. They’ve always been my biggest support system.
MA: How do you stay balanced with such a crazy schedule?
CK: When you’re new in the industry, you find yourself saying yes to everything. I thought if I didn’t say yes to a job, someone else would. Whether it was a seven-hour color process or a late-night house call lasting until early hours in the morning, I said yes! Like any job in life, you can burn out. When I started to feel overwhelmed or felt like I wasn’t taking care of myself, I knew that I needed to take some me-time. It’s not easy, but it’s really important to listen to your body and rest.
MA: You don’t get many me-days. Take us through a typical one on the rare occasion.
CK: On my off time I try to do normal day-to-day things that I don’t get to normally do during the week. Fort example, laundry, dishes, car wash, cleaning and organizing. I’ve also gotten better about taking care of myself by booking massages and all my doctor appointments. Lastly, if I can sleep in, I try to take advantage. As I’ve gotten older and wiser, I know I need my beauty sleep.