If you aren’t already following Monaé Everett on Instagram, you definitely should be. For the last two decades, the New York-based hairstylist has built an incredible reputation for her work both on-and-off the red carpet. A self-proclaimed “diverse hair visionary,” Everett is responsible for some of the best hair looks in Hollywood.
Her ability to slay just about every hair type and texture has kept celebrities such as Tia Mowry, Taraji P. Henson, Dominique Fishback, and Yara Shahidi constantly turning to her for fresh, new looks. Now she’s sharing the secrets to her success in her new book, Get Out of Your Own Way: 25 Insider Tips For Booking Celebrity Clients (available Aug. 10th).
We had the pleasure of chatting with Everett on the phone to discuss how she started working with celebrities, her new book, and how she’s handling life in quarantine.
The Tease: How did you first break into the world of celebrity hairstyling?
Monaé Everett: I started my career in the D.C. area which of course is not a major market much to my chagrin. I had begun working on runway shows and was building a name for myself and I got a referral. It depends on who you consider a celebrity but my first celebrity was Angie Martinez for the inauguration of Barack Obama. I had just begun working with an agency and they gave me that job and I was just so excited to work with her. I went to school for communications and she’s a DJ so I admired her for what she did.
When you were just starting out, how did you start to build your clientele?
I would recommend to others to start out assisting. I did not and it’s so imperative that you assist. When I moved to New York, I had to go back and start assisting. Assisting is important. That’s how you learn your skill set, what’s required of you, and the soft skills needed to put you in the position that you would like to get to.
What’s one thing you wish you knew when you first started working with celebrity clients?
Oh, so many things! I have a whole list of things that I wish I knew. I wish I had known that the celebrity is not always the client. I wish I would have known that it’s important to never mix business and pleasure. They are simply a client and they are not your friends. I wish that I would have known the importance of assisting from the very beginning. I wish I would have known things like when you’re given a time frame for styling hair that it even includes your clean-up time.
How do you handle the pressure of styling such high-profile people?
That’s a great question because that’s the main thing that differentiates you from being in a salon. It is very high-pressure. All you can do is really breathe through it and try to hear what’s actually being said through the words. Everyone’s not able to express the point they’re trying to make so you have to really listen and hear what’s being communicated to you.
For example, a client may be going on and on about not liking a hairstyle and then you can find out it might be because of a simple reason like their hairline is thinning or they were told as a kid that their hair doesn’t look good that way. You’re basically a psychiatrist.
When you’re creating looks for clients, are you coming up with the looks or is it more of a collaboration between you and the client?
It’s collaborative. If you’re lucky, they come with ideas, I come with ideas, and we discuss them. We decide what’s going to work and that depends on the hair that they naturally have, the hair that I’ve brought, and what they are going to do for that day. Celebrities deal with the same problems that you or I may deal with which is, if they are doing a press day and it’s going to be a rainy day, I have to contend with the humidity and the moisture outside.
Would you say that’s one of the hardest parts about getting a celebrity ready for a red carpet or a press tour?
So press tours and red carpets are a little different. With a press tour, many times — but not always — you can go with them and at a bare minimum, do little touch-ups. With a red carpet, you’re just as surprised as everyone else is with their look when they get there. Anything could happen. They could get caught in the rain. They could fall asleep in the car and press their hair down. Oh my gosh, working for red carpets is just full of anxiety!
I never would have guessed that with a red carpet, you’re seeing a look for the first time when we’re all seeing it as well.
Times have changed. You know, ten years ago, we weren’t taking photos behind the scenes. So now, we are taking photos behind-the-scenes and those are imperative because sometimes you get surprised with how they end up looking on the camera. You’re like, “That’s not how I sent you out,’ but, things can happen along the way.
From Yara Shahidi to Tia Mowry, you’ve worked with so many celebrities who are constantly making headlines with their killer hair looks. What is it like having to constantly come up with fresh, new looks all the time?
Oh, it can be daunting! I would love for you to include my client Dominique Fishback. She has 4C hair and she’s about to be in a new movie [Project Power] with Jamie Foxx on Netflix. I have done her hair countless times and never repeated a hairstyle. It is a lot of pressure to find a style that fits the client. Some of my clients don’t want their hair to be the focus. They want their face and their attributes to be the focus and some, like Dominique, always want to try to do different things.
That’s something that’s similar to working in a salon. You’ll have some clients who every time they come in, they say they want the same look and you’ll have some clients who never want to look the same. So you have to know how to accommodate the client that’s in your chair.
You’ve worked with so many different celebrities and done so many different looks, what’s been one of your favorite celebrity looks that you’ve done to date?
That is really hard because I appreciate them all for their differences. I would probably say once again, Dominique. There was an updo I did for TIFF [the Toronto Film Festival] and that was beautiful. I had never seen that style before.
