What It’s Like Coiffing the Hair of the Famous With Ciona Johnson-King
Hair and make-up artist Ciona Johnson-King travels the world coiffing the hair of A-listers for exclusive film, TV show and red-carpet appearances. We found out more about her jet-setting life…
What was your route into hair?
I studied hairdressing and wig-making for my City & Guilds qualification while doing weekend salon work. I also ran a salon from my mum’s kitchen creating mohawks for the locals. Later, I moved to London and assisted theatrical make-up artist Bert Broe. We did stage productions at the Royal College of Music so I went from working with punks to Pavarotti!
Can you tell us about your recent projects?
I’ve just finished a big fashion shoot in the Caribbean where we were shooting still images and films while island hopping. I loved the challenge of working on speed boats, yachts, jets and remote beaches (check out my Instagram @cionajk for details).
A recent tour with Ben Affleck took me to Singapore for the first time, which was wonderful. I worked on an advert with an extremely well-known actor, which you will see on your TV screens very shortly. By the time you read this I will have just finished the Venice Film Festival with some of my regular clients. I’ll be touring the US with one of my clients soon and will have a few jobs in Europe.
What are the pros and cons of your role?
I love the talented teams I have the privilege of working with. There are so many different environments you can work in as a hairdresser – from studios to sandy beaches. No job is ever the same and that’s something I cherish. On the downside, my job wouldn’t suit everyone. I remember working at the opening of Planet Hollywood – which drew a collection of A-listers and one of my fellow hair and make-up artists was in tears because of the media frenzy – she prefers working in a quiet studio.
Another downside are the number of working hours that no one sees. Organising the kit, packing, carrying it all, sorting schedules and flights. I can spend days selecting a kit for a trip. Jodie Foster said I had the most organised kit she’d ever seen.
What are your tips for building a name in the industry?
Consistent professionalism is key. Always leave the team feeling better than when you arrived. Clients often mention the happy energy I bring and that’s so important in what can sometimes be stressful situations. Of course, you need to make sure your client looks great too.
What’s the proudest moment in your career so far?
Working with David Bowie – he was a hero of mine growing up and he didn’t disappoint.
What are your tips for someone aspiring to have a career like yours?
It’s a tough industry so you have to be physically and emotionally strong. Be prepared for occasional knock backs and chaos and focus on making it your absolute passion. If there’s nothing else you’d rather be doing, you soon forget about the more challenging moments.
What’s your styling philosophy?
I don’t believe in forcing a look on my clients. It has to evolve from them to be authentic. I’m just there to help them express how they feel through hair and make-up.
What’s next for your career?
I’m not one to plan. I still can’t believe this girl who was once paid in pork pies by her clients (back in my teenage days as a meat-eating northerner) is now travelling the world with exciting photographers, artists and creatives. I don’t think I could have ever planned that.
This article originally appeared in the October issue of Hairdressers Journal.