Celebrity hairstylist Ursula Stephen is known for edgy and trendy looks that can transform an entire image. She has cut and styled the likes of Mary J. Blige, Kerry Washington, Rita Ora, Keyshia Cole, and her haircut on Rihanna was named People Magazine’s “Most Coveted Haircut of the Year.” She now resides as the Global Ambassador for Motions, and was tapped to be the number one hairstylist for South Africa’s fashion week. As the go-to woman for “new-image” makeovers for high profile clients, it’s no wonder she is Rihanna’s first pick for hair transformations. We were lucky enough to get a few words from Stephen about her career, success, and making it in such a competitive industry…
How did you get your start in the industry?
I worked in a salon in the downtown area of Brooklyn and quite a few of my clients worked in the industry or were affiliated in some way. They began to refer me, and my name started to circulate. One of my first big gigs was going on tour with Kandi Burruss – we know her today as one of the Atlanta Housewives. I was super scared!
What was one of your biggest career challenges and how did you overcome it?
One of my biggest career challenges was stepping away from behind the chair to purse a career in freelance full time. It was tough, because I went from getting paid on the spot to having to wait 30-90 days for a check. It was a rough and broke period in my life. I had to really have a talk with myself. I had to remind myself that I was successful behind the chair because I put time in. So in order to be successful in freelance I needed to do the same- put that time in!
Which hair products or tools are always in your kit?
Dry shampoo, hairspray, spritz and my marcel irons- they always come in handy.
Dry Shampoo – TIGI Bed Head Oh Bee Hive! Matte Dry Shampoo
Hair Spray – Motions Light Working Spritz
Bobby Pins – Goody
Curling Iron – Gold ‘N Hot 1″ Curling Iron
Pomade – Bumble and bumble Sumowax
Who are some role models who have inspired you?
Where do I begin… John Atchison and Vidal Sassoon. They were visionaries and I admired them. I have the utmost respect for the salon stylist. And the celebrity stylists that came before me. I take a page from everyone’s book
Did you have any mentors along the way?
I have gathered a couple of mentors along the way and still continue do so. I admire Vidal Sasoon and Paul Mitchell, as I aspire to be a household name one day. But, I also admire the salon stylist as well. You gotta love this job to do it. Seeing them keeps me going.
What advice would you give yourself 10 years ago or what was the best piece of advice you received?
I would say Urs don’t worry! Back then I had the pressure of my mom who supported my dream of being a hairstylist, but still wanted me to get a degree. So I knew I had to make this hair thing work.
Best advice I ever got was save your money because you will be around longer than some of the artists you work with.
What advice would you give to someone new in the industry?
My advice- be strong! This industry will test you. Stay focused. Be honest and humble.
How would you describe your beauty and hair philosophy?
I believe that beauty and hair are an extension your personality and should be a lifestyle.
What is the next chapter for you?
To continue to brand myself, my name, and my craft. And to take every opportunity that comes, as long as it feels good. And to be HAPPY. All of this doesn’t matter without happiness.
Be sure to follow Ursula Stephen on Instagram for more #manespiration.