I’ve done beautiful braided hairstyles on Skylar Diggens-Smith, the NBA player. It was awesome because I hadn’t really seen a lot of braided hairstyles on red carpets so to have a client seek me out and say, ‘I see that you are doing these great braided hairstyles. I want to rock it out the red carpet,” is just unreal. It’s not something that I could foresee.
Recently in Hollywood, there’s been a huge conversation surrounding the need for hairstylists, like yourself, who can work on Black hair and with various hair textures. From your perspective, being a Black hairstylist, what changes would you like to see in Hollywood regarding Black hairstylists and Black hair?
I’m happy that you brought that up. I was actually featured in Oprah Magazine on this subject and it’s a subject with more problems than solutions, but it is fixable. It has to be combated at every level. So, I am working with cosmetology schools to help them spread the awareness and the want for hairstylists to style all hair textures. There’s only four hair textures. It has nothing to do with ethnicity or race and I think that it’s been made to be about race as a way to describe the segregation.
In my opinion, you’re a hairstylist because you can style all hair textures. You’re only a hair enthusiast if you can only style hair similar to your own. So, in terms of combating it in Hollywood, you can’t start there. You have to start at a cosmetology school. You have to start in the regular salon and then you have to go to the major publications and movies. What are they putting on these main covers to promote? At the top level, if Black people, Black hair, curly hair, and coily hair are not presented as beautiful, why would people want to work with that hair texture?
Plus, when people go to hire glam teams or really anyone to work on movie productions or with celebrities, they’re just more likely to hire their friends. Unfortunately, more people have friends that look like them, then don’t so they’re not hiring for who can do the job. The pressure then falls on the Black talent to find someone to do their own hair and makeup. They’re having to either do it themselves or get it done before they appear on set. These positions to work on productions, especially at high, A-list levels are exceptionally well-paid. You have hairstylists who are being put in these coveted positions — these financially life-changing positions — but they are unable to do the job.
In addition to working with celebrity clients, you also educate aspiring hairstylists with your master class, The Monae Life Academy. What inspired this creative venture?
I received so many DMs and emails from younger artists asking me how I did it and I had to look back at my career path. The bottom line was that there wasn’t anyone for me to talk to in the beginning. So, you go through a certain stage of okay, I’m happy that I have achieved some level of success but what am I going to do with it? Unfortunately I don’t see a lot of my Black counterparts at various stages of the beauty industry. I had to come to the realization that the only way it was going to change was if I did the work to make it change.
In addition to The Monae Life Academy, you’re also doing books as well. You previously published a book about braids. What inspired you to tackle the topic of celebrity hairstyling in your new book, Get Out of Your Own Way?
Well, I was talking to people about braids and DIY hairstyles and they were like, ‘But how did you become a celebrity hairstylist?” That seemed to be all that people wanted to hear about. People are very interested in that process and they just have no idea the steps that are involved. Many times they think that a celebrity is just going to wander into their salon and then take them along with them. Many years ago that may have been the case, but it just isn’t right now. So you really have to learn your business and marketing and how to present yourself.
Could you give us a tip or two from your book for any hairstylists out there who are looking to make the transition into celebrity hairstyling?
I have so many tips! The first thing that I’m going to say is seek out education. You have to constantly learn. So your learning is going to be in terms of your hard skills for the actual hairstyling but also your soft skills in terms of learning how to deal with different situations and how to market yourself
What do you consider to be one of the biggest milestones in your career?
I’m so blessed to work in a career where one week is a milestone — one that I never thought possible — and then the next week is another one. I guess, I’ll have to say a few different things. When my skills took me to Kuwait and New Zealand. Those are places that I never dreamed I might possibly go. They just were not in my thought process. I would say writing my first book. I just never imagined that to be a possibility. So now to be just releasing my second book is unreal. It’s unreal that people feel that I have achieved so much that they want my advice. It takes some getting used to. I’m trying to accept the fact that my voice is powerful and that I can help to shape this industry.
With the current quarantine situation, what has it been like being a hairstylist during this time?
Well, I’m just at the point now where I’m starting to take clients again. It’s only been a couple of weeks. Working with the mask and the safety covers and all of that is definitely an adjustment but health is so important. I have been home since March and I’m an introvert so it was okay in the beginning. But, I’m certainly at the point now where I need to get out, make plans, travel, and go somewhere.
You’ve worked with so many incredible people in your career, who is a celebrity that you would love to get your hands on their hair and why?
Marsai Martin is the first one that comes to mind. I love her and I love how innovative she is. I love that she’s a beauty girl who likes to try different looks and I respect her hustle.
What are you looking forward to doing next in your career?
I’m enjoying working with my celebrity clients and productions. I would love to partner with more brands. I would love to be a brand spokesperson and focus more on education and public speaking.
Anything else that you would like to share with the Tease readers?
I am excited to offer education to help hairstylists understand all hair textures and help hairstylists thrive in their careers, especially if they want to begin to work with high-end clientele or celebrities. Also, it’s never too late to make a change. I’m here to help you with those changes.