From editorial styling to red carpet creations, celebrity hairstylist Kendall Dorsey’s range is unmatched. Inspired by fashion and beauty, Dorsey’s talent shines through his intricate hairstyling on celebrities like Solange Knowles and Yara Shahidi. With nearly 15 years of experience, Dorsey’s work has graced the pages of countless magazines. And as a hair care educator for Oribe, he is constantly working towards perfecting his craft.
We had the pleasure of speaking with Dorsey about his career, developing his artistry and what’s next for the hairstylist.
On Getting Started
The Tease: What inspired you to become a hairstylist, and how did you get started?
Kendall Dorsey: I was raised in a small-town Annapolis, MD. I was adopted, [but] I still had a relationship with my biological family, which means I was shaped around family, community and lots of love.
I don’t remember when I became conscious of my appearance; it had to be early teens—11 or 12. However, I would always ask my mom how I looked, and she would say, “you look like Kendall,” which means I had a “look” at an early age.
For me, growing up in a family filled with culture and diversity, my references were Saturday morning music videos, Oprah after school (I was obsessed with her hair and style), my older cousin would wear designer Gucci, Rick Owens, Cesare Paciotti. I also loved Lil Kim’s forward fashion in the 90’s, Carrie Bradshaw’s beautiful hair—the list could go on. And I feel with these references growing up, I was bold with my vision and interpretation of beauty, and I grew into it. I elevated and diversified my eye and level of craft as a hairstylist with a fashion background.
As early as the age of 8, I had the urge to want to play with barbies, and from then, I [spent] my free time doing something involved with hair or beauty. I became a hairstylist when I was 21, [but] I was styling hair for my entire teen and college years with a full clientele in college.
What’s the inspiration behind your work?
Beauty is something I focus on in my craft. I find beauty in shapes, tone, texture and love. And wholeheartedly, that’s what inspires my process of the visual image at [the end]. And I love working with all my clients on this (and celeb clients). My aesthetic would be elegant, timeless [and] impactful. For me, a hairstylist should bring the art history education to actually be able to dive into the editorial image to take it to the next level.
What moment in your career are you most proud of?
To date, I am often proud of all of my projects. Each time, I call a friend and say, “omg I’m supper happy. This was the best project ever.” And they say, “you say that about all of them,” which means each time I’m growing. I’m just enjoying each moment.
What’s it like working with celebrities like Yara Shahidi, Solange and Teyana Taylor? Is it as glamorous as it looks?
I love the idea of collaboration, which means for things such as the Met Gala, it’s such a collective process between the artist and many teams behind [a celebrity]. The process is incredible; you get to watch the designer create, also connecting with the stylist and makeup artist to come up with a few strong ideas to present, and then we slay.
What are your favorite tools and products to use when styling hair?
My number one shine boosting shampoo and conditioner is Oribe shampoo and conditioner. My favorite dry shampoo for everyday is Dove Dry shampoo. The Elchim 3900 Hair Dryer is one of the best hair dryers on the market: super light with amazing power and great for all hair types! Olivia Garden Brushes are the best brushes on the market—perfect for all hair types. The Pantene Hydrating Oil is light and airy on the hair while nourishing [it]. And the By Gina Clutch Hair Spray is perfect for updo’s and blow outs. It leaves hair fly-away free while keeping it intact.
Challenges Behind the Chair
What challenges have you faced in the industry? Do you think these challenges are any different because you’re a person of color?
I stay far away that conversation. It’s sensitive to me because I’m an African American male hairstylist. However, I join the conversation when I do my work and do it well. [And] I work with all hair textures.
Have you seen any shifts regarding diversity/representation in beauty and media?
I feel that the industry has and is becoming more aware of how to hire within the community of brown skin artists. The industry has evolved in many ways with social media platforms. Industry decision makers have now found the new idea of hiring glam teams.
What’s a career goal that you have?
A dream project I would love to work on is traveling around the world, starting in Africa creating a vocational training program for young teens having a desire such as mine wanting to style hair. And to get into a non-profit organization founded by me for them to get verification, that’s a dream.
Do you have any advice for up and coming artists in the industry, especially hairstylists of color?
The best advice I can give to a younger artist is to perfect the craft of studying and patience. [Have] self-care and then you can focus on mastery in developing your lane of artistry.
Do you have any upcoming projects that you can tease?
Currently, I’m developing a product line and opening a salon for all textured hair types.