Straight-Talking Wisdom from Celebrity Colourist Tracey Cunningham

by charlottegw / last updated February 10, 2019

Tracey Cunningham

HJ had the pleasure of attending Tracey Cunningham’s seminar at the Redken Symposium 2019 in Las Vegas last month. Khloe Kardashian’s colourist is famously straight talking and we couldn’t get enough of her no-nonsense advice. Here are just some of the highlights (N.B. we have removed some profanities!)

Don’t be so worried about being number one. Know that you have certain hours with your clients. If you have to be that person who can only work certain hours when their kid comes – just do it, I think it’s better for the kid. Don’t be like me […] it’s better to be healthy, not crazy.

Everyone has been lied to. [They say] “you can have it all. You can have a job, you can make dinner, you can pick up the kids”… No you can’t.

If you have a client who is resistant to colour […] why not pull together some inspiration photos up for them when they come in. They might not be ready, but you are planting a seed and making them think about it for later. If they are a great client but you know they could be a better one, throw in some face-framing foils around their hairline. They will be addicted and ask for it next time.

I thought being a hairdresser would mean I would have more freedom.  [But] we are in the service business – so if your client wants something you have to be there.

I say ‘yes’ to everything, I never say ‘no’. People would say “you need to create boundaries” but I wouldn’t listen to them [… ] I was always so ambitious, but I should have listened to people who were happy and who  had balance in their life. I wasn’t listening to them because I didn’t think they were successful, but what is success if you’re not happy?

Be happy with where you are at. It is so expensive to live in California, New York and anywhere else you find celebrities. It’s not worth it. Remember how we talked about being happy? I work most of the year for the government and the city – we have 13% tax in California. So if you leave California you basically get a 13% raise!

When I work and talk I fall apart. There are some clients I can talk to, but most of the time I have to really concentrate.

[on getting into celebrity styling:] Contact your local magazine and contact the fabulous people in your city. Let them know that you are willing to work for free. Get involved in your local community – if you have a Chanel get in there and let them know you do hair.

I built my career by word of mouth. Not everything is about the internet. Clients come to you because of how you treat them. If you have to give something away for free because they are coming every month, don’t worry about it. Their friends will love their look and ask who their hairdresser is. You will get things back tenfold if you just take care of your people.


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