Whether he’s on tour with Jessie J or Iggy Azalea, Sami knight is the creative connoisseur behind some of the most modern, fresh, and playful looks for our favorite pop starlets. Hailing from the UK, Sami now resides in Los Angeles (though he’s mostly living out of a suitcase), where he lets his artistic flair flourish working editorial, print, and celebrity hair (including Katie Nehra). Also- one of the most down to earth and fun people to be around, his cheerful personality instantly inspires. Keep reading to find out more about this #manemaster.
How did you get your start in the industry?
I had an unconventional start, I became an apprentice in a vintage and retro hair salon in London, which was the most incredible “thrown in at the deep end” way to learn. I felt very comfortable there, and Nina – who ran the salon was very encouraging – was always sort of pushing me to do crazier, bigger hair.
I started at Nina’s just as I was finishing my degree in photography. I also assisted the photographer Alice Hawkins for a long time, and had watched the hairstylists she worked with do their job, and was amazed, really. I don’t think I’d ever considered being a hairdresser before, but I loved watching and learning. I then went on to assist Eamonn Hughes briefly, and then assisted on several seasons of shows with Sam McKnight.
It all came together for me, and I was pretty good. More importantly though, I wanted to be better, and when I realised that, I worked really hard to hone the skills I was learning and make it a career.
What was one of your biggest career challenges and how did you overcome it?
I think my biggest challenge was convincing colleagues and friends that I was serious about hair. I’d not really settled on what I wanted to do, career wise, for a long time. I’d been dabbling in photography, even going out and doing magazine shoots, and then when I switched to hair, I think people thought of it as a phase. There wasn’t really anything I could do other than keep my head down and keep going, and it worked! That was hard, and braiding. I have sausagey fingers, and couldn’t scalp braid. So I kept my head down, and worked on a block until I could. I’m still not the best braider, but practice makes perfect.
Who are some role models who have inspired you?
Eamonn Hughes for sure, there are people that you can learn from just by being around them, and absorbing what they have to say, and the way they interact with people. I think he really inspired me to be a nice person, to try to get along with everyone, and to work hard, as well as to be bloody amazing at hair.
Sam McKnight is another person, his level of skill is fascinating to watch. He really gets his hands into the hair, which I think I was scared to before seeing him do it. He really keeps it fresh, everything he does looks very contemporary, and I love that.
There are a few hairdressers whose work I really admire, and always keep an eye out for: Danilo, Julien d’Ys, Duffy, Guido – they’re all real masters of the craft.
Do you have a signature look or style that you are known for?
Probably, haha! I’m sure people often think of big hair when they think of my work; big teased out sets, up-dos, bright colours, beehives, retro touches. I love those, of course, and I really built so much on them, but my interests are forever changing. Ultimately, I really like making women feel special when I do their hair. That’s a signature for me.
What was your last major makeover that you’ve done?
I worked a lot with Jessie J this year, and she was very keen to try some different colours out. In the end I think we had five different colours and kind of rotated them around the world. I really loved that, as I think it was unexpected. Everyone loves Jessie’s signature black bob, making it baby blue and candy pink was a hoot!
I love wigs, and I use them an awful lot, and thats the best thing about them. You can create these huge makeover moments, and still wake up the next morning with your classic look.
Which hair products or tools are always in your kit?
My Parlux hairdryer, I couldn’t do without. Nothing else feels the same in my hand, the same with my Babyliss Ceramic tongs, the balance has to be right. I have an American and a European kit, and have those same hot tools in both, just different voltages. My flat irons are Cloud 9 and are universal (HOORAY!).
Products vary for me, but L’Oreal Elnett is my working spray of choice, If I need a fixing spray, it’s Schwarzkopf Silhouette black can and white can. I adore L’oreal Pli for blowdrying; it’s really the best.
Everything else I mix up here and there, but I love KMS, John Frieda, Fudge, Kevin Murphy – they’re all winners. I’m really enjoying Carol’s Daughter products for Afro hair too, and Olaplex is amazing, best in salon treatment out there.
I’m a bit of a product nut, actually. I buy stuff everywhere, try it out, and see what I think. Touring the world with musical artists is amazing, because I get to find the most incredible hairdressing supply shops around the globe and just scour them. I do also love to go natural too, rose water, almond oil, sea salt and coconut oil are all in my kit.
What is your favorite Instagram account to follow?
I don’t know that I have a favourite! I think the nice thing about instagram is creating this very tailored feed that is a constant supply of quite specific inspiration. I follow a lot of hair, makeup, graphics, design and interiors accounts. Oh actually, makeup artist Isamaya Ffrench has a pretty incredible account to follow, and she doesn’t post too often. Instagrammers need to learn how to edit more, and i’m not all that into behind the scenes as I’d rather see the finished product, I don’t need to see how they did the magic trick.
What advice would you give yourself 10 years ago?
Get laser eye surgery, I just did it last year, and can’t believe I waited so long.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve received? What advice would you give to new stylists?
Being a hairdresser isn’t always just about being a hairdresser. You’re part of a team – be helpful. Do what you can to help out, and make your client’s life easier. That was paraphrased, but the message is there.
My advice to new stylists is always the same, work very hard, and if you don’t want to do that, then choose a different profession.
What is the next chapter for you?
I never know. That’s the most exciting and worrying part of this business. Lot’s more traveling is always nice, and I’d love to work on some more actresses, I enjoy that immensely.
I love my job, so as long as I’m doing hair, I’m happy.
I think Sondheim said it best: “Plush velvet sometimes, sometimes just pretzels and beer, but I’m here.”
Follow @samiknighthair for more #manespiration.